U.S. charges former Air Force officer for spying for Iran

Blanche Robertson
February 13, 2019

She was also charged with helping Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former co-workers, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt's colleagues.

Witt's actions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said, put the life of the officer whose identity she revealed at risk.

Monica Witt, aged 39, worked as a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the USA 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. "With good reason", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the Justice Department's national security division. The shady packages helped the Iranian government to identify, track and neutralize U.S. counterintelligence agents, Demers said.

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the U.S. to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

Prosecutors say that Iranian intelligence recruited Witt in 2012 when she attended a conference in Iran called "Hollywoodism", organized by Iranian company New Horizon Organization and sponsored by the IRGC. From there, her task was to use social media to search for other American counterintelligence officials, and produce "target packages" on them for Iran.

"On or about July 3, 2013, Witt wrote Individual A, 'I think I can slip into Russian Federation quietly if they help me and then I can contact WikiLeaks from there without disclosing my location", the indictment said.

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According to authorities, Witt collaborated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military unit charged with exerting Tehran's influence around the world.

The conferences often included an "anti-Western" sentiment and "propagate anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including Holocaust denial".

Witt's defection and subsequent collaboration with Iranian hackers were made much worse because she also had high-level security clearance and field duty experience, and indirectly helped Iranian intelligence gain deep insight into how USA operations are conducted both internally and overseas.

The Department of Treasury accuses Net Peygard Samavat Company of being "involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents".

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. The poster identified Witt as an English teacher, whose friends believed she was missing somewhere in Afghanistan or Tajikistan.

In the indictment, Witt, who converted to Islam, is also identified by her Iranian names, Fatemah Zahra and Narges Witt.

The indictment suggests that Witt defected for ideological motives, and it quotes emails between Witt and an Iranian agent, referred to as Individual A, prior to her defection. They also remain at large; arrest warrants have been issued for them.

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