DOJ: She Knew US Secrets and Gave Them to Iran

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

A former US Air Force intelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with conspiring to provide US defence information to representatives of that country's government, including the code name and mission of a highly classified programme.

Monica Witt, who allegedly defected to Iran in 2013, had previously worked as a United States counterintelligence officer.

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, announcing the indictment.

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

Witt's defection and subsequent collaboration with Iranian hackers were made much worse because she also had high-level security clearance and field duty experience, and indirectly helped Iranian intelligence gain deep insight into how USA operations are conducted both internally and overseas.

The indictment alleges that between January 2014 and May 2015, she created "target packages", or dossiers on her former counter-intelligence colleagues, including the identity of an undercover agent and a secret U.S. counter-intelligence operation against a particular target, which is not named.

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.

During her time in the military, she had top secret clearance, the indictment says, which gave her access to intelligence materials that contained the real names of American sources and clandestine agents.

After leaving the Air Force, she worked as a defense and intelligence contractor, but by 2012 her politics had begun to turn. They face charges including conspiracy, computer intrusions and identity theft targeting Witt's former colleagues.

Witt had been on the FBI's radar at least a year before she defected after she attended an Iranian conference and appeared in anti-American videos.

"She chose not to heed our warning that travel to Iran could potentially make her susceptible to recruitment", Tabb said. That group has been designated by the USA government as promoting terrorism.

Iranian hackers then used that information to target those individuals with cyberattacks, the Justice Department said.

The indictment includes snippets of dialogue between Witt and the person who recruited her her, identified only as Individual 1. Authorities said Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar sought to install malware in the computers of Witt's former co-workers through fake social media accounts.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organised by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by USA officials in January as a material witness in a federal criminal case, according to the Tehran Times.

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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