WASHINGTON, D.C. — A former Rochester woman was sentenced to more than two decades in federal prison after admitting that she passed classified national defense information to a person she believed would be providing it to Lebanese Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Mariam Taha Thompson, 62, formerly of Rochester, was sentenced Wednesday, June 23, to 23 years in prison for delivering classified national defense information to aid a foreign government.
In handing down the prison sentence, The Washington Post quoted U.S. District Judge John D. Bates as describing her as a sympathetic individual with an otherwise inspiring life story who served her adopted country alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“There is no question in my mind that the offense conduct to which the defendant admitted endangered U.S. military personnel and human assets’ work with the United States and accordingly posed a significant threat to national security,” he said, according to the Post.
Thompson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in March 2021 to the charge. Two other charges, conspiracy to deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government and willful retention of national defense information, were dismissed.
“This case should serve as a clear reminder to all of those entrusted with national defense information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic; it is criminal,” Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr., of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement. “By knowingly distributing classified information that would be passed onto a designated foreign terrorist organization, Mariam Thompson put our national defense in danger."
Despite a lengthy career as a linguist for the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, Thompson ran a business in Rochester for years called Mary’s Cleaning Service. She was active in local business networking groups, and sold cookies at a booth at the early Rochester Downtown Alliance's Thursdays on First and Third Street festivals.
"I fully accept responsibility for my actions. I am not proud of what I have done, and am filled with sadness and regret for what happened," she wrote in a letter addressed to Bates.
Thompson was arrested in winter 2020 in Iraq. She had been working as a contract linguist at a U.S. military facility and was given "top-secret government security clearance," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.
She was born in Beirut, Lebanon, immigrated to the U.S. in 1990, and became a citizen in 1993.
As part of the plea, Thompson admitted that beginning in 2017, she communicated with a person using a video-chat feature on a secure text and voice-messaging application.
Thompson, who had developed a romantic interest in the person, learned that the "unindicted co-conspirator" had a family member who was in the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior.
In her letter to the judge, she wrote that she figured she was getting old, with no one to hold her when she cried or to warm her with love and care.
"I needed love and when I found this person, he promised me a good life with great love," she wrote. "He made me dream about the smiling future, but I did not know that it was all lies and that he was just taking advantage of me to reach his goals. When I discovered his lies, I stopped, but it was too late."
Following the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani in December 2019, the person asked Thompson to provide “them” with information about the "human assets" who had helped the U.S. to target Suleimani.
"Thompson admitted that she understood 'them' to be Lebanese Hezbollah, including an unnamed high-ranking military commander," the news release states.
In early January 2020, Thompson began accessing dozens of files concerning human intelligence sources, including true names of the individuals, photos and personal identification data.
"When she was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 27, 2020, Thompson had used her access to classified national defense information to provide her co-conspirator with the identities of at least eight clandestine human assets; at least 10 U.S. targets; and multiple tactics, techniques and procedures," the news release states.
In the letter Thompson wrote to the court, she said she received letters of appreciation from Gen. David Petraeus as well as the Medal of Hero in the War Against Terrorism.