U.S. Contractor Arrested on Espionage Charges, Accused of Giving Foreign Country Classified Information

By Steve Neavling

A contract employee for the Justice and State departments was arrested on espionage charges for allegedly providing classified information to a foreign country, the Justice Department said Thursday. 

Abraham Teklu Lemma, who is originally from Ethiopia, faces three charges, including “delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government, conspiracy to deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government, and the willful retention of national defense information,” the Justice Department said.

Between December 2022 and August 2023, Lemma is accused of copying classified information from intelligence reports and deleting the classification markings from them. 

Using an encrypted messaging application, he transmitted maps, photographs and satellite imagery to the foreign country, according to the Justice Department. 

Prosecutors didn’t identify the foreign country, but referred to his frequent travels over the past year and a half to a country where he has family ties. 

The espionage charges carry a maximum penalty of death or life in prison. 

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