A Lebanese agent promised to marry the 61-year-old woman in exchange for information about those responsible for the attack that ended the life of powerful Iranian general Qasem Suleimani.
In spy lingo, they call them "honey pots." They are the agents who sexually attract their targets. One of them, working for the Lebanese Hezbollah, fell in love with an American linguist and translator who worked for the Pentagon in Iraq and managed to extract crucial information from her about those responsible for the attack in which the Iranian commander Qasem Suleimani died and the identity of informants from the CIA in the Middle East. The woman handed over a long list of names copied by hand on official letterhead that she kept camouflaged inside her bed mattress at a base in Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdish territory. The woman, Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison.
Thompson admitted to the judges that in 2017 she started a relationship via video calls with a Lebanese man with whom she soon fell in love. They continued the relationship despite knowing that this person belonged to the political-military terrorist organization Hezbollah and that he also had a very close relative with a high position in the Lebanese government. Given the position she held, the translator should have informed her superiors of the situation. It did not. Until, at the end of 2019, the computer security officers of the military base in Iraq began to detect unusual movements in the translator's account. She had very high-security access to files ( Top-Secret government security clearance). He used that information to link people and situations in classified documents that he translated for the intelligence unit. It was when they discovered their relationship and the betrayal. FBI special agents arrested her on February 27, 2020, at the Irbil airbase in the Kurdish area of Iraq and transferred her to a military prison in the United States.
This was a person who until then enjoyed some of the highest honors that civilian personnel in the Department of Defense can receive. She had been awarded the Civil Service Medal in the Global War on Terrorism, received an official letter of congratulations from the commander of the forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who later became director of the CIA, and was named several times as "Hero of the Month" for his courage in actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to court documents, Thompson - a Lebanese with US citizenship since 1993 - was introduced by a relative in 2017 to the unidentified spy. The man soon proposed to her. Thompson accepted and asked her to wait for the marriage for just a few months until she retired to go live together in Lebanon. After that, they spoke almost every day, although they never saw each other personally. Following the US airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the founder of the Iraqi branch of Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, on January 3, 2020, according to the documents, Thompson's boyfriend asked him to provide information on whom could have alerted US forces to Soleimani's location. And he told her that he would break their relationship if she didn't.
The translator had already started rummaging through the files a few days earlier, after the airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, and on the same day that protesters stormed the US embassy in Baghdad to protest what happened. . The court audit records show a notable change in Thompson's activity on the Defense Department's classified systems network, including repeated access to classified information that he did not need to access. For example, during six weeks between December 30, 2019, and February 10, 2020, Thompson accessed dozens of files relating to intelligence sources, including clandestine names, personally identifiable data, and photographs of the "human assets" as well as operational cables detailing the information they provided.
Following his arrest, Thompson told investigators that he memorized information about the sources, wrote it down, and transmitted it through the video function of the secure messaging application on the base. The spy/boyfriend told the translator that his alleged Hezbollah contacts were "delighted" with the information and promised to introduce him to top military commanders when he met him in Beirut. When FBI agents searched his room at the military base, they found a handwritten note in Arabic hidden under his mattress with classified information about the infiltrated agents. It is believed that he turned over at least eight of those informants.
During the investigation, agents in Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah who live legally in the United States were detected. They even named "sleeping cells" with "broad branches" that could be activated "to carry out attacks in certain scenarios." In recent years, the most notable case was that of a senior officer in Iran's Al Quds Force who helped plan the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington. High-level members of the Organization of Islamic Jihad (OIJ), affiliated with Hezbollah, who entered the United States through Mexico, were also arrested. Just over a year ago, the government charged a former Air Force counterintelligence agent, Monica Elfriede Witt, to pass classified information to analysts in Tehran, including the identities of several undercover agents. Witt managed to escape and is believed to remain under protection inside Iran. And in September of last year, Ali Kourani, a Hezbollah operative from Morristown, New Jersey, was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was discovered while making intelligence observations at New York's Kennedy Airport in preparation for an attack.
According to the judge who presided over the process in a Washington court, the translator's case appears to be of the type trapped in the honey jar. In a plea for clemency, Thompson apologized to those he endangered. "Your Honor, I love this country, and I love our soldiers... I did not set out to harm them or harm our national security," he said through tears. "I just wanted someone to love me in my old age, and because I was anxious for that love, I forgot who I was for a short time." And he asked the judge to give him only one privilege to perform in the military's linguistics department for twenty years: time to spend with his grandchildren before death.