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

Monica Witt 39 a former U.S. Air Force officer indicted for aiding Iran is seen in this FBI

Former US air force officer charged with spying for Iran

A former US Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran government, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The Justice Department also accused Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, of betraying former colleagues in the US intelligence community by feeding details about their personal and professional lives to Iran.

An Iranian communications company was also sanctioned for allegedly planting malware on U.S. intelligence agents' computers.

In February 2013 she again travelled to Tehran for another New Horizon conference, where she met with members of the Revolutionary Guard and told them she wanted to emigrate, the indictment said.

A warrant has been issued for Ms Witt, who remains at large.

John Demers, the U.S. assistant attorney general, said: "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".

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The indictment also alleges that Witt disclosed the code name and classified mission of a U.S. defense department Special Access Program. Throughout her tenure with the Air Force, she maintained "high-level" security clearances and even deployed to the Middle East to participate in counter intelligence operations.

About one year later, she re-entered Iran, where she was provided housing and computer equipment.

She also conducted online research, including on Facebook, to create information "packages" on her former colleagues in the USA intelligence community. Prosecutors say she appeared in multiple videos broadcast by Iranian media, identifying herself publicly as a US veteran and condemning America. "Thanks for giving me the opportunity", according to the indictment.

Four other Iranians also were named in the indictment and face charges of conspiracy, computer intrusions and identity theft in connection with targeting Witt's former co-workers in 2014 and 2015.

According to the unsealed indictment, Monica Witt is accused of having defected to Iran in 2013.

She first went to Iran in 2012 to attend an IRGC conference, and was housed by the government when she returned a year later.

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The DOJ claims Witt has been working ever since with IRGC hacking units to craft and fine-tune cyber-operations against her former Air Force colleagues, some of whom she knew personally.

"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July.

The highest court of the United Nations rejected a USA claim that it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on parts of the case, paving the way for the trial to continue.

Iran then filed a lawsuit with the court in The Hague, saying the action contravened a 1955 friendship agreement between the two states. Her work for the government ended in 2010.

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

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