A linguist who worked at the Pentagon has been arrested and charged by the Department of Justice with espionage for allegedly transmitting highly sensitive classified information to Hezbollah, the radical Islamic terrorist group based in Lebanon.
Mariam Thompson, 61, began accessing sensitive files two weeks after she started working at the Special Operations Task Force facility in Erbil, Iraq. The Department of Defense flagged her activities, which included accessing 57 files pertaining to eight human assets in the region. The information that she allegedly passed to Hezbollah included names, phone numbers, and photos of the U.S. government assets.
Defense Department linguist charged with espionage today. Mariam Thompson was charged with transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national with connections to Hizballah, a foreign terrorist organization. https://t.co/nCKfjSTCRW pic.twitter.com/4uo6sKGVqH
— Nick Short ?? (@PoliticalShort) March 4, 2020
“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,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
Her activities began the same day Iran-backed protesters stormed the United States Embassy in Baghdad. Upon her capture, she admitted her contact in Hezbollah was Lebanese and she was romantically involved with him. Under her mattress in her living quarters, investigators found handwritten notes in Arabic with information about the American assets as well as one U.S. target the she noted as needing to be warned.
The screening process for local contractors in the Middle East is as comprehensive as it can realistically be, but terrorist organizations have been grooming people to pass these screens since the United States started employing them during the first Gulf War. It’s dangerous for local contractors to work with the United States; terrorist groups will often threaten family members in an effort to either flip the assets or punish them for working with Americans.
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Considering the level of access Thompson had, which included the ability to identify secret human assets from the Department of Defense systems, this appears to be a case where the screening system was defeated. She was only there for two weeks before she started accessing restricted files, so it seems unlikely she was identified and turned.
It is very possible the people Mariam Thompson allegedly identified to Hezbollah are or were in danger. Espionage is a serious charge for a reason. If found guilty, she will almost certainly live the rest of her life in prison.