According to the Guardian, an indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday indicates that a former U.S. Air Force officer defected to Iran in 2013, and shared crucial intelligence that could threaten national security.
The former officer, 39-year-old Monica Witt, has been charged with espionage, betraying the identity of a U.S. agent, and giving away other national secrets. The charges unsealed by the Department of Justice allege that Witt defected to Iran in August of 2013, and took details regarding 10 years of U.S. counterintelligence work she had been involved in with her. This data is said to include the identities of agents she had worked with, agents who were subsequently targeted by Iranian hackers. Four of the hackers are also named in the indictment along with Witt, and face their own charges.
“Ms. Witt was recruited by Iran as part of a program that targets former intelligence officers and others who have held security clearances,” said assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers. “Following her defection to Iran in 2013, she is alleged to have revealed to the Iranian government the existence of a highly classified intelligence collection program and the true identity of a U.S. intelligence officer, thereby risking the life of this individual.”
The indictment seems to indicate that Witt was motivated by personal reasons, citing quotes from emails between her and an Iranian agent who is referred to as “Individual A” in the court documents. At one point, Individual A jokes about thanking the U.S. Secretary of Defense for Witt’s skills, saying “…u were well trained.”
“I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil,” Witt is alleged to have replied. “Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”
The indictment claims that, before Witt defected, Individual A told her the Iranians were suspicious of her — particularly of how she managed to travel around southeast Asia with no money. In response, Witt suggested she might have “better luck with Russia,” and threatened to go there instead — and attempt to get her intelligence published through WikiLeaks. Shortly before she finally went to Iran, she is alleged to have done numerous Facebook searches for her former fellow counterintelligence officers.
The prosecutors say Witt finally defected to Iran in August of 2013, flying into Tehran from Dubai. Once she arrived, she was housed and given computer equipment to help her search out U.S. intelligence officers, the documents allege.
Witt is charged with providing a team of four Iranian hackers with the information they needed to seek out and execute phishing attacks on several U.S. agents, including an offer of an email containing a link to a “pretty card” that would have taken the unsuspecting target to a server controlled by Iranian intelligence officers.