US charges former Air Force officer with spying for Iran

US charges former Air Force officer with spying for Iran

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers at a briefing to make public the charges.

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.

Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008 and worked as a contractor for the Defense Department for two years after that.

Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013, is accused of helping Iranian officials target US counterintelligence officers operating in that country. They also remain at large; arrest warrants have been issued for them.

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.

The same indictment charged four Iranians for conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, accusing them of helping Witt gather information on her former USA government colleagues.

She revealed to the Iranians a "highly classified intelligence collection program" as well as the true identity of a USA intelligence officer, Demers said. According to authorities, she started working on behalf of Tehran by disclosing classified information and compiling research on USA intelligence personnel she previously worked with.

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The Justice Department alleged she shared with Iran packages of information about her former colleagues so they could be targeted, as well as the code name and mission of a Defence Department Special Access Programme, which was highly classified. According to authorities, Witt collaborated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military unit charged with exerting Tehran's influence around the world. Iran's nuclear program was the target of the U.S.

The US Department of Treasury has also sanctioned two Iranian companies - New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company - for their role in the plot.

But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: "I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil".

"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July.

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

Iran and the United States are longtime cyber-antagonists.

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