On February 8 a grand jury charged Monica Witt, a former U.S. Air Force technical sergeant who served as an Intelligence Specialist (SIGINT) and subsequently as a Special Agent within the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (AFOSI) with conspiracy to deliver and delivering national defense information to representatives of the Iranian government, as well as aiding and abetting.

Witt defected to Iran in August 2013, where she has been active working with the Iranian government, specifically with the Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps). The IRGC-QF (Qods Force) is responsible for Iran’s unconventional warfare and intelligence activities outside of Iran. Intelligence activities which include assassinations and cyber related activities to include cyberespionage.

Within the same multi-count indictment, four Iranian citizens, Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar, whom the DOJ refers to as the “Cyber Conspirators,” were charged with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.

Witt assisted the IRGC in actively targeting her former colleagues. She also compromised two Top Secret, special access programs which were targeting Iran, and identified by true name clandestine sources of U.S. intelligence operating in and against Iran.

Here’s how it played out

In February 2012 Witt, who speaks Farsi, having been trained in the language at the U.S. Defense Language Institute in California, traveled to Iran to attend the New Horizon Organization’s “Hollywoodism” conference which served to criticize the U.S. film industry’s portrayals of Islam and Iran. Media reports from 2012 indicate that 48 international guests attended this conference.

While at the conference she was identified as a U.S. veteran and appeared on videos broadcasted by Iranian media outlets where she made statements critical of the United States. In addition, during her visit to Iran, Witt’s conversion to Islam was broadcasted by Iranian television. It is worth noting that during the conference’s opening ceremony, then President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad honored Sean Stone, son of filmmaker Oliver Stone who had also become a Shiite Muslim.

Three months later the FBI warned Witt that her trip had made her a target for recruitment by Iranian intelligence services. Then like clock-work, and as predicted by the FBI, within months of the conference, an unidentified female dual US-Iranian citizen (U/I-Female) traveled to the U.S. and contacted Witt. The indictment identifies the U/I female as an individual who “engaged in acts consistent with serving as a spotter and assessor on behalf of the Iranian intelligence services”. The DOJ opted not to identify the woman. However, media outlets, such as the New York Times, have identified her as Marzieh Hashemi, the U.S. born television news anchor for Iran’s state-run English-language Press TV news channel.

During her June 2012 visit to the U.S. and meeting with Witt, the U/I-female offered Witt employment as “an assistant” filming an anti-American propaganda film. They made a film which was subsequently broadcast in Iran.

In February 2013 Witt traveled once again to Iran for yet another “Hollywoodism” conference, where again she identified herself as a veteran and at that time inquired about emigrating to Iran. Similar to her activity in 2012, she participated in a number of videos critical of the United States.

Following the early 2013 travel to Iran the U/I-female continued her contact with Witt via email. At that time, Witt made clear her desire to compromise the classified projects to which she had been intimately involved during her Air Force and defense contractor period of employment. Her disaffection with the United States was highlighted on June 23, 2013 when Witt told U/I-female “if all else fails, I just may go public with a program and do like a Snowden.”

On June 30,2013, Witt walked into the Iranian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and volunteered her services to Iran.

On August 28, 2013, Witt arrived in Tehran and defected to the IRGC.

She was given residency and employment.

Witt, an individual with first hand knowledge of AFOSI Middle East global operations, who had had access to highly sensitive counterintelligence operations against foreign intelligence services and who had liaised with the intelligence community, federal law enforcement and the DoD, was now sharing this information with Iran.

She was and is an intelligence goldmine for the IRGC.

Who is Monica Witt?

Witt’s Air Force tenure spanned from August 1997 through March 2008.

From 1997-2003 she served as an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist where according to her professional resume she “collected, processed, and analyzed selected information requiring Persian-Farsi linguistic capabilities. Operated sophisticated computer-controlled equipment located on the RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft for immediate signals processing.”

From 2003-2008, she was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base as a Special Agent of the AFOSI. As a Special Agent she traveled to Qatar, Jordan, UAE, and Tajikistan. She also was the primary desk officer for two compartmented intelligence programs.

Post active duty, she worked for Booz Allen Hamilton for six months (May-November 2008) as an Intelligence Analyst providing analytical review and products in support of the Army Investigations and Operations Branch and as an Iranian SME (subject matter expert), including linguistic and cultural support. Then she moved on to Chenega Federal Systems where she worked for two years (November 2008-August 2010) where according to her CV posted on Wikileaks’ ICWATCH in 2015 she “consulted to provide expert guidance for all U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) Middle East global operations; supervised, controlled, and coordinated the execution of highly sensitive counterintelligence operations against foreign intelligence services worldwide and represented AFOSI as the voice of all Middle East issues at national-level liaison meetings with various federal counterintelligence, law enforcement and Department of Defense (DoD) counterparts.”

Then, according to the Guardian, Witt went back to school in 2010, receiving a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies at George Washington University in Washington D.C. in 2012. While at school, she worked from America-MIDEAST Educational and Training services as an Iraq Fulbright Intern, and worked as an intern for the Iraq Fulbright Programme.

She personally characterized her professional skill set in 2015 as: “Knowledge of grant writing and fundraising for NGOs. International Travel: Extensive experience living and working within the Middle East, to include Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, the U.A.E., Tajikistan, and Iran.”

What’s clear is that Witt was an enthusiastic volunteer to aid Iran, which we’ll unpack further in a future post.

Related News

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).