A former Air Force intelligence officer is facing charges of helping Iran launch a cyber-spying operation targeted her former colleagues after she defected from the United States.
Monica Witt, 39, assembled dossiers on eight U.S. military intelligence agents she had worked with for Iranian hackers, who then used Facebook and email to try to install spyware on their computers, said officials at the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ).
She defected to Iran in 2013 and presumably still lives there, U.S. officials said.
DoJ officials also leveled charges against four Iranian nationals involved in the cyberattacks. Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar (the Cyber Conspirators) were charged with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft, for conduct in 2014 and 2015 targeting former co-workers and colleagues of Witt in the U.S. Intelligence Community.
The Cyber Conspirators, using fictional and imposter social media accounts and working on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), sought to deploy malware that would provide them covert access to the targets’ computers and networks, DoJ officials said. Arrest warrants have been issued for the Cyber Conspirators, who also remain at large.
“Monica Witt is charged with revealing to the Iranian regime a highly classified intelligence program and the identity of a U.S. Intelligence Officer, all in violation of the law, her solemn oath to protect and defend our country, and the bounds of human decency,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers. “Four Iranian cyber hackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the U.S. intelligence community who were Ms. Witt’s former colleagues. This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect. When our intelligence professionals are targeted or betrayed, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against the wrong-doers.”
U.S. officials also imposed sanctions on an Iranian firm, Net Peygard Samavat Company, it said conducted the hacking operation, and Iranian events company, New Horizon Organization, it said works to recruit foreign attendees.
Witt faces two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy.
According to an indictment unsealed Wednesday, Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008 and worked as contractor for two years after that.
During that time, she was granted high-level security clearances, learned Farsi at a U.S. military language school, and was deployed overseas for counterintelligence missions in the Middle East.