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State Department worker charged with espionage for allegedly sharing classified information with foreign intelligence official
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State Department worker charged with espionage for allegedly sharing classified information with foreign intelligence official

A worker with the State Department and Justice Department was charged with espionage after allegedly sharing classified information with an intelligence official, according to a Thursday press release from the Justice Department.

Abraham Teklu Lemma, a 50-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen of Ethiopian descent and residing in Maryland, worked as an IT administrator for the Department of State and a management analyst for the Department of Justice.

According to the DOJ, as part of Lemma’s work with the federal government, he was granted top-secret security clearance and access to classified systems. Between December 2022 and August 2023, Lemma allegedly “copied classified information from Intelligence Reports and deleted the classification markings from them,” the agency reported.

“Lemma then removed the information, which was classified as SECRET and TOP SECRET, from secure facilities at the Department of State against protocol. The materials related to a specific country and/or geographic region. Lemma accessed, copied, removed, and retained this information without authorization,” the DOJ explained.

Between January 2022 and July 2023, Lemma deposited over $55,000 into a U.S. bank, according to the FBI’s criminal complaint.

The FBI’s criminal complaint revealed that Lemma allegedly copied and pasted information from at least 85 intelligence reports. The majority of the documents were related to the “Relevant Country.” Neither the FBI nor the DOJ revealed which country Lemma was allegedly spying for; however, multiple media outlets reported that it was for Ethiopia.

According to the FBI, the classified information allegedly obtained by Lemma was “unauthorized and outside the scope” of his job duties. Additionally, Lemma was accused of using an encrypted application to send classified information to a foreign intelligence service official.

“In these communications, Lemma expressed an interest and willingness to assist the foreign official in providing information. In one communication, the foreign official stated stated, ‘It’s time to continue ur support.’ Lemma responded, ‘Roger that!’” the DOJ’s press release revealed.

Additional communication cited in the FBI’s complaint against Lemma revealed that the foreign official praised him for his spying efforts.

“[A]lways this beautiful country have [sic] some special people who scarify [sic] their life to protect our proud history. You always remembered. It doesn’t matter the results,” the official allegedly told Lemma.

If Lemma is found guilty of the two espionage charges, he could face life in prison or the death penalty.

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