US Charges Former Air Force Intel Officer With Spying for Iran

US Charges Former Air Force Intel Officer With Spying for Iran

US Charges Former Air Force Intel Officer With Spying for Iran

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

US prosecutors have accused a former US Air Force officer of spying for Iran in an elaborate operation that targeted her fellow intelligence officers.

A Justice Department indictment charges Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected in 2013 and is now at large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target at least eight former colleagues in the U.S. intelligence community with cyberattacks in 2014 and 2015.

On August 28, 2013, she finally defected to Tehran, where she took the name Fatemah Zahra and, according to the indictment, began disclosing classified information to Iranian officials, including the identity of a covert USA operative.

The same indictment charges four Iranian nationals, Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar with conspiracy, targeting former colleagues of Witt in the US Intelligence Community.

Witt traveled there in February 2012 to attend the New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference, the indictment says.

Officials said Witt turned on the US and shifted her loyalty to the Islamic Republic for "ideological reasons".

The former agent was "granted high-level security clearances and was deployed overseas to conduct classified counterintelligence missions", according to the Justice Department.


As part of its action, the United States sanctioned two Iran-based firms - New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company - and several individuals associated with the two groups. She was also a Defense Department contractor until 2010.

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".

Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the USA government. The connections she made at that event with dual Iranian-American citizens enabled her to defect the following year.

Once in Tehran, Iranian authorities provided her with housing and computer equipment, the indictment alleges, and she began work on behalf of Iran. "I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil", she told that person in an email.

US authorities have not yet arrested Witt, who remains at large in Iran, but a warrant has been issued.

In one message she wrote that she might "do like (Edward) Snowden", the former USA intelligence contractor who in early June 2013 leaked thousands of documents on the operations of the National Security Agency.

Witt maintained contact with an IRGC member she met at the conference and eventually defected to the Islamic Republic.

Officials would not elaborate on why the indictment was brought six years after her detection, except to say that they had to move classified intelligence into an unclassified format to be used in a pending criminal proceeding.

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