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

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

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.

"Four Iranian cyberhackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the US intelligence community who were Ms. Witt's former colleagues", the indictment said. She worked extensively in the Middle East and had access to classified information, including the names of multiple American intelligence officials.

Also charged are four Iranian hackers.

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, announcing the indictment.

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

Officials said Witt turned on the USA and shifted her loyalty to the Islamic Republic for "ideological reasons". Prosecutors say they targeted former colleagues of Witt's in the intelligence community.

The FBI seeks her arrest on the charges of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to representatives of a foreign government and delivering national defense information to representatives of a foreign government, specifically the government of Iran. The next year, she went to another Iranian conference and soon arranged to defect, according to the indictment. "She made a decision to turn against the United States and turn her loyalties to Iran", FBI Executive Assistant Director Jay Tabb told reporters.

Monica Witt, who was born and raised in Texas, allegedly provided Iranian security officials with the code name and classified mission of a U.S. Defense Department special access program.

Messages quoted in an indictment unsealed yesterday showed Witt saying that she wanted to "put the training I received to good use instead of evil" around the time of her defection.

According to the Justice Department, Witt entered the Air Force in 1997 and left in 2008.

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

But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film.

"The last known contact with her is believed to have been in June 2013", the Federal Bureau of Investigation alert said. These hackers proceeded to make fake Facebook accounts to befriend Witt's former agents and attempt to install spyware on their computer activity.

Specifically, between January and May 2015, the Cyber Conspirators, using fictitious and imposter accounts, attempted to trick their targets into clicking links or opening files that would allow the conspirators to deploy malware on the target's computer. That group has been designated by the USA government as promoting terrorism. "Witt may have also travelled to the United Arab Emirates or Iran, where she had previously travelled on at least two other occasions".

Iranian nationals Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar were charged with computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

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