Vastavam web: A former US Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran despite warnings from the FBI has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program, prosecutors said Wednesday. The Justice Department also accused Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, of betraying former colleagues in the U.S. intelligence community by feeding details about their personal and professional lives to Iran. Four hackers linked to the Iranian government, charged in the same indictment, used that information to target the intelligence workers online, prosecutors said.
“Once a holder of a top secret security clearance, Monica Witt actively sought opportunities to undermine the United States and support the government of Iran a country which poses a serious threat to our national security,” said FBI executive assistant director Jay Tabb, the bureau’s top national security official. Tabb said “she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security,” though he did not provide specifics.
Witt remains at large in Iran, as do the four hackers, who prosecutors say were acting on behalf of the powerful, government-linked Revolutionary Guard. That group, a branch of Iran’s armed forces, has previously been designated by the U.S. government as terrorism supporter. The indictment was unsealed the same week as Iran celebrates the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution and as the country denounced a Middle East security conference in Warsaw co-hosted by the U.S. and Poland.
The Texas native 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. The Treasury Department on Wednesday sanctioned the New Horizon Organization, which organized the conferences Witt attended and hosts events that American officials say promote Holocaust denial, conspiracy theories and serve as a platform to recruit and collect intelligence from attendees. Witt first traveled to a “Hollywoodism” conference in 2012, when she appeared in Iranian television videos in which she was identified as a former U.S. service member with critical views of America. She was then warned by FBI agents that she was a potential recruitment target for Iranian intelligence.
She returned to another “Hollywoodism” conference in 2013. This time, with free housing and computer equipment, she went to work for the Iranians, supplying information about a classified Defense Department program and assembling into “target packages” research she conducted into the lives, locations and missions of former colleagues, the indictment said. The accused hackers exploited that research, contacting Witt’s former colleagues through imposter Facebook and email accounts. Their goal was to induce the targets to click on links and attachments containing malicious software that could the compromise their computer and networks.