Justice News

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers Delivers Remarks on the Unsealing of United States v. Monica Witt, et al.
Washington, DC
United States
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Good morning.

Today, we announce that a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia has indicted a former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer, Monica Witt, for espionage on behalf of the Government of Iran.  It further charges four Iranians, acting on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), with attempting malign computer intrusions and aggravated identity theft targeting members of the U.S. intelligence community who were former colleagues of Monica Witt. 

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.  Monica Witt is alleged to have done just this.

My colleagues, Jessie Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Jay Tabb, the FBI Executive Assistant Director for National Security, will explain the charges against the defendants in greater detail.  Andrea Gacki, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Controls, will announce certain related Treasury Department actions, and Terry Phillips of the US. Air Force will make a brief statement on behalf of the Office of Special Investigations, where Ms. Witt worked.

From the perspective of the National Security Division, this indictment stands at the confluence of two streams of our national security cases.  The first charging Iran and other foreign adversaries with engaging in malign cyber activity.  Whether by disrupting the internet through DDOS attacks, stealing intellectual property, or hacking and dumping emails, Iran and others continue to use cyber tools against the United States. 

The second stream involves former members of the intelligence community charged with, and in the case of Kevin Mallory, convicted of, espionage.  The case unsealed today underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect.  Espionage by past or present members of the intelligence community poses a significant threat to our country and a heightened danger to their former colleagues.

Ms. Witt was recruited by Iran as part of a program that targets former intelligence officers and others who have held security clearances.  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.  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.  The other four defendants in this indictment, Iranian hackers working on behalf of the IRGC, 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.     

Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country, and we trust them to uphold that oath.  With good reason.  These brave women and men give us their all.  But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us.  When this happens, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against them no matter where they are.  We will do so to protect this country.  We will do so to protect their colleagues.  And we will do so to protect all of us.

I will now turn the microphone over to U.S. Attorney, Jessie Liu. 

Updated February 13, 2019