United States says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets

14 February, 2019, 04:53 | Author: Carlos George
  • The U.S. government accused Monica Witt 39 of revealing highly-classified information to Tehran.             
    FBI

Monica Elfriede Witt, aged 39, worked as a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the U.S. air force for more than 10 years before becoming an intelligence analyst for the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008 and doing other private sector work.

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with providing classified information to the Islamic Republic, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday by the Justice Department.

United States officials said Monica Witt, 39, who worked a decade in Air Force counter-intelligence, had an "ideological" turn against her country and defected in 2013, turning over information on U.S. espionage operations against Tehran.

She revealed to the Iranians a "highly classified intelligence collection program" as well as the true identity of a U.S. intelligence officer, Demers said.

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.

The Treasury Department on Wednesday sanctioned the New Horizon Organization, which sponsored the conferences Witt attended.

"As someone who served in the United States army for years, I expected that after embracing Islam, my right to choose a religion and my beliefs would be respected", Witt, who was born in El Paso, Texas, said at the time.

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Jay Tabb, the FBI's top national security official, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had warned Witt before her defection that she was a vulnerable target for recruitment by Iranian intelligence but that Witt had ignored those warnings.

In a charging document, investigators say the 39-year-old was deployed by the USA to locations in the Middle East to conduct classified counterintelligence operations.

"[The] Treasury is taking action against malicious Iranian cyber actors and covert operations that have targeted Americans at home and overseas as part of our ongoing efforts to counter the Iranian regime's cyber-attacks", said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The Justice Department said the information threatened other agents in the US intelligence community, a federation of 16 agencies. She separated from the military in 2008 and ended work as a Defense Department contractor in 2010. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil.??

The Iranian hackers also used photos and information of another U.S. counterintelligence official to create a fake Facebook account for friending other agents. That's a reference to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked classified USA information.

Witt allegedly gave Iranian officials the code name and mission of a highly classified U.S. Defense Department program and the specific target involved in that intelligence operation. She successfully defected in August 2013.

She also conducted online research, including on Facebook, to create information "packages" on her former colleagues in the USA intelligence community.

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