Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

United States charges former Air Force intel agent with defecting to Iran

United States charges former Air Force intel agent with defecting to Iran

"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.

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 Elfriede Witt, 39, served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 and then worked on classified government projects for two years after that, reports the Washington Post.

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

The Justice Department has issued arrest warrants for Witt and the four Iranians, who all remain at large.

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. 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. According to authorities, she started working on behalf of Tehran by disclosing classified information and compiling research on USA intelligence personnel she previously worked with.

Four Iranian nationals were also charged in the same indictment for their alleged involvement in the cyber attacks.


Witt, 39, was recruited after attending the Iranian New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference - an event sponsored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which prosecutors said was aimed at "condemning American moral standards and promoting anti-U.S. propaganda" and flipping USA intelligence officers into turncoat spies. The shady packages helped the Iranian government to identify, track and neutralize USA counterintelligence agents, Demers said.

She defected to Iran in 2013 and is believed to be there now.

The US Department of Treasury has also sanctioned two Iranian companies - New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company - for their role in the plot.

Once in Tehran, Iranian authorities provided her with housing and computer equipment, the indictment alleges, and she began work on behalf of Iran.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: "I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil".

A few days later, Witt wrote to the same person, "I think I can slip into Russian Federation quietly if they help me and then I can contact wikileaks from there without disclosing my location".

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