U.S. air force defector Monica Witt is charged with spying for Iran

Hugh Fox
February 14, 2019

A former Air Force counterintelligence officer was charged with disclosing the identifies of American spies and a confidential Defense Department operation, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Monica Witt, who was also a former counterintelligence officer for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, defected to Iran in 2013, according to the indictment, and remains at large.

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

Witt first traveled to a "Hollywoodism" conference in 2012, when she appeared in Iranian television videos in which she identified herself as a former US service member with.

Besides charges and an arrest warrant issued in the name of the former USAF service member, the DOJ also indicted four Iranian hackers who supposedly carried out the cyber-attacks acting on information provided by Witt.

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

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However, in 2012, she traveled to Iran to attend the Iranian New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference, aimed specifically at criticizing and condemning American foreign policy.

Witt returned to the conference a year later, and began assisting Iranian intelligence services.

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".

The indictment claims Witt not only revealed to Iranian officials the existence of highly-classified intelligence programs, but also provided them with the true identity of at least one American intelligence officer.

A Farsi language specialist, she was deployed to the Gulf area several times on signals intelligence missions, according to the indictment, and had top security clearance giving her access to the identities of clandestine USA agents and informants in the field.

As part of its action, the United States sanctioned two Iran-based firms - New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company - and several individuals associated with the two groups.

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Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the US government.

Witt, 39, had high-level security clearances and was in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008, then became a Defense Department contractor until 2010. That's a reference to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked classified US information.

USA authorities have not yet arrested Witt, who remains at large in Iran, but a warrant has been issued.

Iranian hackers are accused of setting up fake social media accounts to befriend the agents that Witt provided information on to try and install spyware to their computers. She successfully defected in August 2013.

"Espionage by past or present members of the intelligence community poses a significant threat to our country and a heightened danger to their former colleagues", he said.

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