Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

US Charges Former Air Force Intel Officer With Spying for Iran

US Charges Former Air Force Intel Officer With Spying for Iran

A former US Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran government, prosecutors said Wednesday. Former counterintelligence officer Monica Witt defected to Iran in 2013, and allegedly helped the Islamic Republic target her former American colleagues.

Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt's colleagues.

The indictment includes snippets of dialogue between Witt and the person who recruited her her, identified only as Individual 1.

Prosecutors said Witt, who left the Air Force in 2008 and later became a Defense Department contractor, disclosed to Iran the code name and classified mission of a Pentagon special access program.

"Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country, and we trust them to uphold their oath", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's National Security Division.

Ms Witt is accused of sharing USA government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

Witt, 39, was recruited after attending the Iranian New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference - an event sponsored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which prosecutors said was aimed at "condemning American moral standards and promoting anti-U.S. propaganda" and flipping USA intelligence officers into turncoat spies.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: "I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity", according to the indictment.

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However, in 2012, she traveled to Iran to attend the Iranian New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference, aimed specifically at criticizing and condemning American foreign policy.

According to charges unsealed on Wednesday by the justice department on Wednesday she defected to Iran in August 2013, taking with her details of USA counter-intelligence agents she had worked with, who were then targeted by Iranian hackers, four of whom are named in the indictment and charged alongside Witt.

Monica Elfriede Witt, pictured in a 2013 photo released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mesri isn't just some random cyber-criminal, and he's believed to be a member of the "Charming Kitten" Iranian cyber-espionage unit, a top hacker and a close collaborator of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the country's main intelligence service. The indictment accuses her of assisting "Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former fellow agents in the U.S. Intelligence Community".

The DOJ statement said there's an arrest warrant for Witt, who remains at large.

Iran and the United States are longtime cyber-antagonists.

Last November, US President Donald Trump re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been suspended due to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.

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