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U.S. Accuses Former Air Force Officer Of Spying For Iran


Monica Witt, 39, is seen in this FBI photo released on February 13.

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer for aiding Iran in what Washington says was a cyberespionage operation targeting U.S. intelligence officers.

The indictment said Monica Witt exposed a U.S. agent and helped Iran's Revolutionary Guards develop cybertargets in the U.S. military after defecting to Iran in 2013.

U.S. officials said Witt, who worked for years in U.S. Air Force counterintelligence, had an "ideological" turn against her country.

As part of its action on February 13, the United States also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

It also sanctioned two Iran-based companies: New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company.

The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cybercampaign, while New Horizon had staged international gatherings to back efforts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign participants.

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

They said Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the air force from 1997 until 2008, and worked as contractor for two years after that.

At least one of those New Horizon conferences was organized by Iranian-American journalist Marzieh Hashemi, who was detained by U.S. officials last month as a material witness in a federal criminal case, the Tehran Times newspaper reported.

Hashemi, who was released on January 23, returned to Tehran on January 30.

Her detention, which began on January 13, had concerned international journalist watchdogs and angered Tehran, which said she was being illegally held and called for her immediate release.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and BBC
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