Facebook used in Iranian cyber-spying operation, United States indictment says

14 February, 2019, 04:51 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Monica Witt 39 a former U.S. Air Force officer indicted for aiding Iran is seen in this FBI

According to documents released by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday, Monica Witt, 39, defected to Iran in 2013.

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer who defected to Iran was indicted on espionage charges.

The indictment said Monica Witt exposed a USA agent and helped Iran's Revolutionary Guards develop cybertargets in the US military after defecting to Iran in 2013.

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

The same indictment charged four other Iranians - Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar - with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft. She initially served as an airborne cryptologic language analyst, which is a specialist responsible for translating intelligence communication often intercepted via airborne assets.

"The FBI actually had previously warned her that by virtue of her connections and the fact that she was going to be attending a conference in Iran that she was vulnerable to being targeted by Iranian intelligence agencies, and so she attended in 2012 a conference that promoted anti-Western propaganda", explained Eric Tucker of the Associated Press.

Witt has, not surprisingly, disappeared in Iran and is probably beyond the reach of the American legal system.

The indictment claims Witt not only revealed to Iranian officials the existence of highly-classified intelligence programs, but also provided them with the true identity of at least one American intelligence officer.

Witt was recruited for the operation after attending two worldwide conferences organized by New Horizon, which supported efforts by Iran's Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees, they said.

During that time, she was granted high-level security clearances, learned Farsi at a USA military language school, and was deployed overseas for counterintelligence missions in the Middle East.

Witt's case appeared intertwined with that of Iranian-American television journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by USA authorities in January during a visit to the United States and forced to testify before a grand jury in Washington, DC, where the Witt case was investigated.

The indictment says the four Iranians were acting on behalf of the government-linked Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The next year, she went to another Iranian conference and soon arranged to defect, according to the indictment. That group has been designated by the US government as promoting terrorism. She then found work as a Defense Department contractor. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil.??

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu said that Witt sought to "undermine the U.S. and help the government of Iran", ABC News reports.

The Iranian hackers also used photos and information of another U.S. counterintelligence official to create a fake Facebook account for friending other agents.

The FBI said Wednesday that it's possible Witt remains a threat, and her former colleagues have been apprised of the charges against her.



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