A Minnesota woman pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday to one count of delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government.
Mariam Taha Thompson was charged last year with espionage after authorities said she gave classified information to a romantic interest who reportedly has connections to Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Thompson pleaded guilty to transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national whom she believed would provide the information to Lebanese Hezbollah.
Thompson, now 63 and formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, was entrusted with a top-secret government security clearance through her work as a contract linguist at an overseas U.S. military facility, court documents said.
During the plea hearing, Thompson admitted that beginning in 2017, she started communicating with her unindicted co-conspirator using a video-chat feature on a secure text and voice messaging application. Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator.
Following a January 2020 U.S. airstrike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, the unindicted co-conspirator — a Lebanese man who is not named in court papers — asked Thompson to provide “them” with information about the human assets that had helped the U.S. target Soleimani.
Thompson admitted that she understood “them” to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including an unnamed high-ranking military commander.
Court documents say that Thompson began accessing dozens of files concerning human intelligence sources, including true names, personal identification data, background information and photographs of the human assets, as well as operational cables detailing information the assets provided to the U.S. government. Thompson used several techniques to pass this information on to the unindicted co-conspirator, who told her that his contacts were pleased with the information, and that the Lebanese Hezbollah military commander wanted to meet Thompson when she came to Lebanon.
The Department of Justice statement released on Friday about the plea said that Thompson intended and had reason to believe that this classified national defense information would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of Lebanese Hezbollah.
Thompson’s conduct “jeopardized the lives of members of the U.S. military” and others who supported the U.S. in a combat zone, said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Thompson faces up to life in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23.
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