A former Air Force counterintelligence agent has been indicted by a grand jury on espionage charges after she defected to Iran to work on behalf of its intelligence services, Department of Justice officials announced Wednesday.
The Justice Department said the information threatened other agents in the USA intelligence community, a federation of 16 agencies. The hackers sent the targets messages and emails that purported to be legitimate but instead contained malicious software that, if opened, would have given them access to the officials' computer and network.
A warrant was issued for her arrest.
When warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that trip that Iranian intelligence services were trying to recruit her, Witt allegedly promised that she would not talk about her counterintelligence work if she returned to Iran.
On August 28, 2013, she finally defected to Tehran, where she took the name Fatemah Zahra and, according to the indictment, began disclosing classified information to Iranian officials, including the identity of a covert U.S. operative.
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But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film.
She defected to Iran in 2013 and is believed to be there now.
Tabb said "she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security", though he did not provide specifics.
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 United States agents and informants in the field.
Two years later, court papers say, her involvement with Iran began.
She separated from the military in 2008 and ended work as a Defense Department contractor in 2010.
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The same indictment charged four Iranians for conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, accusing them of helping Witt gather information on her former US government colleagues.
That summer, a dual U.S.
The hackers, using imposter Facebook personas, then targeted those same officials and were even able at one point to join a private Facebook group composed primarily of retired government workers, the indictment says.
In one message she wrote that she might "do like (Edward) Snowden", the former United States intelligence contractor who in early June 2013 leaked thousands of documents on the operations of the National Security Agency.
"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July.
Four Iranian citizens have also been charged with attempting to install spy software on computers belonging to Ms Witt's colleagues.
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At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organized by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials last month as a material witness in a federal criminal case, the Tehran Times newspaper reported. Iran's nuclear program was the target of the U.S.
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