(WASHINGTON) — A linguist who worked for the Pentagon is facing espionage charges for allegedly sharing highly sensitive classified information with a foreign national who has apparent connections to the terror group Hezbollah, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
The information allegedly shared by Mariam Thompson, 61, included details regarding secret human assets working for the U.S. and military personnel, prosecutors said.
“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.
Thompson was stationed in the Special Operations Task Force facility in Erbil, Iraq, for roughly two weeks before she began accessing the DoD’s systems storing secret information, according to a court filing, and accessed “57 files concerning eight human intelligence sources.”
Thompson began to access the system, prosecutors say, one day after the U.S. carried out a series of airstrikes against Iran-backed forces in Iraq and on the same day that anti-U.S. protesters stormed the American Embassy in Baghdad.
After investigators were flagged to the uptick in Thompson’s alleged activity on the network, she was arrested last week and her living area was searched.
Prosecutors say that FBI agents found a note hidden under Thompson’s mattress that included the names of U.S. assets and instructions that their phones “should be monitored,” along with name of an individual identified as a “target of the United States” who the note said should be warned.
In an interview with the FBI, Thompson “admitted to passing the national defense information contained in the Note,” court records say, and identified the man she was passing the information to was a Lebanese national in whom she had a romantic interest. She told investigators that she would memorize the classified information and write it down, then used a secure messaging application to take a picture of the note to send to the Lebanese national.
U.S. investigators believe the man is connected to the U.S.-designated foreign terror group Hezbollah.
Thompson was charged Wednesday with Delivering Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government and conspiracy, charges that if proven could result in a life sentence.
Thompson was expected to make her initial appearance in D.C. District Court Wednesday afternoon, but did not have an attorney immediately listed on the court docket.
It was not clear as of Wednesday afternoon how Thompson would plead to the charges, but the Justice Department noted in their announcement that she is “presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”
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