A contractor employed by both the State Department and the Department of Justice is facing espionage charges. The accusations stem from purportedly transferring classified materials from his work computer to physical documents, which he then allegedly intended to share with a foreign intelligence officer. This contractor, originally from Ethiopia but now holding U.S. citizenship, goes by the name of Abraham Teklu Lemma and resides in Maryland.
Although the court documents do not explicitly specify the country for which Lemma is accused of spying, the New York Times, which initially reported on his arrest, identified Ethiopia, his country of origin, as the alleged recipient of his espionage activities.
The charges brought against Lemma indicate that he illicitly duplicated information from a minimum of 85 Intelligence Reports, the majority of which pertained to Ethiopia. According to the charges, this unauthorized acquisition of information occurred between December 2022 and August 2023.
Throughout this time frame, Lemma held dual roles, serving as an IT administrator for the State Department and as a management analyst for the Justice Department. It’s worth noting that Lemma has maintained top-secret clearance since 2020 and was granted access to sensitive compartmented information (SCI) in July 2021.
As per the allegations made by the Justice Department, Lemma received compensation exceeding $100,000 in exchange for the classified information he unlawfully transmitted.
The State Department disclosed that Lemma came under scrutiny during an internal security assessment, which was triggered by an incident earlier this year. In that case, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard was arrested for allegedly sharing classified military documents on social media.
Ethiopia has been embroiled in an armed conflict since 2020, with the federal government engaged in hostilities against residents in the Tigray region, who collaborated with the military forces of neighboring Eritrea. Despite the signing of a peace agreement last November, the United Nations has expressed deep concern, stating that the situation remains highly dire.
While precise figures are unavailable, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands, possibly exceeding half a million individuals, have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict. It is probable that a significant portion of the information shared by Lemma was connected to this particular crisis.