Published: Thu, February 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

US says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets

US says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets

As the sanctions were announced, the USA also charged a former Air Force officer with spying for Tehran.

The US Justice Department on Wednesday charged former US Air Force intelligence official Monica Witt with "conspiracy to deliver and delivering national defense information to representatives of the Iranian government".

Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of disclosing the code name and classified mission of a US military special access program to the Iranian government.

According to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed Wednesday, Witt had high-level security clearances and helped Iran launch a cyber-spying operation which targeted her former colleagues. She is now at-large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target her former colleagues in the US intelligence community.

Later that year she worked with Individual A to make a video critical of the United States, and the two continued to communicate.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organized by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials last month as a material witness in a federal criminal case, the Tehran Times newspaper reported.

Prosecutors claim that Witt first met with IRGC officers at a New Horizon conference in Tehran in 2012.

US Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials are in Warsaw for a conference focused on Iran and other security issues in the Middle East.

Officials said Witt turned on the USA and shifted her loyalty to the Islamic Republic for "ideological reasons".

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the USA to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

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Tabb said investigators believe Witt's motive was "ideological", and the indictment against her alleges that, before she defected, she appeared in videos that she knew would be broadcast by Iranian media outlets and "made statements that were critical of the United States government".

Witt is still believed to be in Iran, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

"She chose to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to the government of Iran", Tabb said.

Two years later, court papers say, her involvement with Iran began.

Iranian hackers then set up fake Facebook personas to befriend those agents and attempt to install spyware that would track their computer activity, the indictment said. It said she replied: "Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil".

Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the USA government. That's a reference to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked classified USA information.

Born and raised in Texas, Witt entered on duty for the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 and worked as a contractor from 2008 to 2010.

Witt defected to Iran in August 2013.

In the few weeks before her defection, Witt is alleged to have conducted searches on Facebook for the names of former fellow counter-intelligence agents, and the spouse of one of them.

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