The United States has been a target of espionage for as long as it has existed. In the age of computers, spying on the U.S. is virtually limitless. The government has charged a federal IT contractor with sending classified data to his native country. It’s not a country you would expect.
The Daily Mail reported that Abraham Teklu Lemma (50), a naturalized U.S. Citizen living in Maryland “worked for the Department of State as an IT Administrator, and as a Management Analyst for the Department of Justice.” He was arrested last month by federal authorities and accused of passing classified information back to Ethiopia.
Lemma was arrested last week, but the court did not release it. Documents from the court state that there is “probable cause” to believe Lemma acted improperly and illegally in searching for, accessing, secreting, removing, possessing, obtaining, and retaining classified NDI (national defense information) and that he conspired and actually transmitted classified NDI, believing or intending that it would be used against the United States or to its advantage by a foreign country.
The affidavit says that Lemma “copied, pasted and printed information from 85 Intelligence Reports on many topics – the majority of which are related to the Relevant Country”. He also accessed up to four dozen classified reports in the last nine months.
Lemma, according to reports, downloaded and printed documents. He then stuffed them into his pants pockets and carried them back to his car where he sat for long periods in the parking lot. The Ethiopian spy’s LinkedIn page is pretty sparse, with only six followers and four connections. The Ethiopian spy’s LinkedIn page is pretty bare-bones, with only four connections and six followers. It’s funny.
CNN reported that Lemma had “sent classified information, including satellite images and documents to an agent of the Ethiopian intelligence service over an encrypted messaging application.”
The CNN report continues, “The agent is said to have told Lemma where to find information and they discussed the military activity of a rebel faction involved in an armed conflict against’ the Ethiopian Government.”
Lemma traveled frequently to Ethiopia, and he discussed meetings with his handlers. However, it is not known if they met in person. Authorities have obtained some of his messages to his handlers. In one message, he demanded a higher amount of money than what the Ethiopian government would pay him.
State Department spokesman stated that Lemma’s crimes were discovered as a result of a 60-day internal security review of the Department of State’s Top Secret/Sensitive Complementary Information (TS/SCI), network, systems, and applications. The review was prompted by the arrest of Jack Teixeira earlier this year, a National Guard Member who shared classified data online.
The spokesman stated that “during this review, it was discovered that information had been uncovered which indicated that a Department of State contractor in the information technology field may have removed classified national defense data without authorization, retained and transmitted.”
According to the State Department, the U.S. has friendly relations with Ethiopia. It’s therefore not like Lemma shared information with an enemy. He could still face the death sentence for his crimes.