Catfishing for Defense Secrets: the new espionage
June 30, 2021

Mariam Thompson as seen in federal court in Washington on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (Court Drawing by William J. Hennessy Jr.)

Sometimes love can hurt, or worse, it can get you over twenty years in prison.

62-year-old Mariam Taha Thompson, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for espionage last Wednesday after providing critical defense secrets to her online lover in early January 2020. Thompson is a naturalized U.S. citizen, originally from Lebanon,

Thompson stated that she thought she was taking advantage of her role as a Pentagon-contracted linguist to pursue love, but instead found herself in the midst of a Hezbollah-operated catfishing ploy. 

After pleading guilty, Thompson proclaimed that, “I love this country, and I love our soldiers…I did not set out to hurt them or do damage to our national security.” 

Thompson’s internet love interest requested that she use her top-secret government security clearance to provide “them,” the Lebanese Hezbollah, with information on the human assets who provided data which led to the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander, Qassem Suleimani, on January 3, 2020.

The infatuated Thompson soon passed over information on human intelligence sources which included in-depth personal records on those individuals.

In total, Thompson leaked the identities of at least eight sources, at least 10 U.S. military targets, and a multitude of procedures, tactics, and techniques.

The prosecution in her case originally tried for a 30-year sentence, but failed to accomplish this. District Judge John Bates decided to give Thompson a sentence that was a decade years shorter. 

According to Bates, the slightly lesser punitive measures were given due to the sympathy Thompson expressed regarding the matter. 

Thompson’s sympathetic reflections were quoted in the Washington Post, as, “I just wanted 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.”

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