Saturday, 23 February, 2019

US ex-Air Force officer faces spy charges after defecting to Iran

Monica Witt 39 a former U.S. Air Force officer indicted for aiding Iran is seen in this FBI US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran'
Andrew Cummings | 14 February, 2019, 02:51

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

The Justice Department has announced an indictment against Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013 and is now at-large.

Specifically, between January and May 2015, the Cyber Conspirators, using fictitious and imposter accounts, attempted to trick their targets into clicking links or opening files that would allow the conspirators to deploy malware on the target's computer.

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.

"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", said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

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 USA to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

She attended the same conference the following year and was hired by an unnamed individual to assist in the filming of an anti-American propaganda commercial.

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US Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials are in Warsaw for a conference focused on Iran and other security issues in the Middle East.

She is also alleged to have worked with Iran on research to target other USA officers.

According to the indictment, she had access to secret and top secret national defence information, including the names of intelligence sources and clandestine agents, and had been deployed between 1999 and 2003 overseas to collect electronic intelligence.

After leaving the armed forces in 2008, Witt worked as a contractor for two years, officials said. She is now at-large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target her former colleagues in the USA intelligence community. "Today's announcement also highlights our commitment to vigorously pursue those who threaten USA security through state-sponsored hacking campaigns".

The indictment includes snippets of dialogue between Witt and the person who recruited her her, identified only as Individual 1.

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

Later that year she worked with Individual A to make a video critical of the United States, and the two continued to communicate.

In October 2018, the US was ordered by the United Nations court to provisionally lift some of its newly imposed sanctions against Iran.

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