US DoD linguist sentenced to 23 years in prison for 'collaborating with Hezbollah'

US DoD linguist sentenced to 23 years in prison for 'collaborating with Hezbollah'
Thompson has been sentenced to 23 years in jail for passing on classified information regarding the assassination of Iranian Gen. Soleimani in 2020
2 min read
23 June, 2021
Thompson's co-conspirator was tied to Hezbollah, a US-designated terrorist organisation [Getty Images]

An American linguist who worked for the US Department of Defence was sentenced on Wednesday to 23 years in jail for collaborating with the Lebanese Shia paramilitary group Hezbollah, designated as a terror group by Washington.

Mariam Taha Thompson, arrested in February last year in Erbil in northern Iraq's Kurdistan Region where she worked, delivered “classified national defence information to aid a foreign government,” according to a statement released by the Department of Justice.

The statement said Thompson admitted that she believed the classified national defence information she was passing onto her co-conspirator would be provided to Hezbollah, after denying that upon her arrest last year.

Iran-backed Hezbollah, which labels itself a Lebanese resistance group fighting Israel,  is classified as a terrorist organisation by the US.

“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 Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler from the FBI's Counterintelligence Division.

Thompson worked as a translator at an overseas US military facility, where she was entrusted with a ‘Top-Secret’ government security clearance, according to court documents.

She admitted that she started communicating with a man with who she would later develop a romantic interest.

After the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike in January 2020, the co-conspirator asked Thompson to provide “them” information on how the US was able to target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander.

Thompson admitted she understood “them” to mean Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to the Justice Department’s statement.

The linguist began accessing files on human intel, which gave detail on the assets provided to the US government regarding Soleimani’s assassination. According to the statement, she “used several techniques to pass this information on to the unindicted co-conspirator.”

By the time of her arrest, Thompson had used her privilege to access classified information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities and information of a number of US citizens and targets.

The sentencing comes amid increased US-Iranian tensions playing out mainly in Iraq, with Iran-backed Shia militias frequently targeting bases housing US troops in the country, even as hopes rise of a return to the Iran nuclear deal being currently negotiated in  Vienna.