U.S. charges former Air Force intel agent with defecting to Iran

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

In a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors said Witt, 39, provided the Iranian government information about a classified Defense Department program and helped Tehran's intelligence services target her former colleagues in the USA intelligence community.

Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, served in the Air Force from 1997 to 2008 and then worked on classified government projects for two years after that, reports the Washington Post.

Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges of disclosing the code name and classified mission of a USA military special access program to the Iranian government. All four remain at large.

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

Tabb said investigators believe Witt's motive was "ideological", and the indictment against her alleges that, before she defected, she appeared in videos that she knew would be broadcast by Iranian media outlets and "made statements that were critical of the USA government".

Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the US government.

"Monica Witt is charged with revealing to the Iranian regime a highly classified intelligence program and the identity of a U.S. Intelligence Officer, all in violation of the law, her solemn oath to protect and defend our country, and the bounds of human decency", assistant attorney general John Demers wrote in statement Wednesday.

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

After Witt returned to the U.S., Federal Bureau of Investigation agents conducted a defensive briefing with her to warn her that she might be the target of recruitment by Iranian security services.

The announcement, which also included sanctions on the New Horizon Organization, organization officials, and a company tied to the hacking effort, came on the opening day of a US-led worldwide conference in Warsaw, Poland aimed at boosting pressure on Tehran. She was also charged with helping Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former co-workers, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Once in Tehran, Iranian authorities provided her with housing and computer equipment, the indictment alleges, and she began work on behalf of Iran.

According to the FBI, Ms Witt was last seen in southwest Asia in July 2013.

According to officials, she sent a message to her Iranian contact in 2012 saying: "I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil".

What's the state of US-Iran relations?

Several conferences sponsored by the New Horizon Organization have taken place in Iran and Iraq in recent years, according to USA officials.

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