WASHINGTON DC, EVN (September 12) — A contractor who has worked for the U.S. State and Justice Departments has been apprehended and charged with espionage on behalf of Ethiopia, according to several U.S. officials familiar with the situation. According to an explosive New York Times report, the arrested individual, identified as 50-year-old Abraham T. Lemma of Silver Spring, Maryland, is now facing two counts under the Espionage Act. The case has remained sealed in Federal District Court in Washington, with the possibility of becoming public as early as this week.

Efforts to reach Mr. Lemma’s lawyer and family have been unsuccessful, and the U.S. Justice Department has declined to provide any comments or further details on the case.

Abraham T. Lemma, as described on his LinkedIn profile, worked part-time as a systems analyst for the State Department and had been employed at the department’s Diplomatic Security Service since 2019. What makes this case particularly unusual is Mr. Lemma’s connection to Ethiopia, a US ally that receives significant aid from the United States.

The Justice Department’s recent espionage cases have predominantly revolved around China’s efforts to infiltrate American entities, including government agencies and companies, often targeting trade secrets and economic intelligence. Mr. Lemma’s involvement with Ethiopia and its interests raises questions.

The United States and Ethiopia have maintained a longstanding partnership, making it unclear what sensitive information Mr. Lemma had obtained and passed to Ethiopian authorities. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for friendly nations to seek information within the United States to acquire real-time political, economic, or military insights, as confirmed by current and former U.S. officials.

Although this leak demonstrated the breadth of U.S. intelligence activities, the diplomatic response to the disclosure remained muted, partly because foreign governments have come to perceive such actions as routine since Edward Snowden’s release of internal government communications a decade ago, revealing a vast global surveillance network intercepting emails and phone calls.

Since 2020, the United States has reportedly extended more than $3 billion in aid to Ethiopia to support its recovery from civil strife and drought, according to the State Department. This year, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visited Ethiopia as part of a broader effort to strengthen U.S. ties with the nation amid growing influence from Russia and China.