US charges former Air Force intelligence agent with spying for Iran

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

The US Justice Department charged a former Air Force intelligence official Wednesday with spying for Iran, saying she exposed a fellow US agent and helped the Revolutionary Guard target her former colleagues for cyber attacks.

A former U.S. air force intelligence officer who defected to Iran in 2013, has been charged with espionage, giving away the identity of a covert United States agent and other secrets.

The four used cyber tactics to target eight USA government agents "all of whom at one time worked or interacted with the main suspect".

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 US persons, and four associated individuals", according to the a release announcing the sanctions.

Four Iranians who helped Witt in the cyber hack were also named in the indictment.

"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.

Prosecutors say that Iranian intelligence recruited Witt in 2012 when she attended a conference in Iran called "Hollywoodism", organized by Iranian company New Horizon Organization and sponsored by the IRGC.

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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. Shortly after joining the military, Witt studied Farsi at the U.S. Defense Language Institute in California before deploying overseas for four years to conduct classified missions collecting signals intelligence.

About one year later, she re-entered Iran, where she was provided housing and computer equipment. In one publication, she chastised the US military as a "boys' club" in which female servicemembers suffer from pervasive sexual harassment.

She is also alleged to have worked with Iran on research to target other US officers. "Thanks for giving me the opportunity". She is believed to be in Iran, officials said.

Witt worked for the Air Force from 1997 until 2008, and then as a contractor. They face charges including conspiracy, computer intrusions and identity theft targeting Witt's former colleagues.

Witt maintained contact with an IRGC member she met at the conference and eventually defected to the Islamic Republic. Her work for the government ended in 2010.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013. "Today's announcement also highlights our commitment to vigorously pursue those who threaten US security through state-sponsored hacking campaigns".

Later that year she worked with Individual A to make a video critical of the United States, and the two continued to communicate. -Israeli computer sabotage weapon Stuxnet, for example, and Iran has been blamed for a number of cyberattacks against the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia.

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