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

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

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.

The Justice Department has announced an indictment against Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013 and is now at-large.

The four used cyber tactics to target eight US government agents "all of whom at one time worked or interacted with the main suspect".

The indictment says the four Iranians were acting on behalf of the government-linked Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The most notable of the four Iranian hackers is Behzad Mesri, who USA authorities also charged in November 2017 with hacking HBO, stealing scripts for unaired episodes of season 6 of the hit series Game Of Thrones TV show, and later attempting to extort HBO execs for $6 million.

She also created packages for Iranian intelligence officers to target confidential USA. officials working within the country.

After her defection, Witt allegedly proceeded to provide Iranian officials with the code name and classified mission details of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Access Program. The investigation to uncover the alleged crimes was being run for years.

But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film.

"This case reflects our firm resolve to hold accountable any individual who betrays the public trust by compromising our national security", said U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu.

In August 2013, Witt reached out to an individual with ties to Iranian intelligence offering her services.

According to the indictment, she had access to secret and top secret national defence information, including the names of intelligence sources and clandestine agents, and had been deployed between 1999 and 2003 overseas to collect electronic intelligence.

Witt returned to another New Horizon Organization event in 2013 where she made the decision to emigrate to Iran.

Witt was indicted along with four Iranian hackers, who the USA says worked on behalf of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of USA government agents. An FBI official said the Bureau warned her that she was vulnerable to Iranian recruitment.

Witt served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 before separating and becoming a civilian contractor. "Witt may have also travelled to the United Arab Emirates or Iran, where she had previously travelled on at least two other occasions".

The hackers, using imposter Facebook personas, then targeted those same officials and were even able at one point to join a private Facebook group composed primarily of retired government workers, the indictment says.

Iranian nationals Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar were charged with computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

Iran and the United States are longtime cyber-antagonists.

Last November, US President Donald Trump re-imposed all sanctions on Iran that had been suspended due to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.