A former US Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information as well as research about her former colleagues to representatives of the Tehran government, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The Justice Department says Monica Witt defected to Iran and helped its cyberspies target her former compatriots in the U.S. Air Force.
"I just hope I have better luck with Russian Federation at this point", Witt wrote her Iranian-American contact in July.
Witt served in the US Air Force from 1997 to 2008, becoming a special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, its counterintelligence unit.
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 global conference in Warsaw, Poland aimed at boosting pressure on Tehran.
Ms Witt is accused of sharing U.S. government secrets, including the name of agents and specifics of operations, with Iran as early as January 2012. 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.
Around the same time, Witt appeared in at least one Iranian video in which she criticized the US government. For me? Well, I loved the work, and I am endeavouring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. "Thanks for giving me the opportunity", according to the indictment.
Investigators allege Ms Witt was recruited after attending two conferences hosted by New Horizon Organization, which was working on behalf of the Iranian National Guard's Quds Force to collect intelligence on attendees.
Media captionIranians braved the snow in Tehran to mark their country's 1979 Islamic Revolution. USA officials believe she is still in Iran.
The conferences often included an "anti-Western" sentiment and "propagate anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories including Holocaust denial". Law enforcement officials insisted there was no connection between the timing of the charges and the conference. The hackers managed to gain access to a Facebook group of USA government agents.
Monica Witt, who was born and raised in Texas, allegedly provided Iranian security officials with the code name and classified mission of a U.S. Defense Department special access program.
"She chose to turn against the United States and shift her loyalty to the government of Iran", Tabb said.
Mesri, Masampour and Parvar also face sanctions for their involvement with Net Peygard, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
The Justice Department has issued arrest warrants for Witt and the four Iranians, who all remain at large.
Iran and the United States are longtime cyber-antagonists.