Friday, 22 February, 2019

US charges former Air Force intel agent with defecting to Iran

US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran' Ex-US intelligence officer charged in Iran espionage case
Leonard Rios | 14 February, 2019, 04:55

39-year-old Monica Witt, a counter-intelligence officer and special agent of the Air Force, defected to Iran in 2013.

A former counterintelligence agent with the U.S. Air Force has been accused of revealing classified information to Iran.

Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a United States counterintelligence officer.

Besides charges and an arrest warrant issued in the name of the former USAF service member, the DOJ also indicted four Iranian hackers who supposedly carried out the cyber-attacks acting on information provided by Witt. Her work for the government ended in 2010. "Witt may have also travelled to the United Arab Emirates or Iran, where she had previously travelled on at least two other occasions". In one publication, she chastised the USA military as a "boys' club" in which female servicemembers suffer from pervasive sexual harassment.

U.S. officials said Witt, who worked for years in U.S. Air Force counterintelligence, had an "ideological" turn against her country.

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.

The publication of the indictment coincided with the Treasury Department's announcing a new series of cyber-security related sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC, which engages in "efforts to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees [of various conferences], including US persons, and four associated individuals", according to the a release announcing the sanctions.

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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.

A previously issued Federal Bureau of Investigation missing persons poster said she was working as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan, and had lived overseas for more than a year before vanishing. After leaving the armed forces, she worked as a Defense Department contractor.

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

She attended the same conference the following year and was hired by an unnamed individual to assist in the filming of an anti-American propaganda commercial. 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".

"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.

Yahoo News reports that she wrote a message claiming that she might "do like [Edward] Snowden", the former USA intelligence contractor who leaked thousands of highly-classified documents about the National Security Agency in 2013 before being granted asylum in Russian Federation. She successfully defected in August 2013. Investigators said they targeted Witt's former co-workers.

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