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U.S. authorities on Wednesday charged former Air Force intelligence officer Monica Witt with helping Iran launch a cyber-spying operation that targeted her former colleagues after she defected from the United States.
Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, was a former U.S. Air Force Intelligence Specialist and Special Agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who served the Air Force between 1997 and 2008 and Department of Defense (DOD) as a contractor until 2010.
The indictment states that Witt once held the highest level of Top Secret security clearance and had access to details of highly classified counterintelligence operations, real names of sources, and the identities of U.S. intelligence officers.
In February 2012, Witt allegedly traveled to Iran to attend an all-expenses-paid “Hollywoodism” conference held by the Iranian New Horizon Organization, which DoJ describes as focused on promoting anti-U.S. propaganda, and then in 2013, she finally defected to Iran.
Once settled in Iran, Witt worked actively for the Iranian government, who provided her with a housing and computer equipment, and disclosed the code name and classified mission of a U.S. “Special Access Program” and its specific target.
Besides her, the DOJ also charged four Iranian nationals—Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar, and Mohamad Paryar—with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft for their role in assisting Witt in targeting her former colleagues.
“This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
“When our intelligence professionals are targeted or betrayed, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against the wrong-doers.”