Ex-US intelligence officer charged in Iran espionage case
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Ex-US intelligence officer charged in Iran espionage case

An indictment announced Wednesday accuses Air Force officer Monica Elfriede Witt of defecting to Iran in 2013 and helping Tehran carry out cyberattacks on her colleagues

This 2013 photo released by the US Justice Department shows Monica Elfriede Witt, who the department on February 13, 2019 said was to be indicted for passing intelligence information to Iran and defecting to the Islamic Republic in 2013. (Department of Justice via AP)
This 2013 photo released by the US Justice Department shows Monica Elfriede Witt, who the department on February 13, 2019 said was to be indicted for passing intelligence information to Iran and defecting to the Islamic Republic in 2013. (Department of Justice via AP)

WASHINGTON — A former US Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran government, prosecutors said Wednesday.

A Justice Department indictment charges Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected in 2013 and is currently at large, along with four Iranian hackers who, prosecutors say, used the information she provided to target at least eight former colleagues in the US intelligence community with cyberattacks in 2014 and 2015. They are suspected of attempting to introduce malware into the US officials’ computers.

The indictment says the four Iranians were acting on behalf of the government-linked Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. All four remain at large.

“It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division.

Jay Tabb, the FBI’s top national security official, said the FBI had warned Witt before her defection that she was a vulnerable target for recruitment by Iranian intelligence but that Witt had ignored those warnings.

The US Treasury Department also announced sanctions against an Iranian company accused of organizing conferences that served as a platform to recruit Witt, and against another Iranian company suspected of having participated in the cyberattacks.

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