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A lovestruck military translator has been jailed for 23 years for passing on the names of US informants to Hizbollah.
Mariam Thompson, 62, admitted she had sent classified information to a man with ties to the Lebanese militant group.
Prosecutors alleged Lebanese-born Thompson, who became a US citizen in 1993, had put the lives of US troops and sources at risk by passing on the material to a man she hoped would marry her.
She said she was desperate for somebody to love her in her old age and never intended to harm anybody.
According to court documents, Thompson, who worked as a contract linguist at a US military facility, had been given top-secret clearance.
She began communicating with her co-conspirator, who has not been indicted, via video chat and a secure text and messaging application at the beginning of 2017.
Over time, Thompson developed a romantic interest in her co-conspirator,” the US justice department said in a statement.
She later learned that the man was related to somebody in the Lebanese interior ministry and also claimed to have received a ring from Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanese Hizbollah.
In December 2019 she was assigned to the Special Operations Task Force in Iraq at a time when the US launched a series of raids on Hizbollah in Iraq.
On Jan 3 2020 the raids culminated in a strike which claimed the lives of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani, as well as the founder of Kata’ib Hizbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Soleimani, who was seen as the architect of a long-running proxy war against western forces in the Middle East, was killed by a US airstrike on his convoy as it left Baghdad airport.
The operation was hailed as a major success by the US but provoked fury in Iran and in the ranks of Hizbollah.
Thompson’s contact asked her for information about who had provided the US with the intelligence which facilitated the operation.
She co-operated by scouring files containing details of the US intelligence sources, including their real names.
Thompson even provided photographs as she revealed details of at least eight intelligence assets, She also disclosed 10 or more potential US targets as well as leaking American tactics.
The justice department said Thompson, who was arrested on Feb 27 last year, had “reason to believe” the information would be used by Hizbollah.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers of the justice department’s national security division.
“That Thompson passed our nation’s sensitive secrets to someone whom she knew had ties to Lebanese Hizbollah made her betrayal all the more serious.
“Thompson’s sentence should stand as a clear warning to all clearance holders that violations of their oath to this country will not be taken lightly, especially when they put lives at risk.”
Tearfully pleading for leniency, Thompson told the court: “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.”