US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran'

US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran'

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 USA intelligence community.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced an indictment against Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013 and is now at-large.

Prosecutors said Witt, who left the Air Force in 2008 and later became a Defense Department contractor, disclosed to Iran the code name and classified mission of a Pentagon special access program.

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.

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. Thanks for giving me the opportunity".

In June 2013, she wrote Individual A, "If all else fails, I just may go public with a program and do like Snowden" with a smiley face - a reference to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

A few days later, Witt wrote to the same person, "I think I can slip into Russian Federation quietly if they help me and then I can contact wikileaks from there without disclosing my location". According to authorities, she started working on behalf of Tehran by disclosing classified information and compiling research on US intelligence personnel she previously worked with.

Washington also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

A previously issued Federal Bureau of Investigation missing persons poster said she was working as an English teacher in either Afghanistan or Tajikistan, and had lived overseas for more than a year before vanishing. -Iranian citizen who is identified as "Individual A" in the indictment hired Witt to be her assistant on an anti-American propaganda film.

Monica Witt, aged 39, worked as a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the United States air force for more than 10 years before becoming an intelligence analyst for the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008 and doing other private sector work.

During her government career, she was granted high-level security clearances and "deployed overseas to conduct classified counterintelligence missions", the DOJ said.

That year she travelled to Iran to attend an anti-America conference sponsored by the Revolutionary Guard-related New Horizon Organization.

Two Iran-based firms, New Horizon and Net Peygard Samavat Company, and several other people associated with the groups are facing sanctions.

"Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country, and we trust them to uphold their oath", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who leads the Justice Department's National Security Division.

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