A former Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing to Iranian government officials classified defense info that could cause "serious damage", officials said Wednesday.
A former USA air force intelligence officer who defected to Iran in 2013, has been charged with espionage, giving away the identity of a covert U.S. agent and other secrets.
Witt first traveled to a "Hollywoodism" conference in 2012, when she appeared in Iranian television videos in which she identified herself as a former USA service member with.
The US also indicted four Iranians working for the Revolutionary Guard who, using information Witt provided them, targeted her former colleagues in US intelligence with malware and phishing scams in hopes of accessing their computer networks. She continued to serve as an intelligence officer until 2010.
However, in 2012, she traveled to Iran to attend the Iranian New Horizon Organization's "Hollywoodism" conference, aimed specifically at criticizing and condemning American foreign policy.
Prosecutors claim that Witt first met with IRGC officers at a New Horizon conference in Tehran in 2012. "She returned the next year, and then she began working for the Iranian government to provide information...she has been there ever since".
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From December 2014 to May 2015, at least four Iranian nationals created fake Facebook accounts to target Witt's former co-workers, the USA alleges. She had top-level security clearance while working for the US government and was trained in Farsi by the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.
The publication of the indictment coincided with the Treasury Department's announcing a new series of cyber-security related sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC, which engages in "efforts to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees [of various conferences], including USA persons, and four associated individuals", according to the a release announcing the sanctions.
Witt allegedly provided information on the targets that were worth hacking and even worked with the four hackers to register an impostor Facebook account in the name of a former colleague, successfully befriending other special agents. The next year, she went to another Iranian conference and soon arranged to defect, according to the indictment.
However, one agent who friended the fake account added the hackers to a Facebook group filled with U.S. government agents, allowing them to gather more information, according to the indictment.
After finishing her career with the Air Force, Witt worked as a government contractor for two years.
The IQNA noted that Witt "referred to the extensive propaganda against Iran and Islam in the United States, saying that the American people are under the influence of the propaganda".
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They declined to say to what extent these disclosures compromised USA intelligence operations targeting Iran.
As part of its action on February 13, the United States also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.
In one message she wrote that she might "do like (Edward) Snowden", the former U.S. intelligence contractor who in early June 2013 leaked thousands of documents on the operations of the National Security Agency.
"The last known contact with her is believed to have been in June 2013", the Federal Bureau of Investigation alert said.
In the few weeks before her defection, Witt is alleged to have conducted searches on Facebook for the names of former fellow counter-intelligence agents, and the spouse of one of them.
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