Soleimani/Thompson
© Defense News/AFP
Gen. Qasem Soleimani • Mariam Taha Thompson
A female linguist who worked for the Pentagon in Iraq was sentenced to 23 years behind bars for giving classified information to a Hezbollah-tied foreign national.

Mariam Taha Thompson was charged in May 2020 in federal court with "transmitting highly sensitive classified national defense information to a foreign national," who she believed would provide the information to Lebanese-based Hezbollah, a foreign terrorist organization tied to Iran. Court records show Thompson signed an extensive statement of facts in late January admitting to the covert plot, and she pleaded guilty in March. Thompson faced a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.

A 12-page FBI affidavit by Special Agent Danielle Ray said the information Thompson passed along "included classified national defense information regarding active human assets" and that by compromising the identities of these human assets, Thompson placed the lives of both the human assets and U.S. military members in "grave danger."

The Justice Department said Thompson admitted in her guilty plea hearing that
"beginning in 2017, she started communicating with her unindicted co-conspirator using a video-chat feature on a secure text and voice messaging application" and that she "developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator. She learned that the unindicted co-conspirator had a family member who was in the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior, and that the unindicted co-conspirator claimed to have received a ring from Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanese Hizballah."
After a U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in early 2020, the "unindicted co-conspirator" started asking Thompson to provide "them" information about the human assets who helped the United States to target the Iranian spy chief.

Thompson admitted she understood "them" to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including a high-ranking terrorist military commander, according to the Justice Department. John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division, on Wednesday said:
"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."
Thompson worked at a Special Operations Task Force facility in Iraq as a contract linguist with a top-secret government security clearance. The Justice Department said before Thompson's February 2020 arrest, she used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least 10 clandestine human assets.

That included their true names and photographs, as well as cables showing the intelligence these assets provided to the U.S. and at least 20 U.S. targets. Prosecutors said Thompson "intended and had reason to believe that this classified national defense information would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of Lebanese Hizballah."

The audit of Thompson's computer logs showed a "notable shift" in her network activity just one day after the U.S. launched airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq. On the same day, Iranian-backed protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy, revealing "repeated access to classified information she had no need to access."

The violent storming of the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, in early January followed the Iraqi government's condemnation of U.S. airstrikes targeting Kata'ib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia in the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces guided by Soleimani and his adviser Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were subsequently both killed in a U.S. airstrike. The U.S. blamed Kata'ib Hezbollah for attacks on its bases in Iraq in December 2019 that resulted in the death of a U.S. contractor.

Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s in Lebanon but now operates on multiple continents on behalf of Iran, from which it receives the bulk of its funding. However, money from Hezbollah's operations makes its way back to Iran's coffers. Hezbollah has been tied to a spate of terrorist attacks against the U.S., including the 1983 Marine barracks bombing that killed 241 U.S. service members in Beirut.

Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force, guided many of Hezbollah's operations.