Ex-US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran

The U.S. government accused Monica Witt 39 of revealing highly-classified information to Tehran.             
    FBI

The U.S. government accused Monica Witt 39 of revealing highly-classified information to Tehran. FBI

"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.

The United States on Wednesday indicted former USA air force officer Monica Witt for aiding Iran in what Washington characterized as a cyberspying operation targeting American intelligence officers.

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.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a USA veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

Over the same period, the four Iranians charged in the same indictment, named as Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar, as well as unnamed co-conspirators, are alleged to have mounted hacking attacks against the current and former United States intelligence agents Witt had identified.

However, in 2012, she traveled to Iran to attend the Iranian New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference, aimed specifically at criticizing and condemning American foreign policy.

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 is believed to be in Iran, officials said.

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After moving to Iran and converting to Islam, prosecutors claim Witt was housed by the Iranian government and provided with a computer, which she used to compile "target packages" containing information for her new employers on American military and intelligence personnel.

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 Witt established relations with individuals she met at the conference, one of whom later arranged her defection to Iran in August 2013, where she received housing and computer equipment from the Iranian government.

At that point, she made contact with an Iranian agent who helped her settle in Iran.

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. The next year, she went to another Iranian conference and soon arranged to defect, according to the indictment. After leaving the armed forces, she worked as a Defense Department contractor. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of US government agents.

Yahoo News reports that she wrote a message claiming that she might "do like [Edward] Snowden", the former USA intelligence contractor who leaked thousands of highly-classified documents about the National Security Agency in 2013 before being granted asylum in Russian Federation.

The FBI said Wednesday that it's possible Witt remains a threat, and her former colleagues have been apprised of the charges against her.

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