Weekly Snapshot
24 February – 2 March

1. Former US Air Force Intelligence Specialist Charged With Spying

Monica Witt, a former member of the United States Air Force intelligence community, has been charged with spying for Iran. She defected to Iran in 2013, and the files from the Justice Department detailing her treason have finally been released. Witt was associated with Air Force intelligence and specialized as a cryptologist and counter-intelligence investigator. This gave her access to highly classified information that she later turned over to the Iranians.

It is still unclear the extent of the damage that Witt did to US national security and its intelligence community, but some facts are beginning to come to light. One thing we know for sure is that she gave Iran the details to an intelligence collections program as well as the true identity of an intelligence officer, putting that officer in grave danger.

Witt was recruited in early 2012 when attending a “hollywoodism” conference about US cultural influence on Iran. She then made videos identifying herself as a US veteran and began to be critical of the US government. She then converted to Islam before attending the “hollywoodism” conference for a second time in 2013. There she approached the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and began the process of defecting.

The group who put on the conference, the New Horizon Organization, has been put under US sanctions for serving as a front for the IRGC-QF and recruiting foreigners to spy on their home countries.

2. Tensions Rise as Russia Gives New Threats

Following a statement from Russian President Putin, a state-run television program in Russia named ‘Vesti Nedeli’, aired a map of the United States, and proceeded to point out strategic locations where Moscow would hit in a nuclear war. The host, Dmitry Kiselyov, has long been friendly with the Kremlin and has been used as a way to propagate the State’s messages to its people. Once saying that Moscow could turn the United States into radioactive ash, Kiselyov has long been a strong anti-American voice in the Russian Federation.

President Putin’s statement that Russia’s military is ready for a “Cuban Missile”-style crisis if the United States wanted one was concerning on its own. But with the unraveling of the INF treaty, Russia has gone on the rhetorical offensive to include responding that if the United States were to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe, Russian officials would place hypersonic nuclear missiles on submarines off the coasts of the United States.

The map shown in the broadcast pointed out several logical locations for the Russians to hit including the Pentagon and the Presidential retreat at Camp David. However, there were several unusual locations including Fort Ritchie which was closed in 1998 and McClellan Air Force base in California that has been closed since 2001. It is unclear whether the locations were linked to the Kremlin-sponsored plan, or if it was simply a mistake on the part of the broadcast network. Either way, publicly displaying a hypothetical nuclear attack on the United States is bellicose and disputatious.

These inflammatory statements by both Russian President Putin and the state media are all in the hopes of building up resentment and animosity for the United States. With tensions continuing to rise, it is more important than ever for the United States to maintain a strong military to ensure the protection of its citizens.

3. India and Pakistan Increasing Military Attacks

In the past few days, tensions between India and Pakistan have increased, and both sides have conducted military operations. This level of military involvement in the conflict has not been seen in decades. The increased aggression was spurred by a suicide bombing that took place earlier this month, killing 40 Indian paramilitary police officers in the India-controlled Kashmir region. This action caused an escalation between the two nuclear powers.

After the initial bombing, India responded with airstrikes against terrorist camps located inside Pakistan. This prompted a response from Pakistan, who then initiated their own airstrikes against India-controlled regions. As the airstrikes continued, the Pakistani military shot down two Indian jets, capturing one pilot. With this escalation continuing, world leaders have been trying to ease the tension between these nuclear powers. In a good faith effort from Pakistan, Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, announced that they will be returning the downed pilot in hopes of de-escalating the situation. As the tensions between these two nations are still high, this is a positive step in the right direction.