WASHINGTON (CN) — Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced espionage charges against a Defense Department linguist accused of giving classified national security information to a Lebanese man with possible ties to Hezbollah.
Prosecutors claim Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, accessed classified information about U.S. intelligence sources, including their real names and other biographical data, and gave the information to another person authorities believe has ties to the designated terrorist organization based in Lebanon.
Thompson, of Rochester, Minnesota, also allegedly relayed information one source had given to the United States and details on how U.S. assets were collecting their intelligence. In addition, prosecutors say she passed along a warning to one person affiliated with a different terrorist organization that they were a U.S. target.
Authorities discovered a handwritten note containing classified information under Thompson’s mattress during a court-authorized search of her room at a U.S. facility in Erbil, Iraq. In interviews after her arrest, Thompson said she would jot down classified information she accessed and then share it via a secure video chat on her cellphone, according to an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed in Washington, D.C., federal court Wednesday.
“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,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Prosecutors say there was a “notable shift” in how Thompson was using Defense Department classified networks starting on the day protesters rushed the U.S. embassy in Iraq while demonstrating against U.S. strikes on Iranian forces in the country.
From late December until Feb. 10, Thompson allegedly accessed 57 files about eight sources that she had no legitimate reason to access, according to the affidavit.
Data from the alleged Lebanese co-conspirator’s internet account showed pictures of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and a picture used as the cover image for a group he joined that had “Hezbollah” written in large letters.
When asked about his association with a terror organization in an interview after her arrest, Thompson was not clear on whether her alleged co-conspirator was affiliated with Hezbollah, or with Amal, a Lebanese political party allied with Hezbollah.
The U.S. designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 1997.
Thompson was arrested on Feb. 27 in Iraq and will make an initial appearance Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. She faces life in prison if convicted of the charges.