She was looking for love in very wrong places.
A Pentagon linguist once attached to a special ops military facility in northern Iraq was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison for leaking the names of informants and other secret information to a boyfriend with ties to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Mariam Taha Thompson, 62, had pleaded guilty on March 26 to one count of delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government.
“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardized and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement. “That Thompson passed our nation’s sensitive secrets to someone whom she knew had ties to Lebanese Hezbollah made her betrayal all the more serious. Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk.”
According to court documents, Thompson — who was born in Lebanon, but became a US citizen in 1993 — was introduced to the unidentified man by a family member in 2017. Though the two never met in person, they often spoke and texted each other using an unidentified secure messaging app and Thompson determined she would marry the man after she retired. During those conversations, the man claimed to have a nephew who worked in the Lebanese government, as well as to have been in contact with members of Hezbollah.
Following the US airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Hezbollah branch founder Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January 2020, the documents state, Thompson’s boyfriend asked her to provide information about informants who may have tipped off the US about Soleimani’s location. Thompson agreed to do so, believing that he would break off their relationship if she did not.
After her arrest, Thompson told investigators that she would memorize information about the sources, write it down and transmit it via the video feature of the secure messaging app. The man told Thompson that his purported Hezbollah contacts were “pleased” with the information, according to the documents, and even promised to introduce her to a Hezbollah military commander when she joined him in Lebanon.
After the man requested more detailed information, Thompson began patching together reports on sources using information she cut-and-pasted from classified files. She would then take pictures of the reports and send them using the secure app. The documents say she would also screenshot messages from the informants themselves and send them to her long-distance lover.
Thompson was arrested in February 2020. When officials searched her living quarters, they found a handwritten note in Arabic concealed under her mattress with information about Defense Department computer systems and warning of a Defense Department target.
Under questioning, Thompson admitted to passing the information to her boyfriend, but denied knowing of any Hezbollah affiliation, suggesting instead he might have been tied to the Amal political party in Lebanon — though she admitted she considered the groups to be one and the same.
“No, I don’t know about Hezbollah. I hate Hezbollah,” Thompson told an agent, according to an affidavit unsealed at the time. She described members of the group as “terrorists” and “like the octopus. They can reach anybody.”
The Washington Post reported that at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Thompson apologized for what she had done, telling the judge: “I just wanted to have someone to love me in my old age, and because I was desperate for that love I forgot who I was for a short period of time.”
With Post wires