A US counterintelligence agent has been charged with defecting and handing over secrets to Tehran. A US official called her actions a "betrayal of our nation's security, our military and the American people."
The US Justice Department on Wednesday charged former US Air Force intelligence official Monica Witt with "conspiracy to deliver and delivering national defense information to representatives of the Iranian government."
In 2012, Witt was offered an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a conference hosted by the New Horizon Organization in Iran called "Hollywoodism." US authorities accuse the organization working at the behest of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and promoting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Witt returned to the conference a year later, and began assisting Iranian intelligence services. "She went on to disclose US classified information" to Iranian government officials and conduct research on US intelligence personnel as part of "target packages," according to the Justice Department.
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Monica Witt worked with Iranian security services to target her former colleagues in the US intelligence community
Witt served as a counterintelligence and Farsi language specialist, working as a special agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation from 1997 until 2008. After leaving the armed forces, she worked as a Defense Department contractor.
The former agent was "granted high-level security clearances and was deployed overseas to conduct classified counterintelligence missions," according to the Justice Department. An FBI official said the Bureau warned her that she was vulnerable to Iranian recruitment.
"The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation's security, our military and the American people," said Terry Phillips, special agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. "While violations like this are extremely rare, her actions as alleged are an affront to all who have served our great nation." Four Iranian agents were also charged for targeting US intelligence personnel through information Witt provided.
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US rallies anti-Iran support
The announcement comes at a time when the US is pressuring allies to cut Iran off from the international community by severing economic, financial and diplomatic ties.
US Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials are in Warsaw for a conference focused on Iran and other security issues in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to deliver a speech on Thursday, said the conference should focus on the "common interest of war with Iran."
The German government did not send a Cabinet-ranked official to the conference and the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, is not scheduled to make an appearance. But even in Germany, some politicians criticized the decision not to send a senior official.
"The nonparticipation is a political mistake," Johann Wadephul, deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, told German news agency DPA. "Anyone talking about Germany's growing international responsibility must realize this."
ls/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)