US military linguist Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, appeared stone faced in federal court in Washington on Wednesday, where she’s accused of keeping a list of secret informants to Hezbollah
Thompson, of Rochester, Minnesota, was arrested on February 27 at a US military facility in Irbil, Iraq, where she was assigned to a special operations task force.
She faces three charges of violating espionage laws. The Defense Department said it was aware of the arrest and is cooperating with the investigation into Thompson.
She researched and leaked the names during a six-week period from the end of December, when US airstrikes targeted Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and exacerbated relations between the two countries, through the middle of last month.
The Justice Department claimed on Wednesday that Thompson shared this list of named with Hezbollah Lebanese militant group backed by Iran.
Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official, called the alleged conduct ‘a disgrace, especially for someone serving as a contractor with the United States military. This betrayal of country and colleagues will be punished’.
‘Thompson placed the lives of the human assets and U.S. military personnel in grave danger,’ the Justice Department said revealing the charges.
The Justice Department said that during its investigation, it discovered audit logs showing a ‘notable shift’ in Thompson’s network activity on the Defense Department’s classified systems.
The discovery came on December 30, a day after the United States launched air strikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and the same day that protesters there stormed the US Embassy in response.
Thompson looked up nearly 60 files on human intelligence sources she had no need to access, including their names, photographs and other personally-identifiable information, the department said.
In February, FBI agents searched her living quarters on the base and discovered a handwritten note written in Arabic under her mattress, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent contained in a court filing.
The note had the names of US intelligence informants.
The note said these sources were collecting information for the United States, and suggested that their phones be monitored and their target should be warned, according to the sworn statement.
In subsequent interviews with the FBI, Thompson she waived her Miranda rights and told the agents she had passed along the information from the note to a Lebanese foreign national, according to the statement.
To share the intelligence, Thompson claimed she had memorized the classified information, wrote it down and conveyed it to the co-conspirator through a secure messaging application on her phone, according to the filing.
She apparently later amended her statement, saying she was 70 percent sure she had not transmitted the note.
However, investigators said in the court filing they had developed solid evidence to suggest Thompson was sending the person details about the human intelligence sources, including information she wrote on a second Arabic note.