A Pentagon translator has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for passing the names of United States informants in Iraq to a person linked to Lebanon’s powerful Shia movement Hezbollah.
Mariam Thompson, 62, admitted transmitting the classified information to a Lebanese national in the belief that it was being passed on to the group – designated a “terrorist organisation” by Washington.
“Thompson’s sentence reflects the seriousness of her violation of the trust of the American people, of the human sources she jeopardised and of the troops who worked at her side as friends and colleagues,” John Demers, head of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This case should serve as a clear reminder to all of those entrusted with national defence information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic; it is criminal,” said Alan Kohler Jr, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
According to court documents, Thompson, a Lebanon-born US citizen, worked as an interpreter on a foreign military base when, in 2017, she began a relationship on a video app with a man who said he was connected to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator,” the justice department said.
She later learned that the man had a family member who was in the Lebanese interior ministry and that the co-conspirator claimed to have received a ring from Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah.
Thompson was assigned to the US special forces in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, in December 2019. She had a top-secret government security clearance.
At the time, the unit was initiating attacks against Kataib Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian militia, which ended on January 3, 2020, with the death of powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, as well as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kataib Hezbollah.
Following the January 3, 2020, US assassination of powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, as well as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of the Kataib Hezbollah pro-Iranian militia, Thompson’s contact asked for information about human assets who had helped the US carry out the attack.
She gave him data on several US informants, including the real names of at least eight clandestine contacts, and information on US military targets and tactics.
Thompson admitted she understood the information would be passed on to Hezbollah.
She was arrested by federal authorities the next month, in late February 2020.
Thompson said she had been “desperate” for someone to love her in her old age and did not set out to harm anyone.
“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,” Thompson was quoted as saying by the Washington Post newspaper.