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Former U.S. Air Force officer faces spy charges after defecting to Iran

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Former U.S. Air Force officer faces spy charges after defecting to Iran

By Andy Sullivan and Lisa Lambert

 

2019-02-13T190721Z_1_LYNXNPEF1C1LK_RTROPTP_3_USA-IRAN-SPY.JPG

Monica Witt, 39, a former U.S. Air Force officer, indicted for aiding Iran, is seen in this FBI photo released in Washington, DC, U.S., February 13, 2019. Courtesy FBI/Handout via REUTERS

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities on Wednesday charged former Air Force intelligence officer Monica Witt with helping Iran launch a cyber-spying operation that targeted her former colleagues after she defected from the United States.

 

The U.S. Justice Department said Witt, 39, assembled dossiers on eight U.S. military intelligence agents she had worked with for Iranian hackers, who then used Facebook and e-mail to try to install spyware on their computers.

 

She defected to Iran in 2013 and presumably still lives there, U.S. officials said.

 

"She decided to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to Iran," said Jay Tabb, the FBI's executive assistant director for national security. "Her primary motivation appears to be ideological."

 

Washington also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks. U.S. officials also imposed sanctions on an Iran firm, Net Peygard Samavat Company, that it said conducted the hacking operation, and Iranian events company, New Horizon Organization, that it said works to recruit foreign attendees.

 

Witt faces two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy.

 

According to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday, Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008 and worked as contractor for two years after that.

 

During that time, she was granted high-level security clearances, learned Farsi at a U.S. military language school, and was deployed overseas for counterintelligence missions in the Middle East.

 

Witt appears to have turned against the United States some time before February 2012, when she travelled toIran to attend a New Horizon conference that featured anti-U.S. propaganda.

 

When warned by the FBI 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.

 

But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film. "I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil," she told that person in an email.

 

In February 2013, Witt returned to Iran for another New Horizon conference and told officials there that she wanted to emigrate.

 

She faced resistance for months.

 

"I just hope I have better luck with Russia at this point," Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July. "I am starting to get frustrated at the level of Iranian suspicion."

 

She successfully defected in August 2013, after providing a resume and "conversion narrative" to her contact. "I'm signing off and heading out! Coming home," she wrote as she was about to board her flight from Dubai to Tehran.

 

Provided with housing and computer equipment by the Iranian government, Witt tracked down U.S. counterintelligence agents she used to work with on Facebook, the indictment said, and disclosed the classified identity of at least one of those agents, according to the charges.

 

Iranian hackers then set up fake Facebook personas to befriend those agents and attempt to install spyware that would track their computer activity, the indictment said. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of U.S. government agents.

 

Iranian nationals Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar were charged with computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

 

Mesri, Masampour and Parvar also face sanctions for their involvement with Net Peygard, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

 

The Air Force has adjusted its security measures to prevent similar incidents in the future, said Terry Phillips, a special agent in the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations.

 

(Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Steve Orlofsky and Tom Brown)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-02-14

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She better stay there and hope she doesent get caught up in some kind of trade!

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So, I wonder if the US has placed a 'red' pickup on site warning for her and her friends, with the Interpol? 

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38 minutes ago, TopDeadSenter said:

Considering her real name is Fatemah Zahra I would imagine her loyalty has always lied with the Iranians or some other regime that suited her obvious ideological beliefs. The tragedy here is that so many countries are stacking their armed forces and intelligence agencies with snakes in the grass. Had the American intelligence agencies been staffed by proper Americans this sort of event would never happen. Political correctness and affirmative action have NO place in security agencies full stop.

I'll give you some time to produce a link to what you purport as being her real name.   I can't find anything that supports your claim and false information is not permitted.

 

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1 hour ago, TopDeadSenter said:

Considering her real name is Fatemah Zahra I would imagine her loyalty has always lied with the Iranians or some other regime that suited her obvious ideological beliefs. The tragedy here is that so many countries are stacking their armed forces and intelligence agencies with snakes in the grass. Had the American intelligence agencies been staffed by proper Americans this sort of event would never happen. Political correctness and affirmative action have NO place in security agencies full stop.

The woman has not been in the military for over 10 years. During that time security codes and methods changed, people swapped out of positions and passwords changed too.  🙂

Yes she worked for some contractors, however, once the dingbat started associating with known Iranian spy fronts, it is not unreasonable to expect that the US intelligence services treated her accordingly.

 

I have no sympathy for the woman, but it is obvious that she is a few cards short of a full deck. This would have been evident following her mandatory mental health checkups. I expect that she was used to feed false info to the Iranians and to identify Iranian agents.

Edited by geriatrickid

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1 hour ago, ballpoint said:

And, here is that poster.  The 'Race' classification should please some (and, before you ask, 'Elfriede' is Germanic in origin):

 

 

Not to mention the clear statement that the Iranian name is an alias.

 

 

 

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When an OSI Special Agent I conducted many BIs or EBIs (Background Investigations/Expanded Background Investigations). The using agency looks at the data accumulated before granting access to classified information. These investigations rely heavily on the opinions of teachers, friends, schools, neighbors, police checks, etc. It is easy for someone intending to deceive to do so despite all of the information gathered. When a defection of this nature occurs, the agencies involved take a long look at how their investigation was conducted and how her true intentions were missed. Numerous agents are involved in conducting these background investigations. Usually, indications of anti-USA intent are disclosed but of the millions of investigations conducted, it is quite possible for someone to slip under the wire.

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4 hours ago, TopDeadSenter said:

Considering her real name is Fatemah Zahra I would imagine her loyalty has always lied with the Iranians or some other regime that suited her obvious ideological beliefs. The tragedy here is that so many countries are stacking their armed forces and intelligence agencies with snakes in the grass. Had the American intelligence agencies been staffed by proper Americans this sort of event would never happen. Political correctness and affirmative action have NO place in security agencies full stop.

So... little white girls from Texas are persona non gratis in the US military now?.... lol.... sorry, that could be seen as trolling.

 

try this instead.... whom should typify (proper Americans) the military role model, in your opinion?

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Most countries are as bad as the US. But Iran, a country of high culture regardless of its politics, is not in any way the axis of evil.

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