Excerpted from The Guardian and Deutsche Welle 2.13.2019
Above Photo. Mata Hari
A former US air force intelligence officer who defected to Iran in 2013 has been charged with espionage, giving away the identity of a US agent and other secrets.
Monica Witt, aged 39, was a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the US Air Force for more than 10 years before working as an intelligence analyst for the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for five months in 2008 and doing other private sector work.
According to charges unsealed on Wednesday by the Department of Justice, she defected to Iran in August 2013, taking with her details of US counter-intelligence agents she had worked with who were then targeted by Iranian hackers, four of whom are named in the indictment and charged alongside Witt.
Following her defection to Iran in 2013, the Department of Justice alleged in its indictment, “Ms. Witt was recruited by Iran as part of a program that targets former intelligence officers and others who have held security clearances. Following her defection to Iran in 2013, she is alleged to have revealed to the Iranian government the existence of a highly classified intelligence collection program and the true identity of a US intelligence officer, thereby risking the life of this individual.”
Witt served as an counterintelligence and Farsi linguistic specialist, working as a special agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation from 1997 until 2008. After leaving the armed forces, she worked as a Defense Department contractor.
The former agent was “granted high-level security clearances and was deployed overseas to conduct classified counterintelligence missions,” according to the Justice Department. An FBI official said the Bureau warned her that she was vulnerable to Iranian recruitment.
The indictment suggests Witt defected for ideological motives, and was recruited when she visited Iran in February 2012 to attend a conference on US cultural influence called “Hollywoodism”.
The conference was organised by an group called New Horizon, which was put under US sanctions on Wednesday for allegedly serving as a front from the Quds Force, the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF).