U.S. contractor arrested in Erbil pleads guilty to sharing classified information

The U.S. Department of Justice building is seen in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2018. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A woman who worked as a contract linguist for the U.S. military in the Kurdistan Region pleaded guilty on Friday to sharing classified information with a man linked to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the U.S. justice department said on Saturday.

Mariam Taha Thompson, 63, formerly of Rochester, Minnesota, was arrested by FBI agents at an overseas military base in Erbil last year.

Thompson pleaded guilty to a single count of delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government, according to the U.S. justice department.

She confessed as part of a deal that she shared the names of U.S. government assets with a Lebanese man with connections to Hezbollah.

“It’s astounding that an American working for the U.S. military overseas would abandon her country in favor of terrorists,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. for the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.

“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.”

She began communicating with the man, whom she never met in person, in 2017 after being connected via social media by a family member, and she ultimately developed a romantic interest in him, the U.S. justice department said.

After a U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, the Lebanese man – who is not named in court papers – asked Thompson to provide “them” with information about the human assets that had helped the U.S. target Soleimani, the justice department added.

Thompson accessed dozens of files about human sources, including their names, photographs, background information and operational cables that described the information they had gathered, it stated.

She agreed to provide the classified information to the man; officials say she had planned to marry him, and was afraid he would end her relationship if she did not cooperate, according to AP.

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