In November of 2010, the existence of the Stuxnet virus was disclosed to reporters. The virus had been used by the US in a hacking attack to cause centrifuges in Iranian uranium enrichment facilities to fail, setting their nuclear weapons program back years. It turns out that this particular leak wasn’t carried out by a low-level individual, but allegedly by a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The U.S. Department of Justice has told retired Marine General James Cartwright, who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, that he is a target in the investigation. He faces allegations that he provided reporters with information about Stuxnet.
At the time the leak took place, it seemed to benefit the Obama administration, and Republicans accused the president of orchestrating it in order to disclose how effectively his administration was fighting terrorism.
Last year, the New York Times reported that General Cartwright had actually run "Operation Olympic" of which Stuxnet was a part, for both the Bush and Obama administrations. The Obama administration is the most leak-conscious in history, and has already carried out more leak investigations than all other presidencies combined.
For so many leaks to be taking place, there must be fundamental disagreements within the government about secrecy policies. If tried and convicted, General Cartwright could face a long prison term.
The general was a controversial figure within the military aristocracy. He was a Marine but with an uncharacteristic interest in computer technology. An iconoclast, he was always challenging the Defense Department to think in new ways. He was determined to force discussion on subjects like cyberwarfare and missile defense. Know as "Obama’s favorite general," he wasn’t a favorite with his colleagues, and was passed over for his final promotion, retiring instead.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: High level officials like General Cartwright routinely provide reporters with ‘sanctioned leaks’ when they are asked to do so by their superiors. The Stuxnet leak apparently didn’t harm US national security and did show the world that the US had extraordinary cyberwarfare capabilities and is a force to be reckoned with. For political reasons, the Obama Administration had every reason to sanction this leak at the point in the election cycle when it appeared. So what’s really going on here? The full story is yet to be told. Let’s hope it will be.