THE CASE OF THE DOUBLE AGENT TRANSLATOR
– She put her love before her country
Defense Department Linguist Mariam Thompson Charged with Espionage
UPDATE: Spy gave secrets so she could have a lover in her old age
WASHINGTON – Mariam Taha Thompson, 62, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, was sentenced on June 23, 2021, to 23 years in prison for delivering classified national defense information to aid a foreign government. As part of her March 26 guilty plea, Thompson admitted that she believed that the classified national defense information that she was passing to a Lebanese national would be provided to Lebanese Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
“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 U.S. Attorney Channing D. 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.”
“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardized and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “That Thompson passed our nation’s sensitive secrets to someone whom she knew had ties to Lebanese Hezbollah made her betrayal all the more serious. Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk.”
“This case should serve as a clear reminder to all of those entrusted with national defense information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic; it is criminal,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler, Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “By knowingly distributing classified information that would be passed onto a designated foreign terrorist organization, Mariam Thompson put our national defense in danger. The men and women of the FBI will continue to work tirelessly to defeat hostile intelligence activities targeting the United States and to hold those who assist our adversaries accountable.”
“Thompson was entrusted with highly sensitive information, and she chose to betray her country by providing classified defense information to a foreign terrorist organization,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI Washington Field Office. “Today’s significant sentencing shows the dedicated work of the FBI, the U.S. Intelligence Community and our global partners to work swiftly and diligently to safeguard our national security information and hold accountable those who break our nation’s trust.”
According to court documents, Thompson worked as a contract linguist at an overseas U.S. military facility where she was entrusted with a Top-Secret government security clearance. 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. Thompson learned that the unindicted co-conspirator had a family member who was in the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior and that the unindicted co-conspirator claimed to have received a ring from Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanese Hezbollah.
In December 2019, while Thompson was assigned to a Special Operations Task Force facility in Iraq, the United States launched a series of airstrikes in Iraq targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed foreign terrorist organization. These airstrikes culminated in a Jan. 3, 2020, strike that resulted in the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani, as well as the founder of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Following Suleimani’s death, the unindicted co-conspirator began asking Thompson to provide “them” with information about the human assets who had helped the United States to target Suleimani. Thompson admitted that she understood “them” to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including an unnamed high-ranking military commander.
After receiving this request for information in early January 2020, 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.
When she was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 27, 2020, Thompson had used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least eight clandestine human assets; at least 10 U.S. targets; and multiple tactics, techniques and procedures. 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.
WASHINGTON, D.C. Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, was charged March 4, 2020, in Federal Court in the District of Columbia with transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national with apparent connections to Hizballah, a foreign terrorist organization that has been so designated by the Secretary of State. According to the affidavit filed in support of a criminal complaint, the information Thompson gathered and transmitted included classified national defense information regarding active human assets, including their true names. By compromising the identities of these human assets, Thompson placed the lives of the human assets and U.S. military personnel in grave danger.
“While in a war zone, the defendant allegedly gave sensitive national defense information, including the names of individuals helping the United States, to a Lebanese national located overseas,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “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.”
“The conduct alleged in this complaint is a grave threat to national security, placed lives at risk, and represents a betrayal of our armed forces. The charges we’ve filed today should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider disclosing classified national defense information to a terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Shea for the District of Columbia.
“This case shows the value of cooperation across the U.S. Government. Working closely with the Department of Defense, the FBI was able to investigate this willful disregard for keeping national defense information safe and partnered to bring the defendant to the United States to face justice,” said Acting Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division Robert Wells.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the U.S. government’s commitment to protecting the U.S. from the unauthorized disclosure of classified information that can put our country at serious risk of damage – damage to people and damage to our country’s capabilities,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Human assets are the core of the U.S. government’s intelligence, and they have our assurance that we will go above and beyond to protect them. I want to thank the men and women at the FBI and our partners here and abroad who answered the call to assist on this fast-moving investigation. The FBI is charged with protecting our nation’s security and information for a safe and secure tomorrow for all Americans – we take this duty seriously and will not stand by while supposedly trusted individuals violate that trust in such an egregious way.”
Thompson was arrested by FBI Special Agents on February 27, 2020, at an overseas U.S. military facility, where she worked as a contract linguist and held a Top-Secret government security clearance.
SPY ACTIVITIES BY THOMPSON WERE
HYPER AFTER U.S. AIRSTRIKES
Specifically, during a six-week period between December 30, 2019, and February 10, 2020, Thompson accessed dozens of files concerning human intelligence sources
The investigation leading to this arrest revealed that starting on or about December 30, 2019, a day after U.S. airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, and the same day protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Iraq to protest those strikes, audit logs show a notable shift in Thompson’s network activity on United States Department of Defense classified systems, including repeated access to classified information she had no need to access. Specifically, during a six-week period between December 30, 2019, and February 10, 2020, Thompson accessed 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 United States government.
JUST LIKE ALL GOOD SPIES, THOMPSON KEPT LIST OF SECRET AGENTS IN HER MATTRESS
A court-authorized search of Thompson’s living quarters on February 19, 2020, led to the discovery of a handwritten note in Arabic concealed under Thompson’s mattress. The note contained classified information from the Department of Defense computer systems, identifying human assets by name, and warning a Department of Defense target who is affiliated with a designated foreign terrorist organization with ties to Hizballah. The note also instructed that the human assets’ phones should be monitored.
Thompson transmitted the classified information in the handwritten note to a co-conspirator, in whom she had a romantic interest. The FBI’s investigation revealed that Thompson knew the co-conspirator was a foreign national who’s relative worked for the Lebanese government. The investigation also revealed that the co-conspirator has apparent connections to Hizballah. Further investigation revealed that, in a separate communication, Thompson also provided information to her co-conspirator identifying another human asset and the information the asset had provided to the United States, as well as providing information regarding the techniques the human assets were using to gather information on behalf of the United States.
In the Criminal Complaint, Thompson was charged with Delivering Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 794(a) and conspiring to do so in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 794(c).
Thompson is scheduled to make her initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather on March 4, 2020.
If convicted, Thompson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for violating § 794.
From FBI Agent’s Affidavit
The data the FBI obtained from the Co-conspirator’s first internet account also contained a screenshot ofan image of an electronic device (the “Image”) displaying detailed information that Human Asset D had provided to the United States government regarding a member ofa foreign terrorist organization5 who was being targeted by the United States (“Target 2”). This information was similar to the information contained in the Note that was concealed beneath THOMPSON’ s mattress. Like that Note, the Image contained information· provided by a U.S. human asset (here Human Asset D), which described classified national defense information at the SECRET level regarding Target 2. Unauthorized disclosure ofthe information in the Image reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to national security.
When confronted with the Image ofthe classified national defense information that was provided by Human Asset D regarding Target 2, THOMPSON denied transmitting the Image to the Co-conspirator.
THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS POSTED ON THOMPSON’S LINKEDIN PAGE:
TS/SCI as of October 2012 with Sensitive Compartment-ed Information and 10 years of work with the Department of Defense and the Military.
• Extended periods immersed in Arabic culture and language with intimate understanding of relevant religious, cultural, historical and social customs.
• Highly adaptable and resourceful—rapidly learns new procedures and processes, quickly adjusts to changes in schedule, environment and organizational objectives.
• Detail-oriented with exceptional multi-tasking abilities, self-motivated and goal-oriented, thrives in independent operations and team dynamics, with effective interpersonal and communication skills.
• Demonstrates professionalism, tenacity, thoroughness and dedication, with solid work ethic and friendly demeanor in executing professional responsibilities.
• Insight-fully responds to tough situations and finds innovative solutions for complex problems.
•Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal
•Awarded a letter of commendation from the ISAF Commander, General Petraeus
•Awarded Hero of the Month on several occasions in both Iraq