US charges former Air Force intel officer with spying for Iran

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"Four Iranian cyberhackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the USA intelligence community who were Ms. Witt's former colleagues", the indictment said.

An image provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Monica E. Witt in 2012.

Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, who defected to Iran in 2013, allegedly assisted Iranian intelligence services to target her former agent colleagues inside the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC).

During her US government career, authorities said Witt was granted high-level security clearances and was posted overseas on several occasions for counterintelligence missions. Today, the Times exposed a top-secret USA intelligence program aimed at sabotaging Iranian missiles.

Monica Elfriede Witt
Monica Elfriede Witt

That year she travelled to Iran to attend an anti-America conference sponsored by the New Horizon Organization.

"She made a decision to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to Iran", said Jay Tabb, FBI's executive assistant director for national security.

Four Iranians said to have been involved in the cyber-attacks were also charged along with two Iran-based businesses, New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Witt and her alleged co-conspirators, who remain at large.

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The four Iranian nationals began a campaign targeting Witt's former colleagues in late 2014.

While Witt, far outside the clutches of USA law enforcement, is unlikely to get a U.S. court date, the indictment follows a pattern of recent Justice Department targeting of Iranian cybercriminals that dates back to the Barack Obama administration.

Monica Witt, who was born and raised in Texas, allegedly provided Iranian security officials with the code name and classified mission of a U.S. Defense Department special access program.

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The US Treasury Department also announced sanctions against an Iranian company accused of organizing conferences that served as a platform to recruit Witt, and against another Iranian company suspected of having participated in the cyberattacks.

Prosecutors say Ms Witt had been granted the highest level of US security clearance and worked in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008.

Witt faces two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy. She had top-level security clearance while working for the US government and was trained in Farsi by the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement that this was "all in violation of the law, [Witt's] solemn oath to protect and defend our country, and the bounds of human decency". Witt also conducted research about USIC personnel whom she had worked with previously, creating draft "target packages" against her former colleagues. Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar got ahold of malware that tracks a person's computer activity, accesses their web camera and captures what they type.

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