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Former US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran

13 February 2019

"It is a sad day for America when one of its citizens betrays our country", the assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, said on Wednesday.

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with providing classified information to the Islamic Republic, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday by the Justice Department.

Monica Witt, aged 39, worked as a cryptologist and a counter-intelligence investigator for the U.S. 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.

The New York Times reports she was privy to the real names of both intelligence assets and the United States officials who helped recruit them.

After leaving the Air Force, she worked as a defense and intelligence contractor, but by 2012 her politics had begun to turn.

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Witt faces two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy.

Authorities said Ms. Witt's activities caused "serious damage" to USA intelligence activities.

The U.S. Justice Department said Witt, 39, assembled dossiers on eight U.S. military intelligence agents she had worked with for Iranian hackers, who then used Facebook and e-mail to try to install spyware on their computers.

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

Four Iranian nationals were also charged in the same indictment for their alleged involvement in the cyber attacks. During her USA government career, authorities said Witt was granted high-level security clearances and was posted overseas on several occasions for counterintelligence missions.

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During that time, she was granted high-level security clearances, learned Farsi at a US military language school, and was deployed overseas for counterintelligence missions in the Middle East.

The US Treasury Department also announced sanctions against an Iranian company accused of organizing conferences that served as a platform to recruit Witt, and against another Iranian company suspected of having participated in the cyberattacks.

"She made a decision to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to the government of Iran", Tabb said.

But later that year, she helped an unnamed Iranian-American official produce an anti-American propaganda film. "I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil", she told that person in an email.

According to an undated Federal Bureau of Investigation missing persons declaration regarding Witt, she had not been in contact with anyone since 2013.

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While in Iran, she also allegedly converted to Islam during a television segment after identifying herself as a U.S. veteran, and delivered several broadcasts in which she criticised the US.

Former US Air Force officer Monica Witt charged with spying for Iran