A former USA counterintelligence officer was indicted Wednesday for spying for the Iranian government, federal prosecutors said.
"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. "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".
Also charged are four Iranian hackers.
This 2013 photo released by the Department of Justice shows Monica Elfriede Witt.
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".
The U.S. Treasury is also placing sanctions on the New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard, a company that associated the hacking of agents.
Four Iranian nationals were named in the same indictment with Witt.
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"Treasury is taking action against malicious Iranian cyber actors and covert operations that have targeted Americans at home and overseas as part of our ongoing efforts to counter the Iranian regime's cyber attacks", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. She had top-level security clearance while working for the US government and was trained in Farsi by the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.
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.
At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organized by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by USA officials last month as a material witness in a federal criminal case, the Tehran Times newspaper reported.
Later that year she worked with Individual A to make a video critical of the United States, and the two continued to communicate. Prosecutors say Witt met with IRGC personnel at a conference organized by New Horizon. "Witt's friends recently reported her missing after not receiving any response from her in several months".
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.
In her first specialty, Witt served aboard an RC-135 Rivet Joint air reconnaissance aircraft out of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, focusing on Persian-Farsi language communications, according to a resume on the website Indeed that was attributed to Witt and matched much of the information in her service records.
Witt learned Farsi at a USA military language school and allegedly traveled to Iran for an anti-American event that promoted "anti-U.S. propaganda", and returned again in 2013 when she was provided with housing and computer equipment to work on behalf of Iran.
There was no detailed explanation of Witt's motives, although there was some suggestion in unconfirmed online records that she had begun to oppose the U.S. wars in Iraq-Syria and Afghanistan. In Iran, she has appeared to work at times to publish anti-American articles for the state-owned Press TV. She returned to Iran in 2013 and was provided housing and computer equipment by Iranian officials.