USA counter-intelligence officer charged with spying for Iran

Monica Witt 39 a former U.S. Air Force officer indicted for aiding Iran is seen in this FBI

The 39-year-old worked as a counterintelligence officer in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008.

A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer who defected to Iran six years ago has been charged with spying for the Iranian government and helping Iran target other U.S. intelligence agents.

The Justice Department says the Iranian government supplied her with housing and computer equipment so she could "disclose US classified information" and conduct research on "personnel that she had known and worked with" during her time in the American intelligence community. She initially served as an airborne cryptologic language analyst, which is a specialist responsible for translating intelligence communication often intercepted via airborne assets.

Billing itself as an "anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist" think tank, New Horizon organized conferences in Iran that cast a critical eye on United States and Israeli policy worldwide and stoked accusations of anti-Semitism from Western critics.

"As someone who served in the USA army for years, I expected that after embracing Islam, my right to choose a religion and my beliefs would be respected", Witt, who was born in El Paso, Texas, said at the time. She worked extensively in the Middle East and had access to classified information, including the names of multiple American intelligence officials. In exchange, she disclosed classified information, including detailed information about US intelligence officials, using information to draft "target packages" against those intelligence community individuals, the indictment charges. She had top-level security clearance while working for the US government and was trained in Farsi by the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

Witt's case appeared intertwined with that of Iranian-American television journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by U.S. authorities in January during a visit to the United States and forced to testify before a grand jury in Washington, DC, where the Witt case was investigated.

The four used cyber tactics to target eight US government agents "all of whom at one time worked or interacted with the main suspect". The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of USA government agents.

After she was permitted to emigrate to Iran she told her contact that she was "signing off and heading out", adding, "Coming home".

The indictment says Witt was part of the Air Force until 2008 and then worked as a contractor for the Defence Department for two years. -Iranian citizen who is identified as "Individual A" in the indictment hired Witt to be her assistant on an anti-American propaganda film.

She eventually did, with help from Individual A, in August 2013.

Prosecutors allege that shortly after defecting to Iran, she handed over information on her colleagues in order to cause "serious damage" to the United States. It said she replied: "Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil".

The FBI said Wednesday that it's possible Witt remains a threat, and her former colleagues have been apprised of the charges against her.

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