United States charges former Air Force officer for spying for Iran

Pauline Gross
February 13, 2019

Witt had been on the FBI's radar at least a year before she defected after she attended an Iranian conference and appeared in anti-American videos.

Once in Tehran, Iranian authorities provided her with housing and computer equipment, the indictment alleges, and she began work on behalf of Iran. She was not arrested. They face charges including conspiracy, computer intrusions and identity theft targeting Witt's former colleagues.

This 2013 photo released by the Department of Justice shows Monica Elfriede Witt.

Tabb said "she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security", though he did not provide specifics.

Tabb said investigators believe Witt's motive was "ideological", and the indictment against her alleges that, before she defected, she appeared in videos that she knew would be broadcast by Iranian media outlets and "made statements that were critical of the USA government". The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of US government agents.

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.

In a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors said Witt, 39, provided the Iranian government information about a classified Defense Department program and helped Tehran's intelligence services target her former colleagues in the USA intelligence community.

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When warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that trip that Iranian intelligence services were trying to recruit her, Witt allegedly promised that she would not talk about her counterintelligence work if she returned to Iran. She also conducted multiple searches for her former fellow agents using Facebook accounts registered under fake names.

The US Treasury Department also announced sanctions against an Iranian company accused of organizing conferences that served as a platform to recruit Witt, and against another Iranian company suspected of having participated in the cyberattacks.

Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the US government. Iran's nuclear program was the target of the U.S.

On the conference's opening day, Mr Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave a speech in which he called for regime change in Iran. "She continued to travel".

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

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.

"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July. At one point Individual A flatters by saying: "Should I thank the sec [secretary] of defence ... u were well trained". Shortly after joining the military, Witt studied Farsi at the U.S. Defense Language Institute in California before deploying overseas for four years to conduct classified missions collecting signals intelligence. "I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil", she told that person in an email. "Thanks for giving me the opportunity".

Other reports by GizPress

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