Did Ethiopia Recruit Someone In The US To Serve As A Spy?
Abraham T Lemma of Silver Spring, Maryland, was reportedly taken into custody last month over allegedly spying for Ethiopia – a country that is a significant recipient of aid from the US.
He faces two counts under the Espionage Act. Not much was known about the case, which remains sealed in Federal District Court in Washington and could be made public soon.
According to his LinkedIn profile, the 50-year-old is a part-time systems analyst for the State Department who has worked at the department’s Diplomatic Security Service since 2019.
The case appears unusual as Ethiopia has received more than $3 billion in aid from the US since 2020 to recover from drought and civil war, according to the State Department.
A number of the recent espionage cases the Justice Department has addressed involve China’s efforts to infiltrate American companies and government agencies.
Last month, two members of the US Navy were charged with spying for China. They were accused of stealing military secrets and other sensitive information.
China’s multifaceted efforts could include filching trade secrets and economic intelligence as well as using people in the US as spies or to intimidate dissidents.
Is It Uncommon For Friendly Countries To Seek Information?
The US and Ethiopia share a longstanding partnership. So far, it’s unclear what sensitive information Lemma had managed to obtain or how long he had been helping.
Situated on the geopolitically critical Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries, facing drought, famine, political tensions and conflict with Eritrea.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tried restarting peace negotiations with the neighbouring nation, an effort that got him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
But fighting broke out the following year between Ethiopia’s military and a paramilitary group in the country’s Tigray region, killing scores of people.
Nonetheless, it’s not uncommon for friendly countries to seek information inside the US to provide their leaders with up-to-the-minute details, according to US officials.
It also works the other way round as a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman remains accused of posting sensitive data on an online gaming platform.
The Jack Teixeira case illustrated the massively broad reach of American spy agencies, including into the capitals of friendly countries such as South Korea and Ukraine.