A former United States Air Power counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran regardless of warnings from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been charged with revealing labeled data to the Tehran authorities, together with the code title and secret mission of a Pentagon programme, prosecutors mentioned on Wednesday.
The Justice Division additionally accused Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, of betraying former colleagues within the US intelligence neighborhood by feeding particulars about their private lives to Iran. 4 hackers linked to the Iranian authorities, charged in the identical indictment, used that data to focus on the intelligence staff on-line, prosecutors mentioned.
Witt had been on the FBI’s radar a minimum of a yr earlier than she defected after she attended an Iranian convention and appeared in anti-American movies. She was warned about her actions, however reassured brokers that she wouldn’t present delicate details about her work if she returned to Iran, prosecutors mentioned. She was not arrested on the time.
“As soon as a holder of a high secret safety clearance, Monica Witt actively sought alternatives to undermine the US and assist the federal government of Iran, a rustic which poses a critical menace to our nationwide safety,” mentioned FBI govt assistant director Jay Tabb, the bureau’s high nationwide safety official.
Tabb mentioned “she supplied data that would trigger critical harm to nationwide safety”, although he didn’t present specifics.
Witt stays at giant in Iran, as do the 4 hackers, who prosecutors say had been performing on behalf of the government-linked Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. That group, a department of Iran’s armed forces, has been designated by the US authorities as terrorism supporter.
The indictment was unsealed the identical week as Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution and because the nation denounced a Center East safety convention co-hosted by the US and Poland. Officers mentioned the indictment’s timing was unconnected to the assembly.
Witt, a Texas native, served within the Air Power between 1997 and 2008, the place she was skilled within the Farsi language and was deployed abroad on labeled counterintelligence missions, together with to the Center East. She then discovered work as a Protection Division contractor.
She defected to Iran in 2013 after being invited to 2 all-expense-paid conferences within the nation that the Justice Division says promoted anti-Western propaganda and condemned American ethical requirements. She was a Protection Division contractor on the time.
The Treasury Division on Wednesday sanctioned the New Horizon Group, which sponsored the conferences Witt attended and hosts occasions that American officers say promote Holocaust denial, conspiracy theories and function a platform for Iranian intelligence recruitment.
Witt first travelled to a “Hollywoodism” convention in 2012, when she appeared in Iranian tv movies by which she recognized herself as a former US service member with hostile views towards America. She was warned by FBI brokers that she was a possible recruitment goal.
“She selected to not heed our warning that journey to Iran may doubtlessly make her inclined to recruitment,” Tabb mentioned. “She continued to journey.”
She attended the identical convention the next yr and was employed by an unnamed particular person who professed ties to high-level Iranian officers to assist in the filming of an anti-American propaganda industrial.
Given free housing and pc gear, she went to work for the Iranians, supplying details about a labeled Protection Division programme and assembling into “goal packages” analysis she carried out into the household lives, areas and missions of former colleagues, the indictment mentioned.
The accused hackers exploited that analysis, contacting Witt’s former colleagues via impostor Fb and e-mail accounts. Their purpose was to induce the targets to click on on hyperlinks and attachments containing malicious software program that, if opened, may compromise their pc and networks.
The indictment consists of snippets of dialogue between Witt and the one that employed her, recognized solely as Particular person A.
In 2012, as an example, the individual wrote to her, “ought to i thank the sec of protection…u had been properly skilled (sic)”. Witt replied with a smiley emoticon, “LOL thank the sec of protection? For me? Properly, I liked the work, and I’m endeavouring to place the coaching I obtained to good use as a substitute of evil. ?? (sic) Thanks for giving me the chance,” in line with the indictment.
Utilizing a typed smiley-face, she later instructed the identical individual, “If all else fails, I simply might go public with a programme and do like Snowden.”
That is a reference to Edward Snowden, a former Nationwide Safety Company (NSA) contractor who leaked labeled US data.
“Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to guard our nation, and we belief them to uphold their oath. With good motive,” mentioned Assistant Lawyer Basic John Demers, the pinnacle of the Justice Division’s nationwide safety division. “However each nice whereas, one in all these trusted folks fails us.”
Officers wouldn’t elaborate on why the indictment was introduced six years after her detection, besides to say they needed to transfer labeled intelligence into an unclassified format for use in a legal case.
Justice Division officers would not say whether or not Witt’s prosecution was related to an American-born Iranian tv anchorwoman who was not too long ago launched after being detained by the FBI as a fabric witness in an undisclosed US case.
Marzieh Hashemi works for the Press TV community’s English-language service. She has not been charged with any crimes.
Federal legislation permits judges to order witnesses to be detained if the federal government can show their testimony has extraordinary worth for a legal case and that they’d be a flight danger and unlikely to reply to a subpoena. The statute usually requires these witnesses to be launched as soon as they’re deposed.