US Air Force agent charged with espionage for Iran

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Iranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution

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

Monica Elfriede Witt, the former Air Force technical sergeant and Defense Department intelligence contractor indicted on federal espionage charges unsealed Tuesday, spent more than a decade in the service before her eventual defection to Iran, according to the Air Force and Justice Department. She also gave Iranians the code name and classified mission of a special U.S. Department of Defense operation.

The Justice Department also charged four Iranian nationals with attempting to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft in the case. That year, an unidentified person contacted her and remarked that she was well-trained.

In one message she wrote that she might "do like (Edward) Snowden", the former United States intelligence contractor who in early June 2013 leaked thousands of documents on the operations of the National Security Agency.

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Witt defected to Iran in August 2013. "She made a decision to turn against the United States and turn her loyalties to Iran", FBI Executive Assistant Director Jay Tabb told reporters.

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. That group has been designated by the US government as promoting terrorism. She worked extensively in the Middle East and had access to classified information, including the names of multiple American intelligence officials.

The US Department of Treasury also announced economic sanctions against two Iranian companies today -New Horizon Organization, for its support of the IRGC; and Net Peygard Samavat Company, a company that developed and attempted to install malware on US government personnel' computers under the coordination of the IRGC. Witt replied with a smiley emoticon, "LOL thank the sec of defense?"

A Farsi language specialist, she was deployed to the Gulf area several times on signals intelligence missions, according to the indictment, and had top security clearance giving her access to the identities of clandestine U.S. agents and informants in the field. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil.

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"Our intelligence professionals swear an oath to protect our country, and we trust them to uphold their oath". "But every great while, one of these trusted people fails us".

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.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organized by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by US officials last month as a material witness in a federal criminal case, the Tehran Times newspaper reported.

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