Stuxnet Virus Leak Traced to One of Obama's Top Generals
June 28, 2013
NBC Nightly News & The Guardian
The former number two man in the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon -- a now-retired Marine Corps four-star general with a close working relationship with President Obama -- is under investigation for leaking a top secret government project called the Stuxnet virus. It wormed its way into computers that ran Iran's nuclear program.
Stuxnet Virus Leak Traced to One of Obama's Top Generals
Brian Williams / NBC Nightly News
(June 27, 2013) – NBC News has learned the former number two man in the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon -- a now-retired Marine Corps four-star general with a close working relationship with President Obama -- is under investigation for leaking a top secret government project called the Stuxnet virus. It wormed its way into computers that ran Iran's nuclear program.
The leak of its existence did damage to US efforts against Iran. The president vowed to find the person responsible. Now comes our report tonight. His name is James Cartwright, known as "hoss" -- his call-sign as a fighter pilot. He is the target of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice into a leak of intelligence. We begin tonight with our National Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff.
Isikoff: General Cartwright was in member of President Obama's inner circle of National Security Advisors, but legal sources tell NBC that Cartwright has been notified that he is the target of a Justice Department criminal investigation into a highly sensitive leak about a covert US cyber attack on Iran's nuclear program.
President Obama: My attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks. These are criminal acts when they release information like this.
Isikoff: The New York Times last year broke the story that President Obama had secretly ordered a stepped-up cyber weapon attack, using a malicious computer virus known as Stuxnet and that Cartwright conceived and oversaw the special operation from the Pentagon.
Cartwright: (speaking at the Wilson School): We're trying to build a second cyber-force right now.
Reporter: Cartwright did not respond for a request for comment from NBC News. Contacted today, his lawyer, former White House counsel Gregory Craig, said only: "I have no comment."
The Times story told key details about the Stuxnet attack, including its code name, "Olympic Games," the cooperation of Israeli intelligence [Note: This phrase was omitted from the official posted NBC transcript] and its success in disabling nearly 1,000 Iranian centrifuges to enrich uranium.
Jane Harman, Defense Policy Board: This leak was very damaging. Clearly what was going on here was a method and it should have been protected and I think it's had devastating consequences.
Isikoff: The FBI originally focused on whether the leak came from the White House, but late last year, agents started zeroing in on Cartwright, who had retired from the pentagon in 2011. The motives of whoever leaked, remain a mystery.
Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists: There are many reasons why people leak classified information. Sometimes it's to attack a program. sometimes it's to defend it, many times we just never know.
Isikoff: White House and Justice Department officials declined to comment on any aspect of the case, but legal sources tell NBC news that federal prosecutors have developed their case without issuing any subpoenas for phone records from the New York Times.
Former US General James Cartwright Named in Stuxnet Leak Inquiry
(June 27, 2013) -- A retired US general, James Cartwright, is the target of a Justice Department investigation into the leaking of secret information about the Stuxnet virus attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, NBC News reported on Thursday, citing unidentified legal sources.
NBC said Cartwright, once the second highest ranking officer in the US military, was being investigated over the leaked information about the computer virus, which temporarily disabled 1,000 centrifuges used by Iran to enrich uranium, setting back its nuclear programme.
A "target" is someone a prosecutor or grand jury has substantial evidence linking to a crime and who is likely to be charged.
The Justice Department referred questions to the US attorney's office in Baltimore, where a spokeswoman, Marcia Murphy, declined to comment.
The New York Times published a detailed account of the Stuxnet program in June last year, in which it said President Barack Obama had decided to accelerate US cyber attacks, which began under George W Bush.
The story was based on 18 months of interviews with "current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts", the Times said in its story.
Cartwright, a four-star general who is now retired, was vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff from 2007 to 2011. The Times reported that he was a crucial player in the cyber operation called Olympic Games, started under Bush.
Bush reportedly advised Obama to preserve Olympic Games. According to the Times, Obama ordered the cyberattacks to be accelerated, and in 2010 an attack using a computer virus called Stuxnet temporarily disabled 1,000 centrifuges that the Iranians were using to enrich uranium.
Congressional leaders demanded a criminal investigation into who leaked the information, and Obama said he had zero tolerance for such leaks. Republicans said senior administration officials had leaked the details to bolster the president's national security credentials during the 2012 campaign.
The Times said Cartwright was one of the crucial players who had to break the news to Obama and vice-president Joe Biden that Stuxnet had escaped onto the Internet.
An element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it out on the internet, the Times reported. After the worm escaped, top administration officials met to consider whether the program had been fatally compromised.
Obama asked if the program should continue, and after hearing the advice of top advisers, decided to proceed.
The US and other Western countries believe the Iranian nuclear enrichment programme is aimed at building atomic weapons, while Tehran says it is solely for civilian energy purposes.
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