A former U.S. Air Drive counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran regardless of warnings from the FBI has been charged with revealing categorised info to the Tehran authorities, together with the code identify and secret mission of a Pentagon program, prosecutors stated Wednesday.
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The Justice Division additionally accused Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, of betraying former colleagues within the U.S. intelligence group by feeding particulars about their private lives to Iran. 4 hackers linked to the Iranian authorities, charged in the identical indictment, used that info to focus on the intelligence employees on-line, prosecutors stated.
Witt had been on the FBI’s radar not less than a 12 months earlier than she defected after she attended an Iranian convention and appeared in anti-American movies. She was warned about her actions, however reassured brokers that she wouldn’t present delicate details about her work if she returned to Iran, prosecutors say. She was not arrested on the time.
“As soon as a holder of a prime secret safety clearance, Monica Witt actively sought alternatives to undermine the USA and assist the federal government of Iran — a rustic which poses a critical menace to our nationwide safety,” stated FBI govt assistant director Jay Tabb, the bureau’s prime nationwide safety official.
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Tabb stated “she supplied info that might trigger critical injury to nationwide safety,” although he didn’t present specifics.
Witt stays at massive in Iran, as do the 4 hackers, who prosecutors say had been appearing on behalf of the government-linked Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. That group, a department of Iran’s armed forces, has been designated by the U.S. authorities as terrorism supporter.
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The indictment was unsealed the identical week as Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution and because the nation denounced a Center East safety convention co-hosted by the U.S. and Poland. Officers stated the indictment’s timing was unconnected to the assembly.
Witt, a Texas native, served within the Air Drive between 1997 and 2008, the place she was skilled within the Farsi language and was deployed abroad on categorised counterintelligence missions, together with to the Center East. She then discovered work as a Protection Division contractor.
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She defected to Iran in 2013 after being invited to 2 all-expense-paid conferences within the nation that the Justice Division says promoted anti-Western propaganda and condemned American ethical requirements. She was a Protection Division contractor on the time.
The Treasury Division on Wednesday sanctioned the New Horizon Group, which sponsored the conferences Witt attended and hosts occasions that American officers say promote Holocaust denial, conspiracy theories and function a platform for Iranian intelligence recruitment.
Witt first travelled to a “Hollywoodism” convention in 2012, when she appeared in Iranian tv movies wherein she recognized herself as a former U.S. service member with hostile views towards America. She was warned by FBI brokers that she was a possible recruitment goal.
“She selected to not heed our warning that journey to Iran might probably make her prone to recruitment,” Tabb stated. “She continued to journey.”
She attended the identical convention the next 12 months and was employed by an unnamed particular person who professed ties to high-level Iranian officers to assist in the filming of an anti-American propaganda industrial.
Given free housing and pc gear, she went to work for the Iranians, supplying details about a categorised Protection Division program and assembling into “goal packages” analysis she carried out into the household lives, areas and missions of former colleagues, the indictment stated.
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The accused hackers exploited that analysis, contacting Witt’s former colleagues by means of imposter Fb and e-mail accounts. Their objective was to induce the targets to click on on hyperlinks and attachments containing malicious software program that, if opened, might compromise their pc and networks.
The indictment consists of snippets of dialogue between Witt and the one that employed her, recognized solely as Particular person A.
In 2012, as an illustration, the individual wrote her, “ought to i thank the sec of protection…u had been effectively skilled. Witt replied with a smiley emoticon, “LOL thank the sec of protection? For me? Properly, I beloved the work, and I’m endeavoring to place the coaching I acquired to good use as a substitute of evil. ?? Thanks for giving me the chance,” in line with the indictment.
Utilizing a typed smiley-face, she later informed the identical individual, “If all else fails, I simply could go public with a program and do like Snowden.” That’s a reference to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who leaked categorised U.S. info.
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“Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to guard our nation, and we belief them to uphold their oath. With good motive,” stated Assistant Legal professional Normal John Demers, the pinnacle of the Justice Division’s nationwide safety division. “However each nice whereas, one in every of these trusted folks fails us.”
Officers wouldn’t elaborate on why the indictment was introduced six years after her detection, besides to say they needed to transfer categorised intelligence into an unclassified format for use in a legal case.
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Justice Division officers wouldn’t say whether or not Witt’s prosecution was related to an American-born Iranian tv anchorwoman who was not too long ago launched after being detained by the FBI as a cloth witness in an undisclosed U.S. case.
Marzieh Hashemi works for the Press TV community’s English-language service. She has not been charged with any crimes.
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Federal regulation permits judges to order witnesses to be detained if the federal government can show their testimony has extraordinary worth for a legal case and that they’d be a flight threat and unlikely to answer a subpoena. The statute usually requires these witnesses to be launched as soon as they’re deposed.
Related Press author Jamie Stengle in Dallas and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.