Ex-US intelligence officer charged in Iran espionage case

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A former Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing to Iranian government officials classified defense info that could cause "serious damage", officials said Wednesday.

A former Air Force counterintelligence officer was charged with disclosing the identifies of American spies and a confidential Defense Department operation, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday.

During that time, she was granted high-level security clearances, learned Farsi at a USA military language school, and was deployed overseas for counterintelligence missions in the Middle East.

The same indictment charged four Iranians for conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, accusing them of helping Witt gather information on her former USA government colleagues.

"With good reason", said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the Justice Department's national security division.

The event, though, has received a tepid response overseas, as some objected to the its anti-Iran focus. Prosecutors say she appeared in multiple videos broadcast by Iranian media, identifying herself publicly as a US veteran and condemning America.

A Farsi language specialist, she was deployed to the Gulf area several times on signals intelligence missions, according to the indictment, and had top security clearance giving her access to the identities of clandestine U.S. agents and informants in the field. Prosecutors say they targeted former colleagues of Witt's in the intelligence community.

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

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Witt is charged with two counts of delivering military information to a foreign government and one count of conspiracy.

The indictment includes snippets of dialogue between Witt and the person who recruited her her, identified only as Individual 1. "She made a decision to turn against the United States and turn her loyalties to Iran", FBI Executive Assistant Director Jay Tabb told reporters.

After leaving the Air Force, she worked as a defense contractor, but by 2012 her politics had turned.

The indictment also alleges that Witt planned to go to Russian Federation in 2013 to contact WikiLeaks without disclosing her location.

"Witt's primary motivation appears to have been ideological".

In February 2013, Witt returned to Iran for another New Horizon conference and told officials there that she wanted to emigrate.

"The last known contact with her is believed to have been in June 2013", the Federal Bureau of Investigation alert said.

The highest court of the United Nations rejected a US claim that it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on parts of the case, paving the way for the trial to continue. The hackers sent the targets messages and emails that purported to be legitimate but instead contained malicious software that, if opened, would have given them access to the officials' computer and network. Authorities said Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar sought to install malware in the computers of Witt's former co-workers through fake social media accounts.