Ex-Air Force Counterintelligence Agent Charged With Giving Secrets To Iran

Ex-Air Force Counterintelligence Agent Charged With Giving Secrets To Iran

The next year, she went to another Iranian conference and soon arranged to defect, according to the indictment. She also gave Iranians the code name and classified mission of a special U.S. Department of Defense operation.

While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a United States veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

During that time, she was granted high-level security clearances, learned Farsi at a USA military language school, and was deployed overseas for counterintelligence missions in the Middle East. She also conducted multiple searches for her former fellow agents using Facebook accounts registered under fake names. 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.

But at the heart of today's indictment stands Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, a former US Air Force counter-intelligence special agent specialized in Middle East operations, who served for the Air Force between 1997 and 2008, and later worked as a DOD contractor until 2010 -including for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same defense company where Edward Snowden worked.

According to authorities, Witt collaborated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military unit charged with exerting Tehran's influence around the world. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of US government agents.

She defected to Iran in 2013 after being invited to two all-expense-paid conferences in the country that the Justice Department says promoted anti-Western propaganda and condemned American moral standards.

Iranian hackers then used that information to target those individuals with cyberattacks, the Justice Department said.

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"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, announcing the indictment.

In August 2013, Witt reached out to an individual with ties to Iranian intelligence offering her services. Iran's nuclear program was the target of the U.S. "I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil", she told that person in an email.

"On or about July 3, 2013, Witt wrote Individual A, '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", the indictment said.

She also conducted online research, including on Facebook, to create information "packages" on her former colleagues in the US intelligence community. "But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us".

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

Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be detained if the government can prove that their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena.

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