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Pentagon linguist pleads guilty to exposing U.S. intelligence sources to Hezbollah

A linguist for the Department of Defense pleaded guilty on Friday to passing classified information about U.S. human intelligence sources to an individual with ties to Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization, the Department of Justice said. Mariam Taha Thompson began sending the information after the U.S. killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander, in an airstrike in early 2020, according to court documents. 

Thompson, who held a top secret security clearance, had been stationed at a Special Operations Task Force facility in Iraq from mid-December 2019 until her arrest a few months later

Years before she began passing classified information, she was introduced to a Lebanese national on social media via a family member, according to the statement of facts that she agreed to as part of her plea. Though she never met the man in person, the man expressed interest in marrying her and having her move to Lebanon, the court documents said. The two communicated frequently from 2017 to 2020. 

Through their chats, the now 63-year-old Thompson learned that the man, who is unnamed in the court documents, had a nephew who was a member of the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior. The man also claimed to have contact with members of Hezbollah. Prosecutors said Thompson did not tell the man where she was stationed and said he had not asked for classified information before January 2020. 

That changed after Soleimani was killed by the U.S. The man was "very emotional and upset about the U.S. airstrikes, especially the death of [Soleimani], and he started to ask Thompson to provide 'them' with information about the human assets that had helped the United States to target" the Iranian commander, the court documents said. "Thompson understood 'them' to be Lebanese [Hezbollah]." 

Thompson believed that if she did not pass on the classified information that her relationship with the Lebanese national "would come to an end" and he "would not marry her." 

She then began accessing national defense information that she did not have a need to access or know and showing her notes containing the secret information to the man, the documents said. She handed over true names, personal identification data, background information and photos of clandestine human sources, and also passed on details of U.S. targets, court documents said. 

Thompson provided the man with "the identities of at least 10 clandestine human assets; at least 20 U.S. targets; and multiple tactics, techniques and procedures," the Department of Justice said. 

In response, Thompson's romantic interest told her that "his contacts were pleased with the information" and he would introduce her to a Hezbollah military commander when she arrived in Lebanon, court documents said. 

"It's astounding that an American working for the U.S. military overseas would abandon her country in favor of terrorists," Alan Kohler Jr., assistant director for the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement. "The FBI and its partners placed a high priority on this case because the defendant provided classified defense information to a foreign terrorist organization, information that put members of the U.S. military in harm's way."

Thompson pled guilty to one count of delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government, and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Her sentencing is scheduled for June 23. 

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