Retired Major Genearl James Cartwright, once the second ranking soldier in the nation, is being targeted by the US Justice Department in a leak investigation involving the Stuxnet virus.
NBC said Cartwright, once the second highest ranking officer in the U.S. military, is being probed over the leaked information about the computer virus, which temporarily disabled 1,000 centrifuges used by Iran to enrich uranium, setting back its nuclear program.
The United States and Western powers believe the Iranian nuclear enrichment program is aimed at building atomic weapons, while Tehran says it is solely for civilian energy purposes.
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 U.S. cyber attacks, which began under former President George W. Bush.
The story was based on 18 months of interviews with "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 from 2007 to 2011.
News of the leak investigation came as the United States is trying to persuade Russia to deport American Edward Snowden, a former contractor working at the National Security Agency who disclosed information to two newspapers about secret U.S. government surveillance of internet and phone traffic.
Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong before the information was made public this month and is now believed to be in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
Why would someone that senior be leaking to the NY Times? One possibility is that he was told to. By the time the NY Times story was published, Iran had already identified the virus and was taking steps to mitigate its effects. Letting Iran know who was responsible could have been part of a psy-ops operation.
Otherwise, it's hard to fathom why Cartwright would leak - unless he dislikes the administration and thought that leaking the information would embarrass them. But one would think anyone who rose that high in the ranks would eschew such petty reasons for divulging secrets.