Linguist Jailed for Sharing US Defense Secrets

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A linguist employed by the US Department of Defense has been sent to prison for more than two decades for leaking the identities of American spies to a lover with ties to a foreign terrorist organization.

Mariam Taha Thompson was charged in March 2020 with sharing highly sensitive classified national defense information with a Lebanese national connected to Hizballah. 

A year later, the 62-year-old former resident of Rochester, Minnesota, pleaded guilty to placing American spies and US military personnel in grave danger by collecting and transmitting data. 

Thompson began communicating with her unindicted co-conspirator in 2017 via video chats and voice messages when she was working as contract linguist at an overseas US military facility. The pair stayed in touch and Thompson developed romantic feelings for her co-conspirator.

In January 2020, the co-conspirator asked the smitten Thompson for information on the "human assets" who had helped bring about the death in 2019 of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani. 

Thompson admitted knowing that her love interest intended to pass the information to Lebanese Hezbollah, and that it would be given to an unnamed high-ranking military commander.

Using her top secret government security clearance, Thompson began accessing dozens of files concerning human intelligence sources. Information accessed by the linguist included 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 US government. 

Thompson used a variety of techniques to pass this information on to her co-conspirator, including handwritten notes. 

By the time she was arrested by the FBI in February 2020, Thompson had provided her co-conspirator with the identities of at least eight clandestine human assets; at least 10 US targets; and multiple tactics, techniques and procedures. 

On Wednesday, Thompson was sentenced to 23 years in prison. 

“The defendant’s decision to aid a foreign terrorist organization was a betrayal that endangered the lives of the very American men and women on the battlefield who had served beside her for more than a decade,” said Acting US Attorney Channing Phillips for the District of Columbia. 

“Let today’s sentence serve notice that there are serious consequences for anyone who betrays this country by compromising national defense information.”

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