"This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect", said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.
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 Elfriede Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013, is accused of helping Iranian officials target USA counterintelligence officers operating in that country.
When warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that trip that Iranian intelligence services were trying to recruit her, Witt allegedly promised that she would not talk about her counterintelligence work if she returned to Iran.
The indictment suggests that Witt defected for ideological motives, and it quotes emails between Witt and an Iranian agent, referred to as Individual A, prior to her defection.
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.
That year she travelled to Iran to attend an anti-America conference sponsored by the Revolutionary Guard-related New Horizon Organization. According to authorities, she started working on behalf of Tehran by disclosing classified information and compiling research on US intelligence personnel she previously worked with. She also gave Iranians the code name and classified mission of a special U.S. Department of Defense operation.
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In 2012, after Witt travelled to Iran for a conference, the FBI warned her that she could be a targeted for recruitment by that country's government, and Witt told the bureau she would refuse to provide information about her military work, according to the indictment.
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 chose to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to Iran", said Jay Tabb, the FBI's executive assistant director for national security. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Iran's nuclear program was the target of the U.S.
According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.
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.
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