Published: Thu, February 14, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

USA charges ex-intelligence specialist with spying for Iran

USA charges ex-intelligence specialist with spying for Iran

On Wednesday, an indictment was unsealed charging Witt with tipping off the Iranian government to the existence of a highly classified mission, as well as identifying the target of it and revealing the true identity of a former colleague, putting that person's life at risk.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced an indictment against Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013 and is now at-large. The hackers sent the targets messages and emails that purported to be legitimate but instead contained malicious software that, if opened, would have given them access to the officials' computer and network.

A warrant was issued for her arrest.

"Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country, and we trust them to uphold their oath", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's National Security Division.

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She revealed to the Iranians a "highly classified intelligence collection program" as well as the true identity of a USA intelligence officer, Demers said. Shortly after joining the military, Witt studied Farsi at the U.S. Defense Language Institute in California before deploying overseas for four years to conduct classified missions collecting signals intelligence.

In February 2012, Witt traveled to Iran to attend a conference. USA officials believe she is still in Iran. According to documents released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, Monica Witt, 39, defected to Iran in 2013.

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 United States agents and informants in the field.

The indictment says Witt was part of the Air Force until 2008 and then worked as a contractor for the Defence Department for two years.

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Prosecutors say she eventually defected to Iran on August 28, 2013, flying to Tehran from Dubai, writing to Individual A "I'm signing off and heading out!" "Today's announcement also highlights our commitment to vigorously pursue those who threaten US security through state-sponsored hacking campaigns".

The indictment said Witt was recruited during trips to Tehran in 2012 and 2013 with help from an unidentified "Individual A", a dual US-Iranian citizen whose description resembles Hashemi. The four men were identified as Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar.

In one message she wrote that she might "do like (Edward) Snowden", the former U.S. intelligence contractor who in early June 2013 leaked thousands of documents on the operations of the National Security Agency.

The Justice Department officials would not say whether Witt's prosecution was connected to an American-born Iranian television anchorwoman who was recently released after being detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a material witness in an undisclosed USA case.

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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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