Former General Targeted In Investigation Of Stuxnet Leak

General Cartwright

A retired Marine General who rose to become Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff before retiring is the target in the investigation of who may have leaked the news of American involvement in development of the computer virus that was used to target Iran’s nuclear program:

Legal sources tell NBC News that the former second ranking officer in the U.S. military is now the target of a Justice Department investigation into a politically sensitive leak of classified information about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program.

According to legal sources, Retired Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has received a target letter informing him that he’s under investigation for allegedly leaking information about a massive attack using a computer virus named Stuxnet on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Gen. Cartwright, 63, becomes the latest individual targeted over alleged leaks by the Obama administration, which has already prosecuted or charged eight individuals under the Espionage Act.

Last year, the New York Times reported that Cartwright, a four-star general who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2007 to 2011, conceived and ran the cyber operation, called Olympic Games, under Presidents Bush and Obama. According to the front-page story by chief Washington correspondent David Sanger, President Obama ordered the cyber attacks sped up, and in 2010 an attack using the Stuxnet worm temporarily disabled 1,000 centrifuges that the Iranians were using to enrich uranium.The Times story included details of the Olympic Games operation, including the cooperation of Israeli intelligence and the way the virus was introduced to an Iranian nuclear facility. It described meetings in the White House Situation Room and was based on interviews with “current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program.”

As soon as the Times report appeared, Congressional leaders demanded a criminal probe, and President Obama said he had “zero tolerance” for “these kinds of leaks.” Republicans charged that senior administration officials had leaked the details to bolster the president’s national security credentials during the 2012 campaign.

But, said legal sources, while the probe that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered initially focused on whether the information came from inside the White House, by late last year FBI agents were zeroing in on Cartwright, who had served as one of the president’s “inner circle” of national security advisors. Two sources said prosecutors were able to identify Cartwright as a suspected leaker without resorting to a secret subpoena of the phone records of New York Times reporters.

One source familiar with the probe said the Justice Department has not made a final decision on whether to charge Cartwright.

Cartwright, who retired from the military in August 2011, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. His attorney, former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, said Thursday, “I have no comment.”

The Times, of course, has said that it will not be commenting on stories regarding who may or may not be its confidential sources, however its interesting to note that NBC is reporting this morning that Cartwright was identified as a target without the Justice Department having to access the phone records of any Times reporters. That, of course, raises the question of how Cartwright may have been identified and whether or not there might be more than one leaker involved in this story.  Whatever the story might be, though, it’s worth noting that Cartwright hasn’t even been charged with anything yet so it’s improper to jump to conclusions about his guilt or innocence. Nonetheless, it’s not every day that a former JCS Vice-Chairman is targeted in a leak investigation like this and one assumes that the Justice Department wouldn’t be taking this step if they didn’t have some fair degree of confidence in the evidence that they have come up with to date.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, National Security, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Caj says:

    Have these retired military no sense of loyalty to the country they served? You have to wonder what his motive was. He has brought dishonour to the uniform he once wore!

  2. A Marine that’s braggadocious? Impossible!

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The Times, of course, has said that it will be commenting on stories

    I believe you are missing a ‘not’ in there.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That, of course, raises the question of how Cartwright may have been identified and whether or not there might be more than one leaker involved in this story.

    The answer to that is, “Yes.” the NY Times said so.

    It described meetings in the White House Situation Room and was based on interviews with “current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program.

  5. edmondo says:

    Shouldn’t the general be called a “traitor” ala Eric Snowden?

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Obama knows that a big chunk of the GOP House would love to file impeachment charges, and would with the flimsiest excuse. He’s also seen several of these very harmful leaks, not to him, but to the country. I can sympathize with his desire to run a tight ship on leaks.

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @edmondo:

    Great point. Where are all the commenters lining up to denounce General Cartwright as a traitor? How is what he did any different than what Snowden did?

  8. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rafer Janders: Don’t hold your breath on getting a satisfactory answer. Or any answer at all.