James Cartwright: Why He's Under Federal Investigation


It emerged last week that Obama's D.O.J. is investigating yet another leaker, retired four-star Marine general James Cartwright, for leaking information on the Stuxnet computer virus. Stuxnet is a malicious code of unprecedented complexity that temporarily disabled 1000 Iranian nuclear centrifuges in 2010, and was allegedly developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel. The program was a holdover from the Bush administration, apparently going back as far as 2005, and was picked up by the Obama in administration 2008.

General Cartwright held the second-highest rank in the U.S. Military, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 2007 to 2011. His background in the military is that of a Marine fighter pilot. He did not serve in a combat zone, but he received an M.A. from the Naval War College, Rhode Island, and completed a fellowship at M.I.T.

The general is suspected of having been a source in the 2012 New York Times article that originally publicized the computer bug. Some have speculated that this article prompted a retaliatory Iranian virus, Shamoon, that destroyed 30,000 hard drives belonging to the Saudi-based Aramco oil company — others claim that the impact was negligible.

Cartwright has not yet been charged with a crime, but has been formally notified of the investigation by the D.O.J. The conditions surrounding both the original leak and the current investigation are a bit murky. For one thing, it has been asserted that the original leak happened with White House complicity, in order to beef up the president's warrior image in time for the 2012 election.

But, whether or not Obama authorized the leaks as was alleged, the whole situation lacks logical soundness given the information at hand. If the accusations are true and Obama did sanction the leaks in time for 2012, why would Cartwright now be under investigation for executing those leaks? One the other hand, if the accusations are false and Obama did not sanction the leaks, Cartwright would be leaking a program that was apparently somewhat his brainchild, as it was he who "established a small cyberoperation inside the United States Strategic Command" and "joined officials in presenting a radical new idea to Mr. Bush".

We the public may anticipate more new information regarding this obscure situation.