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US contractor originally from Ethiopia arrested on espionage charges, Justice Department says

by Ryan Lee
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Espionage Charges

A U.S. government contractor, originally hailing from Ethiopia, has been apprehended on charges of espionage, as announced by the U.S. Department of Justice. Abraham Teklu Lemma, possessing a top-secret security clearance and access to classified data due to his contractual roles with the Departments of State and Justice, stands accused of transmitting classified information to a foreign nation, which he allegedly downloaded and printed from his official computer system.

Court documents reveal that Lemma employed an encrypted messaging application to relay maps, photographs, and satellite imagery to the foreign government in question. While the documents do not explicitly disclose the identity of the nation involved, they do allude to frequent travel over the past eighteen months to a country where Lemma maintains familial ties.

The New York Times, in its initial report on the arrest, identified Ethiopia as the nation for which Lemma purportedly engaged in espionage activities.

Prosecutors assert that Lemma accessed numerous intelligence reports, extracting information from them and storing it on CDs and DVDs. He faces charges related to delivering national defense information to support a foreign government, conspiring to do so, and the deliberate retention of national defense information. The presence of legal representation for Lemma at this juncture remains unclear.

Lemma, aged 50 and residing in Silver Spring, Maryland, holds U.S. citizenship through naturalization, as confirmed by the Justice Department.

In addition to the materials allegedly provided, Lemma communicated with a foreign official who assigned him the task of furnishing information on specific subjects of interest to the foreign country. Their discussions encompassed military matters, including command centers and the activities of rebel factions opposing the government, as outlined in an FBI agent’s affidavit.

In September of last year, when the official signaled that it was time to continue his support, Lemma responded with a concise, “Roger that!”

The State Department disclosed that it became aware of Lemma’s potential improper removal of classified information during an internal 60-day security review prompted by the arrest in April of a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, who was accused of disseminating highly classified military documents on a social media platform. The department pledged to implement recommendations from the review to bolster its safeguarding of classified data.

Ethiopia witnessed conflict in late 2020 when the federal government entered into hostilities with authorities in the Tigray region, collaborating with the military of neighboring Eritrea. During much of the conflict, Tigray was isolated from the rest of the world, making satellite imagery a crucial source of information regarding the fighting. Tragically, the situation resulted in a substantial loss of life, with United Nations-backed experts describing it as “extremely grave” even today, with the presence of Eritrean fighters lingering.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Espionage Charges

What are the charges against Abraham Teklu Lemma?

Abraham Teklu Lemma, a U.S. government contractor originally from Ethiopia, faces charges of espionage. He is accused of providing a foreign country with classified information that he downloaded and printed from his work computer system.

What was Lemma’s security clearance level?

Lemma held a top-secret security clearance, granting him access to classified information through his contracting positions with the Departments of State and Justice.

Which foreign country is involved in the espionage case?

The court documents do not explicitly identify the foreign country for which Lemma is accused of spying. However, The New York Times reported that Ethiopia is the country in question.

What methods did Lemma allegedly use to transmit classified information?

Lemma is alleged to have used an encrypted messaging application to transmit maps, photographs, and satellite imagery to the foreign government.

What additional charges does Lemma face?

In addition to delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government, Lemma is charged with conspiring to do so and with the willful retention of national defense information.

Does Lemma have legal representation?

It is not immediately clear whether Abraham Teklu Lemma has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

What triggered the State Department’s awareness of Lemma’s actions?

The State Department became aware of Lemma’s potential improper removal of classified information during an internal 60-day security review prompted by the arrest of a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents on a social media platform.

Can you provide more context about the conflict in Ethiopia mentioned in the text?

In late 2020, Ethiopia’s federal government engaged in a conflict with authorities in the country’s Tigray region, collaborating with the military of neighboring Eritrea. The Tigray region was isolated from the rest of the world during much of the conflict, and satellite imagery played a crucial role in providing information about the fighting, which resulted in a significant loss of life. United Nations-backed experts have described the situation as “extremely grave,” with Eritrean fighters still present in the region.

More about Espionage Charges

  • [U.S. contractor from Ethiopia arrested on espionage charges](Link to the article)
  • [Abraham Teklu Lemma’s security clearance and access to classified information](Link to relevant information)
  • [The New York Times report on Ethiopia as the country involved](Link to The New York Times article)
  • [Methods used by Lemma to transmit classified information](Link to details about the encrypted messaging application)
  • [Additional charges faced by Abraham Teklu Lemma](Link to relevant legal information)
  • [Status of Lemma’s legal representation](Link to any updates on his legal counsel)
  • [Trigger for the State Department’s awareness of Lemma’s actions](Link to details on the internal security review)
  • [Context on the Ethiopia conflict and its impact](Link to background information on the conflict in Ethiopia and its consequences)

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