The U.S. Department of Justice has just charged a former U.S. Air Force intelligence agent with spying on behalf of Iran.
Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Air Force Intelligence Specialist and Special Agent who now lives in Iran, assisted Iran in spying on her fellow intelligence officers, according to a Department of Justice press release detailing the indictment on Wednesday.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers.
Former U.S. Counterintelligence Agent Charged With Espionage on Behalf of Iran; Four Iranians Charged With a Cyber Campaign Targeting Her Former Colleagues https://t.co/oC2NQt6unk
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) February 13, 2019
Witt remains at large, but was last known to be living in Iran, according to an FBI wanted notice. It’s unclear what prison sentence she could face if captured.
Witt, 39, served in the Air Force during 1997-2008, and as a contractor until 2010. She secured a high-level security clearance and routinely worked highly classified intelligence missions.
She defected to Iran five years ago and began helping Iranian intelligence target her former colleagues in the U.S. She also revealed classified details in the Pentagon’s Special Access Program.
She and her co-conspirators used social media accounts in their ploy to spread malware through phishing messages that granted them access to networks and computers.
Four Iranians are also named in the indictment as co-conspirators. They are charged with “conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft,” the statement notes. The statement did not detail their potential penalties if captured.
“The charges unsealed today are the result of years of investigative work by the FBI to uncover Monica Witt’s betrayal of the oath she swore to safeguard America’s intelligence and defense secrets,” said Executive Assistant Director for National Security Tabb.
Monica Elfriede Witt is #wanted by the #FBI for her alleged involvement in criminal activities to include espionage & conspiracy to commit espionage. If you have info concerning Witt, contact your local FBI office or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. https://t.co/f0OsA1hayy pic.twitter.com/eb4pe5UsEe
— FBI (@FBI) February 13, 2019
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the U.S. is leveling new sanctions against Iranian entities connected to such ill intended activities.
“Treasury is sanctioning New Horizon Organization for its support to the IRGC-QF. New Horizon hosts international conferences that have provided Iranian intelligence officers a platform to recruit and collect damaging information from attendees, while propagating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. We are also sanctioning an Iran-based company that has attempted to install malware to compromise the computers of U.S. personnel,” Mnuchin said.
He added that such a response is part of the U.S.’s larger strategy to counter cyber attacks stemming from Iran.
Several additional FBI officials remarked that Witt’s actions were a betrayal to her country.
“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 Phillips. “While violations like this are extremely rare, her actions as alleged are an affront to all who have served our great nation.”
This story has been updated to clarify that Monica Witt was a Technical Sergeant and Special Agent in the U.S. Air Force, not a commissioned officer.