The Justice Department has arrested and charged an IT contractor with two counts of espionage for allegedly taking secret and top-secret information from the State Department and sending it to a foreign country.
Abraham Teklu Lemma, a U.S. foreign national, was working as an evening help desk technician assigned to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research when he allegedly copied large amounts of classified information, including documents and photographs. , notes, maps and satellite images, and transmitted them to a foreign country using an encrypted messaging application.
“Between on or about December 19, 2022 and August 7, 2023, Lemma copied and pasted information from at least 85 intelligence reports regarding numerous topics, the majority of which relate to the country concerned. Lemma accessed these intelligence reports without the need- “To know the classified information they contain. During the same period, Lemma accessed at least 48 additional intelligence reports without need to know,” according to the criminal complaint.
He then allegedly passed the information to an anonymous person in an anonymous country via a secure messaging app “multiple times.”
According to the complaint, “In one communication, Lemma sent an image relating to events in the relevant country and informed the foreign official, ‘(your) team is analyzing this and making some sort of sense out of it,’ according to the criminal complaint. In another exchange, the foreign official told Lemma: “(we) are making (sic) significant progress to avoid that… in a few days we will reach critical milestones… which will not happen again. So we are not asking for much of time. Good if you can check and (sic) tell me what you can do.”
Likewise, the foreign official told Lemma: “(c)it is great to identify the command centers and forward deployed logistics centers”, in response to Lema’s discussions on locations in the country concerned, indicate court documents.
He has held a top secret clearance since at least 2020 and obtained an SCI in July 2021.
The complaint states that on several occasions, Lemma traveled to an unnamed country with which he has ties and before, during and after his trip, and “downloaded more than 100 documents containing classified information from the classified DOS system on CD and/or DVD.”
Since June, he allegedly copied and pasted the classified information into a Microsoft Word document.
“The DOS records further show that Lemma then downloaded these Word files from the classified DOS system onto CDs and/or DVDs, which could then be removed from SCIF,” court documents state. “Intelligence report documents that Lemma reviewed and copied what was classified at the TOP SECRET and SECRET levels, and also primarily concerned the country in question,” the documents state.
Between July and August this year, he allegedly copied information from intelligence reports at least 10 times.
On several occasions last month, he was allegedly observed making notes on a piece of paper containing classified information at his SCIF office.
The Justice Department says other discovered chat logs show that Lemma was asked about specific intelligence information, and that his account information was allegedly accessed in the representative’s country while Lemma was no longer there .
The Justice Department claims Lemma received more than $100,000 in exchange for the information.
ABC News was not immediately able to find legal representation for Lemma.
In addition to his work at the State Department, he is currently employed by day as a contract management analyst at the Department of Justice, according to court records.