Ex-US intelligence officer charged in Iran espionage case


A former US Air Force intelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with conspiring to provide US defence information to representatives of that country's government, including the code name and mission of a highly classified programme.

The Justice Department said the information threatened other agents in the US intelligence community, a federation of 16 agencies.

Specifically, between January and May 2015, the Cyber Conspirators, using fictitious and imposter accounts, attempted to trick their targets into clicking links or opening files that would allow the conspirators to deploy malware on the target's computer.

Witt remains at large in Iran, as do the four hackers, who prosecutors say were acting on behalf of the government-linked Iranian Revolutionary Guard, prosecutors said.

"Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country, and we trust them to uphold their oath", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's National Security Division.

After moving to Iran and converting to Islam, prosecutors claim Witt was housed by the Iranian government and provided with a computer, which she used to compile "target packages" containing information for her new employers on American military and intelligence personnel.

She allegedly revealed to Tehran the existence of a "highly classified intelligence collection programme" and the real identity of a USA intelligence officer.

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About one year later, she re-entered Iran, where she was provided housing and computer equipment.

That year she travelled to Iran to attend an anti-America conference sponsored by the New Horizon Organization.

USA authorities have not yet arrested Witt, who remains at large in Iran, but a warrant has been issued.

According to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed Wednesday, Witt had high-level security clearances and helped Iran launch a cyber-spying operation which targeted her former colleagues. She is believed to be in Iran, officials said.

After leaving the Air Force, she worked as a defense contractor, but by 2012 her politics had turned.

After Witt returned to the U.S., Federal Bureau of Investigation agents conducted a defensive briefing with her to warn her that she might be the target of recruitment by Iranian security services. "Today's announcement also highlights our commitment to vigorously pursue those who threaten USA security through state-sponsored hacking campaigns". She continued to serve as an intelligence officer until 2010. -Iranian citizen who is identified as "Individual A" in the indictment hired Witt to be her assistant on an anti-American propaganda film. Authorities said Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar sought to install malware in the computers of Witt's former co-workers through fake social media accounts. The New York Times reports she was privy to the real names of both intelligence assets and the U.S. officials who helped recruit them.

In October 2018, the USA was ordered by the United Nations court to provisionally lift some of its newly imposed sanctions against Iran.