State Department Charges Former Contractor with Espionage

A former US government contractor, a naturalized US citizen born in Ethiopia, was charged yesterday with spying on behalf of an unspecified foreign state, the US Justice Department announced, noting that the accused stole top secret material and passed it to foreign intelligence agents overseas.

Abraham Teklu Lemma (50) is accused of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government and charged with two espionage counts which could result in the death penalty, according to a DOJ announcement issued on Thursday.

In a separate filing, he was also charged with willful retention of national defense information that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

Court filings show Lemma served as an IT administrator for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, had a second job as a contract management analyst for the DOJ, and also worked as a private contractor for more than one US federal agency.

According to the allegations, Lemma removed and copied intelligence reports and classified information – marked SECRET and TOP SECRET – from secure facilities at the State Department and sent the data to an employee of a foreign government using an encrypted application.

Following a lengthy FBI probe, Lemma was arrested in late August and has remained in federal custody since.

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