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USA charges former Air Force intel agent with defecting to Iran

USA charges former Air Force intel agent with defecting to Iran

On Feb. 13, 2019, the DOJ announced an indictment against Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013 and is now at-large.

Billing itself as an "anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist" think tank, New Horizon organized conferences in Iran that cast a critical eye on U.S. and Israeli policy worldwide and stoked accusations of anti-Semitism from Western critics.

Washington also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

Witt served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 before separating and becoming a civilian contractor.

Besides charges and an arrest warrant issued in the name of the former USAF service member, the DOJ also indicted four Iranian hackers who supposedly carried out the cyber-attacks acting on information provided by Witt.

The FBI said Wednesday that it's possible Witt remains a threat, and her former colleagues have been apprised of the charges against her. Prosecutors say that Individual A worked as a spotter and assessor for Iranian intelligence. US officials believe she is still in Iran.

"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 John Demers wrote in statement Wednesday.

"She chose not to heed our warning that travel to Iran could potentially make her susceptible to recruitment", Tabb said.

More news: Global oil supply to swamp demand in 2019 despite output cuts: IEA

She successfully defected in August 2013, after providing a resume and "conversion narrative" to her contact. Witt replied with a smiley emoticon, "LOL thank the sec of defense?" "But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us".

"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.

Jay Tabb, the FBI's executive assistant director for national security, said Witt was ideologically driven. She was warned about her activities, but reassured agents that she would not provide sensitive information about her work if she returned to Iran.

She returned to Iran the next year and began disclosing classified information to Iranian officials, including on her former colleagues in the United States intelligence community.

She also conducted online research, including on Facebook, to create information "packages" on her former colleagues in the US intelligence community.

The hackers, using imposter Facebook personas, then targeted those same officials and were even able at one point to join a private Facebook group composed primarily of retired government workers, the indictment says.

Iranian nationals Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar were charged with computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

What's the state of US-Iran relations?

-Israeli computer sabotage weapon Stuxnet, for example, and Iran has been blamed for a number of cyberattacks against the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia.


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