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Ex-US Air Force Intelligence Agent Charged With Spying for Iran

14 February, 2019, 04:55 | Author: Ted Wilson
  • US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran'

Monica Witt, 39, a former U.S. Air Force officer, indicted for aiding Iran, is seen in this Federal Bureau of Investigation photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., February 13, 2019.

Iran was able to flip a US counter-intelligence agent and used her to spy on former colleagues, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

The indictment said Monica Witt exposed a USA agent and helped Iran's Revolutionary Guards develop cybertargets in the US military after defecting to Iran in 2013.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a U.S. veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US. Four Iranians were also charged for conspiracy and aggravated identity theft including Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hosseini Parvar, and Mohammad Paryar.

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to USA officials.

She defected to Iran in 2013 after being invited to two all-expense-paid conferences in the country that the Justice Department says promoted anti-Western propaganda and condemned American moral standards.

The indictment said Witt was recruited during trips to Tehran in 2012 and 2013 with help from an unidentified "Individual A", a dual US-Iranian citizen whose description resembles Hashemi.

Provided with housing and computer equipment by the Iranian government, Witt tracked down USA counterintelligence agents she used to work with on Facebook, the indictment said, and disclosed the classified identity of at least one of those agents, according to the charges.

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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As part of its action on February 13, the United States also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

Four Iranians who helped Witt in the cyber hack were also named in the indictment.

Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the US government.

Witt, 39, had high-level security clearances and was in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008, then became a Defense Department contractor until 2010. 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".

Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two global conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent's true identity, "thereby risking the life of this individual".

Yahoo News reports that she wrote a message claiming that she might "do like [Edward] Snowden", the former U.S. intelligence contractor who leaked thousands of highly-classified documents about the National Security Agency in 2013 before being granted asylum in Russian Federation.

Witt maintained contact with an IRGC member she met at the conference and eventually defected to the Islamic Republic. From there, her task was to use social media to search for other American counterintelligence officials, and produce "target packages" on them for Iran.

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