Image credit: Financial Times
By Samantha Loomes
A grand jury indictment which was unsealed on Wednesday has accused Monica Witt, an ex-US Air Force officer, of being an Iranian spy and playing a role in an elaborate plot that targeted her fellow officers, the charge comes on behalf of US prosecutors.
Between the years 1997 to 2008 Witt worked as a US counterintelligence officer, during this time she was granted the highest level of US security clearance. She was discharged in June of 2008 where according to a spokesperson for the US Air-force she received a number of decorations including, the Air Medal, awarded for “single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements.”
According to her online CV, she lived and worked within countries including Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, the UAE, Tajikistan and Iran. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and a master’s from George Washington University. In addition, she has a qualification in Persian-Farsi from the Defense Language Institute.
After 2010 Witt’s movements become more scarce and increasingly unclear. According to a missing person’s report that was filed by US prosecutors she worked as a school teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan.
In 2012 Witt converted to Islam during a ceremony, which was broadcasted on Iranian television. From here she went on to appear on television several other times where she called herself a US veteran and slammed the US government for its “injustice to its Muslim population”, and its “prevailing culture of tolerance for sexual harassment within the US armed forces.” Witt was also allegedly spotted at a conference organized by the New Horizon Organization which happened in Iran.
The event, “Hollywoodism”, is an event that seeks to promote “anti-American propaganda” according to the US Justice Department. Following this the FBI contacted her, cautioning her that she would be targeted for recruitment by Iranian intelligence services. A few months later she sent a message to her Iranian contact saying: “I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”
Witt was last seen in July of 2013, in southwest Asia, where she allegedly defected after undergoing an ideology shift. She was spotted in the Iranian embassy Kabul where it is thought she made contact with the Iranian government and disclosed highly classified intelligence.The information included details of her former colleagues and their informants, including their identities.
A warrant has been issued for Monica Witt, who has not yet been captured. She is charged for revealing top secret information with the intent to “harm the US government and its citizens.”
Alongside her Four Iranian citizens, Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar have also been charged with for attempting to install spy software on laptops belonging to Witt’s colleagues, in an attempt to steal more information.
Two Iranian companies – New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company – have also been sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury for the part they played in the plot to harm the government. The New Horizon Organization was working on behalf of the Iranian National Guard’s Quds Force to retrieve intelligence and to recruit Witt, by hosting anti-American rally’s and conferences.
The Net Peygard Samavat Company was accused of being “involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents”.
Iran and the US do not have diplomatic relations and instead continue to communicate using Swiss diplomats.