Former US Counter Intel Agent Indicted for Spying for Iran

14 February, 2019, 08:43 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran'

Monica Elfriede Witt, aged 39, worked as a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the United States 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.

Monica Witt was charged with espionage after she provided national defense information to the Iranian government, the US Department of Justice said Wednesday.

During her US government career, authorities said Witt was granted high-level security clearances and was posted overseas on several occasions for counterintelligence missions.

Witt returned to the conference a year later, and began assisting Iranian intelligence services.

Witt first traveled to a "Hollywoodism" conference in 2012, when she appeared in Iranian television videos in which she identified herself as a former US service member with.

Neither Witt nor the four men, who worked for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, could be contacted for comment because their whereabouts are unknown.

The government issued an arrest warrant for Witt, who remains at large. The hackers sent the targets messages and emails that purported to be legitimate but instead contained malicious software that, if opened, would have given them access to the officials' computer and network.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.

On arrival in Iran, the Tehran government is said to have provided her with housing and computer equipment for her to help track down USA intelligence officers.

More news: U.S. officials arrive in China for trade talks as deadline looms

After her defection, Witt allegedly proceeded to provide Iranian officials with the code name and classified mission details of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Access Program.

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.

The indictment said Witt was recruited during trips to Tehran in 2012 and 2013 with help from an unidentified "Individual A", a dual US-Iranian citizen whose description resembles Hashemi.

Witt worked for the Air Force and was a counterintelligence agent for 11 years where she had top-security clearance.

But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film.

Witt faces two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy.

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 United States operative. Four hackers linked to the Iranian government, charged in the same indictment, used that information to target the intelligence workers online, prosecutors said. "I got a copy of the Quran and started reading it", she said.

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.

However, one agent who friended the fake account added the hackers to a Facebook group filled with USA government agents, allowing them to gather more information, according to the indictment.

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