National Security

Former U.S. Intelligence Officer Charged with Spying for Iran

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran government.

A Justice Department indictment released this week charged former intelligence agent Monica Elfriede Witt with “delivering national defense information” to Iranian sources. Witt defected to Iran back in 2013 and is currently at large.

The same indictment charges four Iranian nationals, Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar (the “Cyber Conspirators”), with “conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft” of Witt’s former colleagues. The information passed on by Witt to the Islamic Republic was apparently used in this effort.

Additionally, code and access details received by the four allowed them to illicitly access a classified mission of a U.S. Department of Defense Special Access Program, the details of which were not revealed.

The same day charges were leveled by the Justice Department against Witt and her conspirators, the Treasury Department released a statement on federal sanctions against Iranian entities involved in other instances of espionage against Americans. According to the press release, several Iranian individuals and groups, all connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), conducted several operations to “recruit and collect intelligence” via “cyber targeting of U.S. persons.” The primary culprits in the conspiracy was the group known as New Horizon, an institute that touts itself as an organizer for educational conferences throughout the Middle East. According to the Treasury Department, New Horizon uses its events as a platform to assist in “recruitment and collection efforts” of Iran.

2018 was a year full of incidents in which Iran was exposed for its intelligence efforts targeting U.S. individuals. Two campaigns in the latter half of the year are worth highlighting: In August, two Iranians were indicted for conducting surveillance at a Jewish facility in California as well as gathering information on the Iranian opposition group in exile, Mujahideen-e Khalq. In December, news reports came out revealing the Charming Kitten campaign of Iranian hackers orchestrating breaches of the private accounts of several U.S. Treasury officials.

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Samuel Siskind

Samuel Siskind studied intelligence research at the American Military University in West Virginia. He served as a squad commander in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Corp of Combat Engineers, in the Corps' ground battalions and later in its Intelligence Wing at regional and divisional stations. For the past five years, Samuel has worked as a consultant and researcher on physical and information security issues for private and governmental institutions, in the US, Africa, India, and Israel. He currently lives in Jerusalem.

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