News & Politics

Former U.S. Counterintelligence Agent Indicted on Charges of Spying for Iran

(Image via FBI)

A former member of U.S. counterintelligence worked for years with the Iranian government to undermine U.S. national security, according to an indictment unsealed today.

Monica Elfriede Witt, the 39-year-old former agent named in the grand jury indictment, is accused of exposing members of the U.S. intelligence community, targeting former colleagues with an elaborate computer scheme run by Iran, and exposing a top-secret Defense Department program considered one of the “crown jewels of U.S. intelligence,” according to Fox News.

The Justice Department says the Iranian government supplied her with housing and computer equipment so she could “disclose U.S. classified information” and conduct research on “personnel that she had known and worked with” during her time in the American intelligence community.

“The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation’s security, our military, and the American people,” said Special Agent Terry Phillips of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. “While violations like this are extremely rare, her actions as alleged are an affront to all who have served our great nation.”

Witt, who is from Texas, entered duty with the U.S. Air Force in 1997 and worked as an Air Force Intelligence Specialist and Special Agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. She separated from the military in 2008 and ended work as a Defense Department contractor in 2010.

In February 2012, Witt traveled to Iran to attend a conference. At that point, she made contact with an Iranian agent who helped her settle in Iran.

She had access to some of the closest held secrets of the American government. Investigators say her reasons for defecting were “ideological.”

Her activities included assisting the Iranians with computer scams targeting her former colleagues:

American investigators allege the Iranians used “fictional and imposter social media accounts” aimed at deploying malware that would give them cover access to their targets’ computers and networks. The accounts tried to trick victims into clicking on links or opening up files that would then allow the Iranians to infect their computers.

“In one such instance, the Cyber Conspirators,” as the four Iranians are called, “created a Facebook account that purported to belong to a [intelligence community] employee and former colleague of Witt, and which utilized legitimate information and photos from the USIC employee’s actual Facebook account,” the Justice Department said.

“This particular fake account caused several of Witt’s former colleagues to accept ‘friend’ requests,” it added.

Witt has, not surprisingly, disappeared in Iran and is probably beyond the reach of the American legal system. We’ll probably never know if she receives any justice at all at the hands of the CIA, or perhaps Mossad.

The damage Witt did is still being assessed. Meanwhile, the New York Times is giving her a run for her money. Today, the Times exposed a top-secret U.S. intelligence program aimed at sabotaging Iranian missiles.