Former Air Force intelligence specialist charged with spying for Iran

The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled criminal charges against a former Air Force intelligence specialist who was allegedly recruited by the Iranian government to spy on the United States.

The indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Monica Witt, who officials say worked for a U.S. defense contractor after leaving the Air Force and handled highly classified information, with two counts of delivering national defense information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy. Witt is accused of revealing a top-secret U.S. intelligence program to Iran, as well as disclosing the identity of a U.S. counterintelligence agent.

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The indictment also charges four of Witt’s alleged Iranian co-conspirators with cyber crimes for targeting Witt’s former U.S. government colleagues on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Officials with the Justice Department, FBI and Air Force announced the charges Wednesday in Washington, describing them as a result of a years-long investigation.

“Monica Witt is charged with revealing to the Iranian regime a highly classified intelligence program and the identity of a U.S. Intelligence Officer, all in violation of the law, her solemn oath to protect and defend our country, and the bounds of human decency,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said Wednesday.

“This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect,” Demers said.

According to U.S. officials, Witt is a former active duty U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist who also worked as a special agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Witt is said to have been in the Air Force in 1997 until 2008, after which she worked for a defense contractor in the special investigations unit until 2010.

Officials said Witt was granted access to secret and top secret national defense information related to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence collection, including details about human sources and clandestine intelligence agents on the ground, as part of her work. She was also deployed overseas to conduct classified missions, they said.

The detailed 27-page indictment alleges that Witt was recruited by an unknown dual U.S.-Iranian citizen identified only as “Individual A.”

Witt is said to have traveled to Iran in 2012 to attend a conference sponsored by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that promoted anti-American propaganda. She is said to have defected to Iran in late August 2013, and U.S. officials believe she remains in Iran. Witt is likely out of reach of U.S. prosecutors as a result.

The indictment alleges that Witt disclosed the code name and mission of a top-secret Pentagon program to Iranian officials and also gave them the name of a U.S. government counterintelligence agent.

Officials would not offer many details of the information she provided but noted her disclosures presented a serious risk to U.S. national security.

“She provided information that could cause serious damage to national security,” FBI Executive Assistant Director for National Security Jay Tabb told reporters Wednesday.

Wednesday’s announcement represents the latest effort by the Trump administration to ratchet up pressure on Tehran, which President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE has consistently singled out as a key adversary.

The indictment also charges four Iranians involved in cyber espionage campaigns against Witt’s former co-workers in 2014 and 2015.

The Iranians charged — Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar — are accused of using fake social media accounts in an effort to deploy malware to their targets. They face charges of conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusions and aggravated identity theft. 

The Treasury Department separately sanctioned the Iranians and the company they worked for to conduct the intrusions. The department also unveiled sanctions on a group known as the New Horizon Organization, which hosted the IRGC-sponsored event that Witt attended in Iran.