The Stuxnet Leaker Might Be the General Credited with Getting It Started

The White House has zeroed in on retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright

The White House has zeroed in on retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP file photo

Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright presented the idea to the White House.

The Obama administration's investigation into the leak of classified information on Stuxnet, a U.S. cyberattack targeting Iran's nuclear programs, has zeroed in on retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright. As in, the general credited with presenting the idea of Stuxnet to the White House in the first place. 

NBC's scoop on the story explains that the Justice Department started investigating Cartwright late last year, after ruling out the possibility of a leaker from inside the White House. Cartwright, they write, "conceived and ran the cyber operation" for the Bush administration. The project, codename "Olympic Games," carried over into the Obama administration, who asked for even more attacks against Iran. The investigation was prompted by a June 2012 New York Times story on Stuxnet, which was a classified, joint project between the U.S. and Israel. Among other things, investigators pulled the phone and email records of every government official who communicated with the Times's David Sanger. Here's how Sanger wrote about Cartwright in his piece:

"For years the C.I.A. had introduced faulty parts and designs into Iran’s systems — even tinkering with imported power supplies so that they would blow up — but the sabotage had had relatively little effect. General James E. Cartwright, who had established a small cyberoperation inside the United States Strategic Command, which is responsible for many of America’s nuclear forces, joined intelligence officials in presenting a radical new idea to Mr. Bush and his national security team. It involved a far more sophisticated cyberweapon than the United States had designed before." 

Stuxnet is particularly notable as the virus that got away: in 2010, the virus managed to escape from the computers at the Iran nuclear facility, spreading around the world. While the virus's moment in the spotlight was embarrassing for the Obama administration, it did reportedly manage to take out 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges in Iran's facilities before going rogue. 

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