US Air Force officer who defected 'spied for Iran'

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Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013, is accused of helping Iranian officials target US counterintelligence officers operating in that country.

In August 2013, Witt reached out to an individual with ties to Iranian intelligence offering her services.

But at the heart of today's indictment stands Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, a former US Air Force counter-intelligence special agent specialized in Middle East operations, who served for the Air Force between 1997 and 2008, and later worked as a DOD contractor until 2010 -including for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same defense company where Edward Snowden worked.

The US Treasury Department has slapped sanctions on nine Iranians, including members of an NGO accused of spying and members of an Iranian military unit.

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", said the head of the Justice Department's national security division, on what is apparently such a day.

Ms Witt is accused of sharing United States government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012.

Officials would not elaborate on why the indictment was brought six years after her detection, except to say that they had to move classified intelligence into an unclassified format to be used in a pending criminal proceeding.

The publication of the indictment coincided with the Treasury Department's announcing a new series of cyber-security related sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC, which engages in "efforts to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees [of various conferences], including USA persons, and four associated individuals", according to the a release announcing the sanctions.

"On or about July 3, 2013, Witt wrote Individual A, '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", the indictment said.

Tabb said investigators believe Witt's motive was "ideological", and the indictment against her alleges that, before she defected, she appeared in videos that she knew would be broadcast by Iranian media outlets and "made statements that were critical of the U.S. government".

Media captionIranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Billing itself as an "anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist" think tank, New Horizon organized conferences in Iran that cast a critical eye on U.S. and Israeli policy worldwide and stoked accusations of anti-Semitism from Western critics. The conference's main topic was condemning American moral standards, promoting anti-US propaganda, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial.

According to charges unsealed on Wednesday by the justice department on Wednesday she defected to Iran in August 2013, taking with her details of U.S. counter-intelligence agents she had worked with, who were then targeted by Iranian hackers, four of whom are named in the indictment and charged alongside Witt.

The Department of Treasury accuses Net Peygard Samavat Company of being "involved in a malicious cyber campaign to gain access to and implant malware on the computer systems of current and former counterintelligence agents".

Monica Elfriede Witt, pictured in a 2013 photo released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She defected to Iran in 2013 and is believed to be there now.

The charging documents outline a series of electronic messages between Witt and Individual A, who resided primarily in Iran, before she defected. All four remain at large.

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