Monica Witt was charged with espionage after she provided national defense information to the Iranian government, the US Department of Justice said Wednesday.
A Justice Department indictment charges Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected in 2013 and is now at large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target at least eight former colleagues in the USA intelligence community with cyberattacks in 2014 and 2015. During her US government career, authorities said Witt was granted high-level security clearances and was posted overseas on several occasions for counterintelligence missions. She is now at-large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target her former colleagues in the USA intelligence community. Her work for the government ended in 2010.
She first went to Iran in 2012 to attend an IRGC conference, and was housed by the government when she returned a year later.
Witt has, not surprisingly, disappeared in Iran and is probably beyond the reach of the American legal system.
She is also alleged to have worked with Iran on research to target other USA officers. The indictment accuses her of assisting "Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former fellow agents in the U.S. Intelligence Community". She had top-level security clearance while working for the US government and was trained in Farsi by the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. That event, which court papers say is sponsored by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, promotes an anti-American viewpoint. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of US government agents.
When warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that trip that Iranian intelligence services were trying to recruit her, Witt allegedly promised that she would not talk about her counterintelligence work if she returned to Iran.
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The indictment includes snippets of dialogue between Witt and the person who recruited her her, identified only as Individual 1.
Witt defected to Iran in August 2013.
The IQNA noted that Witt "referred to the extensive propaganda against Iran and Islam in the USA, saying that the American people are under the influence of the propaganda".
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. It said she replied: "Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil".
Prosecutors allege that shortly after defecting to Iran, she handed over information on her colleagues in order to cause "serious damage" to the United States.
Officials would not elaborate on why the indictment was brought six years after her detection, except to say that they had to move classified intelligence into an unclassified format to be used in a pending criminal proceeding.