Former US Air Force Officer Charged After Sharing Secrets With Iran

Minnie Murray
February 14, 2019

Monica Witt, 39, a former U.S. Air Force officer, indicted for aiding Iran, is seen in this Federal Bureau of Investigation photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., February 13, 2019.

A former US Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran government, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Witt, 39, disclosed the true name and work of a United States government agent to Iran in 2014-2015, the indictment alleges, and also "created target packages for use by Iran" against USA government agents and counterintelligence officers.

The indictment shows correspondence between Witt and an unnamed co-conspirator with dual United States-Iranian citizenship, in which Witt allegedly wrote, "If all else fails, I just may go public with a program and do like Snowden" - referring to the government contractor who famously leaked NSA information to WikiLeaks.

The same indictment charged four other Iranians - Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar - with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, defected in 2013 after attending a conference in Iran aimed at "condemning American moral standards". The world's largest social network has been under pressure to do more to combat misinformation and continues to pull down fake accounts this year, including 783 pages, groups and accounts tied to Iran.

Officials said Witt turned on the US and shifted her loyalty to the Islamic Republic for "ideological reasons". She then found work as a Defense Department contractor.

The indictment includes snippets of dialogue between Witt and the person who recruited her her, identified only as Individual 1. 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. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. The Justice Department said the information threatened other agents in the US intelligence community, a federation of 16 agencies.

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

Prosecutors say she appeared in multiple videos broadcast by Iranian media, identifying herself publicly as a US veteran and condemning America.

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent's true identity, "thereby risking the life of this individual".

In her first specialty, Witt served aboard an RC-135 Rivet Joint air reconnaissance aircraft out of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, focusing on Persian-Farsi language communications, according to a resume on the website Indeed that was attributed to Witt and matched much of the information in her service records.

"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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