U.S. charges ex-intelligence specialist with spying for Iran

Former Air Force intelligence officer charged with defecting to Iran and conspiring to share top-secret information

"The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation's security, our military, and the American people", said Special Agent Terry Phillips of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with providing classified information to the Islamic Republic, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday by the Justice Department.

"Four Iranian cyberhackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the USA intelligence community who were Ms. Witt's former colleagues", the indictment said.

She allegedly revealed to Tehran the existence of a "highly classified intelligence collection programme" and the real identity of a USA intelligence officer.

Four Iranian nationals-Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar-were charged with those activities in the same indictment as Witt. Her work for the government ended in 2010.

In 2012, Witt was offered an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a conference hosted by the New Horizon Organization in Iran called "Hollywoodism".

In 2013, Witt traveled to Iran for that year's "Holywoodism" conference.

Officials said Witt turned on the USA and shifted her loyalty to the Islamic Republic for "ideological reasons". She also researched private information about colleagues she had worked with and created what the government says were "target packages" for use by the Iranian government.

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They are said to be charged with using malware, phishing attacks and false identities, including one called Bella Wood on Facebook, who successfully friended one of the USA agents while they were deployed as a military intelligence officer in Kabul. Four Iranian agents were also charged for targeting USA intelligence personnel through information Witt provided.

Iranian hackers are accused of setting up fake social media accounts to befriend the agents that Witt provided information on to try and install spyware to their computers. The next year, she went to another Iranian conference and soon arranged to defect, according to the indictment.

Witt worked for the Air Force from 1997 until 2008, and then as a contractor. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of USA government agents.

She wrote Individual A that she wanted to put her Air Force training "to good use instead of evil".

In one message she wrote that she might "do like (Edward) Snowden", the former USA intelligence contractor who in early June 2013 leaked thousands of documents on the operations of the National Security Agency.

Authorities said Ms. Witt's activities caused "serious damage" to USA intelligence activities.

In her first specialty, Witt served aboard an RC-135 Rivet Joint air reconnaissance aircraft out of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, focusing on Persian-Farsi language communications, according to a resume on the website Indeed that was attributed to Witt and matched much of the information in her service records.

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