Former US Air Force counterintelligence agent charged with spying for Iran

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

On Wednesday, former Air Force intelligence office Monica Witt was charged with espionage for allegedly defecting to Iran and helping create a cyber-spying operation which targeted her former colleagues.

United States officials said Monica Witt, 39, who worked a decade in Air Force counter-intelligence, had an "ideological" turn against her country and defected in 2013, turning over information on U.S. espionage operations against Tehran. During her USA government career, authorities said Witt was granted high-level security clearances and was posted overseas on several occasions for counterintelligence missions.

Besides charges and an arrest warrant issued in the name of the former USAF service member, the DOJ also indicted four Iranian hackers who supposedly carried out the cyber-attacks acting on information provided by Witt.

That year she travelled to Iran to attend an anti-America conference sponsored by the New Horizon Organization.

"As someone who served in the United States 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 defected to Iran in 2013 and is believed to be there now.

Monica Witt, 39, was accused of switching sides after more than a decade of USA military service and identifying American intelligence officers and their personal Facebook accounts for the Iranian regime.

The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cyber campaign, and it said New Horizon had organized global conferences supporting efforts by Iran's Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign attendees.

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

Iranian hackers are accused of setting up fake social media accounts to befriend the agents that Witt provided information on to try and install spyware to their computers. The connections she made at that event with dual Iranian-American citizens enabled her to defect the following year.

After leaving the armed forces in 2008, Witt worked as a contractor for two years, officials said.

However, one agent who friended the fake account added the hackers to a Facebook group filled with USA government agents, allowing them to gather more information, according to the indictment. "I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil", she told that person in an email.

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

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

Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two worldwide conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.

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