Justice Department says former US Air Force agent turned on her own, revealed US spies to Iran

  • The US indicted the former US Air Force agent Monica Witt, alleging she “assisted Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former fellow agents in the U.S. Intelligence Community.”
  • As part of its action, the US sanctioned two Iran-based firms – New Horizon Organisation and Net Peygard Samavat Co. – and several individuals associated with the two groups.
  • “When our intelligence professionals are targeted or betrayed, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against the wrong-doers,” a Department of Justice official said in a statement.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday indicted a former US Air Force agent, Monica Witt, for aiding Iran in what it called a cyber-spying trap targeting US intelligence officers.

The DOJ said Witt, 39, defected to Iran in 2013 and may “have assisted Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former fellow agents in the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

“Witt is also alleged to have disclosed the code name and classified mission of a U.S. Department of Defence Special Access Program. An arrest warrant has been issued for Witt, who remains at large,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Monica wittCourtesy FBIMonica Witt, 39, a former US Air Force officer.

As part of its action, the US sanctioned two Iran-based firms, New Horizon Organisation and Net Peygard Samavat Co., and several individuals associated with the two groups.

Witt joined the Air Force in 1997. During her 11-year career as an intelligence specialist, she worked in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and was deployed abroad to conduct counterintelligence missions, according to the DOJ press release. She held a top secret clearance and worked as a Department of Defence contractor for two years after leaving the Air Force.

“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,” John Demers, the assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s National Security Division, said of the indictment.

Witt helped Iranian spies produce “target packages” to approach US intelligence officers who Witt had worked with, according to part of the indictment included in the press release. The Iranian spies sent spear-phishing messages to the targets in attempts to trick them into downloading malware, and in one case they successfully tricked US officers into Facebook friending a fake account that they designed to imitate a real US intelligence officer.

“Four Iranian cyber hackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the U.S. intelligence community who were Ms. Witt’s former colleagues. 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. When our intelligence professionals are targeted or betrayed, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against the wrong-doers,” Demers said.

The Department of the Treasury said Net Peygard Samavat launched a malicious cybercampaign against current and former US government and military personnel, and that New Horizon organised international conferences to help Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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