Former US Counterintelligence Agent Charged With Espionage

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"Monica Witt is charged with revealing to the Iranian regime a highly classified intelligence program and the identity of a U.S. Intelligence Officer", Asst.

The United States on Wednesday indicted a former counterintelligence agent with the U.S. Air Force for aiding Iran in what Washington characterized as a cyber-spying operation targeting U.S. intelligence officers. She also gave Iranians the code name and classified mission of a special U.S. Department of Defense operation.

"In one such instance, the Cyber Conspirators", as the four Iranians are called, "created a Facebook account that purported to belong to a [intelligence community] employee and former colleague of Witt, and which utilized legitimate information and photos from the USIC employee's actual Facebook account", the Justice Department said.

The interview came just after Witt attended New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference - an anti-American event in Tehran.

While Witt, far outside the clutches of United States law enforcement, is unlikely to get a USA court date, the indictment follows a pattern of recent Justice Department targeting of Iranian cybercriminals that dates back to the Barack Obama administration. Investigators say her reasons for defecting were "ideological".

Witt, 39, served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008, spending some of that time doing counterintelligence work in the Middle East, before moving to the private sector to work as a contractor.

This image provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows part of the wanted poster for Monica Elfriede Witt.

The Iranian hackers also used photos and information of another U.S. counterintelligence official to create a fake Facebook account for friending other agents.

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On August 28, 2013, she finally defected to Tehran, where she took the name Fatemah Zahra and, according to the indictment, began disclosing classified information to Iranian officials, including the identity of a covert USA operative.

"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote to an unidentified co-conspirator in 2013, the year she defected.

She separated from the military in 2008 and ended work as a Defense Department contractor in 2010.

The four Iranians had targeted former coworkers and colleagues of Witt in the U.S. Intelligence Community in 2014 and 2015. The four are said to have worked on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In the weeks after defecting, she also conducted several Facebook searches of her former colleagues, and is alleged to have exposed one agent's true identity, "thereby risking the life of this individual".

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.

In 2012, for instance, the person wrote her, "should i thank the sec of defense...u were well trained". Authorities said Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar sought to install malware in the computers of Witt's former co-workers through fake social media accounts.

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