An American woman who was working as an Arabic linguist for the Department of Defense (DoD) has been arrested for passing highly classified information to Iranian proxies.
Mariam Taha Thompson, a civilian contractor, has been charged with transmitting intelligence of national-level importance to a man with known connections to Hezbollah, a Lebanese political and terrorist group funded and directed by Iran. At least eight foreign sources working for the U.S. government have been compromised because of Thompson.
FBI special agents arrested Thompson in an overseas base in February. At the time of her arrest, Thompson was working for Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-Inherent Resolve).
The DoD and FBI began their investigation on Thompson in late December, a few days after the U.S. strikes against Iranian-backed proxies in Iraq. The strikes were a response to the indirect fire attacks on a joint American-Iraqi base, which resulted in several wounded American warfighters. As a response to the U.S. strikes, Iran urged its militias to besiege the American embassy in Baghdad. Something that resulted in the targeted killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commanding officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, who came to Iraq to coordinate the siege of the American embassy.
Immediately following the U.S. strikes, Thompson’s activity underwent a noticeable surge. While working in one of the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF) of SOJTF-Inherent Resolve, she repeatedly began accessing classified DoD systems, most of which were irrelevant to her work. In particular, she accessed files containing the identities and information of several human intelligence (HUMINT) sources. Moreover, she read several cables containing HUMINT reports.
The counterintelligence investigation lasted for about six weeks. When the FBI agents stormed Thompson’s quarters, they found a note that contained classified DoD information, including the names of human assets and a warning to a Hezbollah operative who was monitored by the military.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said that “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. 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.”
Thompson is accused of violating Article 18 (794) of the U.S. Code which pertains to Delivering Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government. She had a Top Secret clearance.
Assistant Director in the charge of the FBI’s D.C. office Timothy Slater stated that “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.”
The evidence that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has released indicate that Thompson became romantically involved with a Lebanese national who also happened to be a Hezbollah operative.
And yet the most perturbing thing to emerge out of this case is the relative ease with which HUMINT sources, the hardest and arguably the most valuable assets in the intelligence community, were exposed by a civilian contractor who wasn’t even working on that project.