Former U.S. Air Force Officer Monica Witt was charged on Wednesday by the Department of Justice with sharing government secrets with the Iranian officials. Witt is also alleged to have disclosed the code name and classified mission of a U.S. Department of Defense Special Access Program. Investigators said they targeted Witt's former co-workers.
The most notable of the four Iranian hackers is Behzad Mesri, who USA authorities also charged in November 2017 with hacking HBO, stealing scripts for unaired episodes of season 6 of the hit series Game Of Thrones TV show, and later attempting to extort HBO execs for $6 million. 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 John Demers, an Assistant Attorney-General for National Security. "But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us".
Terry Phillips, a special agent in the Air Force office of special investigations, said Witt began working for the Iranian government after she left the military.
A Farsi language specialist, she was deployed to the Gulf area several times on signals intelligence missions, according to the indictment, and had top security clearance giving her access to the identities of clandestine U.S. agents and informants in the field.
After leaving the armed forces in 2008, Witt worked as a contractor for two years, officials said. She continued to serve as an intelligence officer until 2010.
Mesri isn't just some random cyber-criminal, and he's believed to be a member of the "Charming Kitten" Iranian cyber-espionage unit, a top hacker and a close collaborator of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the country's main intelligence service. Today, the Times exposed a top-secret USA intelligence program aimed at sabotaging Iranian missiles.
According to the unsealed indictment, Monica Witt is accused of having defected to Iran in 2013.
The highest court of the United Nations rejected a US claim that it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on parts of the case, paving the way for the trial to continue. That year, an unidentified person contacted her and remarked that she was well-trained. Prosecutors say that Individual A worked as a spotter and assessor for Iranian intelligence.
She attended the same conference the following year and was hired by an unnamed individual to assist in the filming of an anti-American propaganda commercial. She met with Revolutionary Guards representatives and declared her desire to immigrate to Iran, according to the indictment.
She successfully defected in August 2013, after providing a resume and "conversion narrative" to her contact.