A US defence department linguist was charged with espionage yesterday for allegedly supplying classified information to a Lebanese national with links to Hezbollah.
Mariam Thompson, 61, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, has been accused of endangering the lives of US military personal while on active duty by releasing “highly sensitive classified” information, including the names of colleagues.
Thompson was a contract linguist and held a “top-secret government security clearance”. She was arrested by FBI agents while on an overseas base on 27 February.
The justice department’s Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John Demers, said that “while in a war zone, the defendant allegedly gave sensitive national defence information, including the names of individuals helping the United States, to a Lebanese national located overseas.”
Adding that “if true, this conduct is a disgrace, especially for someone serving as a contractor with the United States military. This betrayal of country and colleagues will be punished.”
According to an official statement, Thompson established a “notable shift” in her use of classified systems and accessed “information she had no reason to access”.
Prosecutors stated that Thompson accessed the information during a six-week period, starting on or about the 30 December, the day protesters stormed the US embassy in Iraq, in response to US airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq.
The information included the names of human intelligence assets, their true names, photographs, and cables detailing the information that sources provided to the US government.
A note, in Arabic, was later discovered under her mattress, on 19 February during a court-authorised search of Thompson’s living quarters, which contained information “identifying human assets by name” and warning a Hezbollah affiliate that these individuals’ phones “should be monitored”.
The note included information about the Defence Department’s computer system and warned of a planned target.
Thompson is believed to have also provided information regarding the techniques human assets were used to gather information on behalf of the US.
The FBI investigation revealed that Thompson shared information with a “co-conspirator in whom she had a romantic interest”, and that she was aware the contact was a foreign national with a relative working in the Lebanese government.
Thompson appeared in court yesterday. If convicted, she could face a life sentence.