A former Air Force intelligence officer, Monica Witt, has been charged with espionage after U.S. authorities say she defected to Iran and shared highly classified information with the Iranian government.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers announced the indictment Wednesday in Washington, calling the matter "a sad day for America."
The Justice Department also alleges that four Iranian nationals acting on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps committed identity theft and attempted cyber hacking.
Demers described the indictments as a confluence of two streams of national security cases.
The first stream charges Iran and "other foreign adversaries" with engaging in malign cyber activity. That includes disrupting Internet feeds, theft of intellectual property, hacking emails and use of "cyber tools" against the United States. The Iranians allegedly "targeted, through social media and other cyber-enabled means, at least eight U.S. government agents, all of whom at one time worked or interacted with Monica Witt."
The second aspect of the investigation was centered around "former members of the intelligence community," including Kevin Mallory, a CIA operative convicted last year of spying for the Chinese government.
The indictment charges that Witt — who remains at-large — was valued by Iran because of her security clearance.
"Following her defection to Iran in 2013, she is alleged to have revealed to the Iranian government the existence of a highly classified intelligence collection program and the true identity of a U.S. intelligence officer, thereby risking the life of this individual," Demers said in his remarks. "In addition, she is alleged to have conspired with the Government of Iran to research, in some instances through social media, and create target packages – documents that enabled the Government of Iran to identify, track, and neutralize U.S. counterintelligence agents."
In his statement, Demers emphasized Witt's alleged conduct threatened national security and also put her former colleagues at great risk.
"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country. It is sadder still when this person, as a member of the American armed forces, previously invoked the aid of God to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and to defend her country against foreign enemies," he said. "Monica Witt is alleged to have done just this."
Former Marine Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak has issued a statement urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to oppose pardons for those accused or convicted of war crimes since, he argued, it would "relinquish the United States' moral high ground."
"If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country's fighting forces the envy of the world," said Krulak, who served in the Marine Corps for more than three decades before retiring in 1999 as the 31st Commandant.
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President Donald Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett to serve as the next Air Force secretary, the president announced on Tuesday.
"I am pleased to announce my nomination of Barbara Barrett of Arizona, and former Chairman of the Aerospace Corporation, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force," Trump tweeted. "She will be an outstanding Secretary! #FlyFightWin"
The Trump administration is trying to assure Congress that it does not want to start a war with Iran, but some lawmakers who fought in Iraq are not so sure.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford both briefed Congress on Tuesday about Iran. Shanahan told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. military buildup in the region has stopped Iran and its proxies from attacking U.S. forces, but the crisis is not yet over.
"We've put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean that the threats that we've previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given the Iranians time to recalculate. I think our response was a measure of our will and our resolve that we will protect our people and our interests in the region."
U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur/Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump warned on Monday Iran would be met with "great force" if it attacked U.S. interests in the Middle East, and government sources said Washington strongly suspects Shi'ite militias with ties to Tehran were behind a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone.
"I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday evening for an event in Pennsylvania. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."