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Ex-US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran
13 February 2019, 10:54 | Glen Norman
Monica Witt AP
Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to U.S. officials.
Provided with housing and computer equipment by the Iranian government, Witt tracked down US counterintelligence agents she used to work with on Facebook, the indictment said, and disclosed the classified identity of at least one of those agents, according to the charges.
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.
The publication of the indictment coincided with the Treasury Department's announcing a new series of cyber-security related sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC, which engages in "efforts to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees [of various conferences], including us persons, and four associated individuals", according to the a release announcing the sanctions.
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She replied, "LOL thank the sec of defense?"
According to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday, Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008 and worked as contractor for two years after that. "Following her defection to Iran in 2013, she is alleged to have revealed to the Iranian government the existence of a highly classified intelligence collection program and the true identity of a United States intelligence officer, thereby risking the life of this individual".
The same indictment charges four Iranian nationals, Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar with conspiracy, targeting former colleagues of Witt in the US Intelligence Community. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of USA government agents.
Iranian hackers then used that information to target those individuals with cyberattacks, the Justice Department said. Iran's nuclear program was the target of the U.S. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. She met with Revolutionary Guards representatives and declared her desire to immigrate to Iran, according to the indictment.
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Shortly before Witt's defection, the Federal Bureau of Investigation circulated a missing persons poster in an attempt to track her down.
While working with a dual Iranian-US citizen, who was only identified in court papers as Individual A, Witt divulged "the existence of a highly classified intelligence collection program" and risked the life of an intelligence colleague by revealing his true identity, said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security. "But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us". That's a reference to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked classified USA information.
During her government career, she was granted high-level security clearances and "deployed overseas to conduct classified counterintelligence missions", the DOJ said.
Marzieh Hashemi works for the Press TV network's English-language service. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.
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