Former US Air Force intelligence agent charged with spying for Iran

The U.S. government accused Monica Witt 39 of revealing highly-classified information to Tehran.             
    FBI

The Department of Justice charged former U.S. Air Force special agent and counterintelligence specialist Monica Witt with espionage, accusing her of defecting to Iran in 2013 and revealing highly-classified U.S. intelligence to the government in Tehran.

A U.S. Air Force veteran and former counterintelligence agent was charged Wednesday with spying on behalf of the Iranian government.

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.

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said the head of the Justice Department's national security division, on what is apparently such a day.

The event, though, has received a tepid response overseas, as some objected to the its anti-Iran focus.

In 2012, prosecutors said, Witt traveled to Iran and attended an event which denounced "American moral standards" and promoted "anti-U.S. propaganda".

Monica Elfriede Witt, aged 39, worked as a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the United States air force for more than 10 years before becoming an intelligence analyst for the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008 and doing other private sector work.

A Farsi language specialist, she was deployed to the Gulf area several times on signals intelligence missions, according to the indictment, and had top security clearance giving her access to the identities of clandestine USA agents and informants in the field.

Given free housing and computer equipment, she went to work for the Iranians, turning over information about a classified Defense Department program and assembling into "target packages" research she conducted into the family lives, locations and missions of former colleagues.

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

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She faces seven charges, including conspiracy to deliver national defense information to representatives of a foreign government and delivering national defense information to representatives of a foreign government.

Witt maintained contact with an IRGC member she met at the conference and eventually defected to the Islamic Republic.

"She chose to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to Iran", said Jay Tabb, the FBI's executive assistant director for national security.

After her defection, Witt allegedly proceeded to provide Iranian officials with the code name and classified mission details of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Access Program.

"Witt's primary motivation appears to have been ideological".

Shortly before Witt's defection, the Federal Bureau of Investigation circulated a missing persons poster in an attempt to track her down.

She successfully defected in August 2013, after providing a resume and "conversion narrative" to her contact.

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.

The highest court of the United Nations rejected a US claim that it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on parts of the case, paving the way for the trial to continue.

American investigators allege the Iranians used "fictional and imposter social media accounts" aimed at deploying malware that would give them cover access to their targets' computers and networks. The four men were identified as Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar. Her work for the government ended in 2010.

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