A linguist for the Department of Defense has pleaded guilty to passing information about US human intelligence sources to an individual with ties to Hezbollah, the Department of Justice announced on March 26.
According to court documents, Mariam Taha Thompson, who held a top secret security clearance, began sending information to the Lebanese group after the United States killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s Quds Force commander, in an airstrike in early 2020.
Thompson was stationed at a Special Operations Task Force facility in Iraq from mid-December 2019 until her arrest a few months later.
The 63-year old woman was introduced to a Lebanese national on social media via a family member, according to the statement of facts that she agreed to as part of her plea. The man showed interest in marrying Thompson and having her move to Lebanon. The two communicated frequently from 2017 to 2020.
According to court documents, the man had a nephew who served in the Lebanese Ministry of Interior. The man also claimed to have contacts with members of Hezbollah.
Prosecutors said Thompson did not tell the man where she was stationed and said he had not asked for classified information before January 2020.
The situation changed after the assassination of Soleimani. The man became “very emotional” and asked Thompson to provide “them” with information about the human assets that had helped the US to target the Iranian commander. The court documents said Thompson understood ‘them’ to be Lebanese [Hezbollah].
Fearing that the man would not marry her if she doesn’t cooperate, Thompson began accessing defense information that she did not have a need to access or know and showing notes containing the secret information to the man.
Thompson handed over true names, personal identification data, background information and photos of clandestine human sources. She also passed on details of US targets.
“Thompson had used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least 10 clandestine human assets; at least 20 U.S. targets; and multiple tactics, techniques and procedures,” court documents read.
In response, the man told Thompson that “his contacts were pleased with the information” and he would introduce her to a Hezbollah military commander when she arrived in Lebanon.
“It’s astounding that an American working for the U.S. military overseas would abandon her country in favor of terrorists,” Alan Kohler Jr., assistant director for the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
Thompson has already pled guilty to one count of delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government. Her sentencing is scheduled for June 23. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Hezbollah is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the US. In the last few years, Washington stepped up its efforts against the Lebanese group by sanctioning some of its leaders and offering rewards for information about others.
Thompson’s case is large blow to the US intelligence community.