A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence agent who defected to Iran has been charged with spying for the regime, revealing the identity of a U.S. intelligence officer and helping target her former colleagues, the Justice Department
Monica Witt, 39, who had access to sensitive information in her work for the Air Force and later as a defense contractor, allegedly gave away the name and mission of a secret Defense Department intelligence program after defecting to Iran in 2013, according to an indictment unsealed by federal authorities.
The indictment alleges Witt sent an Iranian-American handler working for Iranian intelligence services this message in 2012:
“I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”
In her February 2012 visit, Witt allegedly took part in a conference titled “Hollywoodism” organized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, an event aimed at promoting anti-U.S. propaganda, the indictment says.
She allegedly appeared in videos broadcast by Iranian media in which she criticized the U.S. government and converted to Islam, authorities said.
The indictment also alleges extraordinary details about Witt’s efforts to arrange her defection to Iran.
At one point, Witt allegedly suggested she would turn to Russia instead and provide information to the WikiLeaks website if she doesn’t get a prompt response.
“If all fails, I just may go public with a program and do like Snowden :),” she wrote to her Iranian handler, according to the indictment.
After traveling to Afghanistan in June 2013 and meeting officials at the Iranian embassy in Kabul, she said she needed help or would turn elsewhere. Within days, according to the indictment, she expressed frustration when hearing that Iranian officials were suspicious about her claims of running short of money given her international travel. “No matter what, they are just going to be suspicious, right?”
On July 3, she allegedly wrote: “I think I can slip into Russia quietly if they help me and then I can contact wikileaks from there without disclosing my location.”
Witt then made her way to Dubai, telling her handler Iranian authorities were providing her money for the journey. She provided the handler with details of her career, including a copy of her discharge from active military duty as well as a “conversion narrative,” prosecutors said.
By late August 2013, Witt had flown from Dubai to Tehran, where Iranian officials allegedly provided her with housing and computer equipment to help with her work for the Iranian government, according to the indictment.
Witt, who had studied Farsi and worked as a special agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations before leaving the service in 2008, was granted high-level security clearances and deployed abroad to carry out counterintelligence missions, officials said. As part of her work, she had access to the true identifies and whereabouts of intelligence sources assisting the United States.
“We can say that she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security,” he told reporters.
Witt left the Air Force in 2008 at the rank of technical sergeant and worked as a defense contractor for two years, officials said. Her work for the government ended in 2010.
Authorities said an arrest warrant has been issued for Witt, who is still believed to reside in Iran.