Former Air Force officer accused of spying for Iran

Monica Witt

In a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors said Witt, 39, provided the Iranian government information about a classified Defense Department program and helped Tehran's intelligence services target her former colleagues in the us intelligence community.

Born and raised in Texas, Witt entered on duty for the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 and worked as a contractor from 2008 to 2010.

US officials said Monica Witt, who worked for years in US Air Force counterintelligence, had an "ideological" turn against her country and defected in 2013, turning over information on US intelligence operations against Tehran.

The government issued an arrest warrant for Witt, who remains at large.

When warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that trip that Iranian intelligence services were trying to recruit her, Witt allegedly promised that she would not talk about her counterintelligence work if she returned to Iran.

Witt faces two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy. The shady packages helped the Iranian government to identify, track and neutralize United States counterintelligence agents, Demers said.

While working with a dual Iranian-US citizen, who was only identified in court papers as Individual A, Witt divulged "the existence of a highly classified intelligence collection program" and risked the life of an intelligence colleague by revealing his true identity, said John Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security.

They declined to say to what extent these disclosures compromised USA intelligence operations targeting Iran.

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Jay Tabb, the FBI's executive assistant director for national security, said investigators believe Witt shared information that "could cause serious damage to national security", though he declined to provide specific details of the operations she allegedly disclosed.

The announcement, which also included sanctions on the New Horizon Organization, organization officials, and a company tied to the hacking effort, came on the opening day of a US-led global conference in Warsaw, Poland aimed at boosting pressure on Tehran. US officials also imposed sanctions on an Iran firm, Net Peygard Samavat Company, that it said conducted the hacking operation, and Iranian events company, New Horizon Organization, that it said works to recruit foreign attendees.

Once in Tehran, Iranian authorities provided her with housing and computer equipment, the indictment alleges, and she began work on behalf of Iran.

The indictment also alleges that Witt planned to go to Russian Federation in 2013 to contact WikiLeaks without disclosing her location.

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to USA officials. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil.

The Justice Department also charged four Iranian nationals with attempting to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft in the case.

What's the state of US-Iran relations?

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