The US Treasury Department has slapped sanctions on nine Iranians, including members of an NGO accused of spying and members of an Iranian military unit. A former US Air Force officer has also been indicted for helping Iran.
Several of the sanctioned individuals are connected with the New Horizon organization. Billing itself as an “anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist” think tank, New Horizon organized conferences in Iran that cast a critical eye on US and Israeli policy worldwide and stoked accusations of anti-Semitism from Western critics.
Now the Treasury claims the conferences were also an intelligence gathering and recruiting ground for Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
An Iranian communications company was also sanctioned for allegedly planting malware on US intelligence agents’ computers.
As the sanctions were announced, the US also charged a former Air Force officer with spying for Tehran. Former counterintelligence officer Monica Witt defected to Iran in 2013, and allegedly helped the Islamic Republic target her former American colleagues. Prosecutors say Witt met with IRGC personnel at a conference organized by New Horizon.
Witt worked for the Air Force from 1997 until 2008, and then as a contractor. She worked extensively in the Middle East and had access to classified information, including the names of multiple American intelligence officials.
Prosecutors claim that Witt first met with IRGC officers at a New Horizon conference in Tehran in 2012. She posed as a US veteran who had become disillusioned with her country’s policies and appeared on Iranian TV to criticize her government.
Witt maintained contact with an IRGC member she met at the conference and eventually defected to the Islamic Republic.
“I loved the work, and I am endeavoring to put the training I received to good use instead of evil,” she allegedly told her IRGC contact. “Thanks for giving me the opportunity.”
After moving to Iran and converting to Islam, prosecutors claim Witt was housed by the Iranian government and provided with a computer, which she used to compile “target packages” containing information for her new employers on American military and intelligence personnel.
The names she revealed included that of her former co-worker, and the name of another former colleague’s spouse.
Shortly before Witt’s defection, the FBI circulated a missing persons poster in an attempt to track her down. The poster identified Witt as an English teacher, whose friends believed she was missing somewhere in Afghanistan or Tajikistan.