The Justice Department said on Wednesday that Monica Witt, a former U.S. Air Force sergeant who defected to Iran, has been charged with spying for the Middle Eastern country and revealing the identities of her former colleagues.
The 39-year-old intelligence specialist allegedly gave away the name and mission of a secret Defense Department intelligence program after deserting to the regime almost six years ago, an indictment against her says.
“I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil. Thanks for giving me the opportunity,” a message sent by Witt to an Iranian-American handler in 2012 read.
Officials noted that Witt was warned that same year of potential recruitment efforts by Iranian intelligence if she traveled to the country, but she ignored their advice and made the trip nonetheless. In Iran, she attended an anti-U.S. event organized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, the indictment adds.
Witt, who authorities say converted to Islam, also appeared in videos broadcast by Iranian media in which she criticized the U.S. government.
According to NBC News, the indictment further alleges that the former U.S. Air Force specialist said she might seek the help of Russia should Iran refuse to help.
“I think I can slip into Russia quietly if they help me and then I can contact wikileaks from there without disclosing my location,” Witt reportedly wrote in July 2013.
Jay Tabb, FBI executive assistant director for national security, believes that the motive for her espionage was ideological. And since she had high-level clearance and access to the true identities and whereabouts of intelligence sources, Witt “provided information that could cause serious damage to national security,” he added.
Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Witt, who is still believed to be living in Iran.
The handler who communicated with her has not been identified in the indictment.