Former US air force officer charged with spying for 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

Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013, is accused of helping Iranian officials target USA counterintelligence officers operating in that country.

A Justice Department indictment charges Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected in 2013 and is now at large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target at least eight former colleagues in the U.S. intelligence community with cyberattacks in 2014 and 2015.

They are said to be charged with using malware, phishing attacks and false identities, including one called Bella Wood on Facebook, who successfully friended one of the USA agents while they were deployed as a military intelligence officer in Kabul.

"New Horizon hosts global conferences that have provided Iranian intelligence officers a platform to recruit and collect damaging information from attendees, while propagating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial", Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin said.

The DOJ statement said there's an arrest warrant for Witt, who remains at large. She also researched private information about colleagues she had worked with and created what the government says were "target packages" for use by the Iranian government.

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

The indictment alleges that between January 2014 and May 2015, she created "target packages", or dossiers on her former counter-intelligence colleagues, including the identity of an undercover agent and a secret USA counter-intelligence operation against a particular target, which is not named.

Ms Witt is accused of sharing U.S. government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

They declined to say to what extent these disclosures compromised USA intelligence operations targeting Iran.

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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.

In July 2013, according to the indictment, Individual A told Witt that Iranian officials were suspicious of her, wondering how she managed to travel around Asia while claiming to have no money.

The US also indicted four Iranians working for the Revolutionary Guard who, using information Witt provided them, targeted her former colleagues in US intelligence with malware and other hacking tools in hopes of accessing their computer networks.

That summer, a dual U.S.

After leaving the Air Force, she worked as an intelligence analyst with major defense contractor Booze Allen Hamilton in 2008 supporting the Army as an Iranian subject matter expert. She is believed to be in Iran, officials said.

"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.

Iranian nationals Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar were charged with computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft. In Iran, she has appeared to work at times to publish anti-American articles for the state-owned Press TV.

In October 2018, the US was ordered by the United Nations court to provisionally lift some of its newly imposed sanctions against Iran.

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