Former U.S. Counterintelligence Agent Charged With Revealing Classified Information to Iran

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program.

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. They face charges including conspiracy, computer intrusions and identity theft targeting Witt's former colleagues.

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, announcing the indictment. "But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us".

Witt, 39, is from El Paso, Texas and served in the Air Force from December 1997 until June 2008, according to records provided by the service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Among the attempted attack techniques, according to the indictment, was the creation of an imposter Facebook account using the photo of an intelligence agent from a legitimate Facebook account.

Witt worked for the Air Force and was a counterintelligence agent for 11 years where she had top-security clearance. She continued to serve as an intelligence officer until 2010.

In 2012, for instance, the person wrote her, "should i thank the sec of defense...u were well trained".

Facebook said in a statement that the company didn't have "anything to share beyond what's in the Justice Department's indictment" when asked if the social network found and pulled down the accounts.

The FBI's wanted listing says that Witt was indicted by a grand jury on February 8, and charged with "Conspiracy to Deliver National Defense Information to Representatives of a Foreign Government and Delivering National Defense Information to Representatives of a Foreign Government". "Witt may have also travelled to the United Arab Emirates or Iran, where she had previously travelled on at least two other occasions".

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"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July.

Witt returned to another New Horizon Organization event in 2013 where she made the decision to emigrate to Iran. Prosecutors say that Individual A worked as a spotter and assessor for Iranian intelligence.

"As someone who served in the U.S. army for years, I expected that after embracing Islam, my right to choose a religion and my beliefs would be respected", Witt, who was born in El Paso, Texas, said at the time. She successfully defected in August 2013.

Jay Tabb, the FBI's executive assistant director for national security, said Witt was ideologically driven.

Once in Tehran, Iranian authorities provided her with housing and computer equipment, the indictment alleges, and she began work on behalf of Iran.

They declined to say to what extent these disclosures compromised US intelligence operations targeting Iran.

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. In short, she worked up dossiers about them that outlined who they were and what kind of work they might have been doing.

Demers further explained, "Four Iranian cyber hackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the US intelligence community who were Ms. Witt's former colleagues". The identity of the company was known to the United States.

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

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