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DOJ: She Knew US Secrets and Gave Them to Iran

14 February 2019

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.

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.

They declined to say to what extent these disclosures compromised USA intelligence operations targeting Iran. "She made a decision to turn against the United States and turn her loyalties to Iran", FBI Executive Assistant Director Jay Tabb told reporters. "Her primary motivation appears to be ideological".

The most notable of the four Iranian hackers is Behzad Mesri, who United States authorities also charged in November 2017 with hacking HBO, stealing scripts for unaired episodes of season 6 of the hit series Game Of Thrones TV show, and later attempting to extort HBO execs for $6 million. US officials also imposed sanctions on an Iran firm, Net Peygard Samavat Company, that it said conducted the hacking operation, and Iranian events company, New Horizon Organization, that it said works to recruit foreign attendees.

According to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday, Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008 and worked as contractor for two years after that. She was warned about her activities, but reassured agents that she would not provide sensitive information about her work if she returned to Iran.

Witt remains at large in Iran, as do the four hackers, who prosecutors say were acting on behalf of the government-linked Iranian Revolutionary Guard, prosecutors said.

"Ms Witt was recruited by Iran as part of a program that targets former intelligence officers and others who have held security clearances". 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".

In July 2013, according to the indictment, Individual A told Witt that Iranian officials were suspicious of her, wondering how she managed to travel around Asia while claiming to have no money.

She faced resistance for months. That year, an unidentified person contacted her and remarked that she was well-trained. "I am starting to get frustrated at the level of Iranian suspicion".

She eventually did, with help from Individual A, in August 2013. "Coming home", she wrote as she was about to board her flight from Dubai to Tehran.

The indictment also charges four Iranians with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft as part of an effort in 2014 and 2015 to target Witt's former colleagues and co-workers in the United States intelligence community.

That summer, a dual U.S. Authorities said Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar sought to install malware in the computers of Witt's former co-workers through fake social media accounts. She was a Defense Department contractor at the time.

"The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation's security, our military, and the American people", said Special Agent Terry Phillips of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

DOJ: She Knew US Secrets and Gave Them to Iran