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Retired U.S. General Pleads Guilty In 'Stuxnet' Leak Case Involving Book By New York Times Reporter

A retired U.S. Marine Corps general who last served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pleaded guilty on Monday in a federal court to making false statements to the FBI during an investigation into leaks of classified information.

Four-star General James Cartwright was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2012 over a book written by New York Times reporter David Sanger, which exposed a malicious computer software program known as "Stuxnet" designed to disrupt Iran's nuclear program.

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Cartwright also in 2012 confirmed classified information about an unnamed country to Daniel Klaidman, then a reporter for Newsweek, according to his plea agreement.

He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in September 2011, four months before he began providing information to Sanger, the plea agreement said.

"I knew I was not the source of the story, and I didn't want to be blamed for the leak," said Cartwright of his effort to mislead FBI agents in a statement released after he pleaded guilty on Monday. "My only goal in talking to the reporters was to protect American interests and lives."

Cartwright's guilty plea was for his false statements to FBI agents, not for speaking to the reporters, said Cartwright's attorney Gregory Craig, of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, in a separate statement: "His effort to prevent publication of information that might harm American lives of national security does not constitute a violation of any law."

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the hearing. A false statements conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, but prosecutors and Cartwright's attorneys agreed his offense merited a sentence ranging from zero to six months.

Reuters and several other news outlets have previously reported that Stuxnet was developed jointly by U.S. and Israeli forces. Both the U.S. and Israel have never publicly admitted responsibility for Stuxnet.

Stuxnet was a sophisticated computer virus deployed covertly in 2009 and 2010 to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. The worm, parts of which surfaced publicly in 2010 due to a programing error that allowed it to spread across the open Internet, is believed to have destroyed a thousand or more centrifuges that were enriching uranium.

Cartwright has long been the target of a Justice Department probe investigating the source of leaks about Stuxnet to the New York Times.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Monday tentatively scheduled Cartwright's sentencing for Jan. 17, 2017, and acknowledged that part of the sentencing might be closed to allow for discussion of classified information.

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The book: Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.

President Obama's administration came to office with the world on fire. Confront and Conceal is the story of how, in his first term, Obama secretly used the most innovative weapons and tools of American power, including our most sophisticated - and still unacknowledged - arsenal of cyberweapons, aimed at Iran's nuclear program.

Washington and the world were rocked by Confront and Conceal, which goes deep into the Situation Room as Obama questions whether this new weapon can slow Iran and avoid a war - or whether it will create blowback, as the Iranians and others retaliate with cyberattacks on the United States.

It describes how the bin Laden raid worsened the dysfunctional relationship with Pakistan, and how Obama's early idealism about fighting a "war of necessity" in Afghanistan quickly turned to fatigue, frustration, and now withdrawal.

As the world seeks to understand how Obama will cope with nationalistic leaders in Beijing, a North Korea bent on developing a nuclear weapon that can reach American shores, and an Arab world where promising revolutions turned to chaos, Confront and Conceal - with an updated epilogue for this paperback edition - provides an unflinching account of these complex years of presidential struggle, in which America's ability to exert control grows ever more elusive.

From Thomas Ricks' review in the Times:

"Is the United States at war with Iran? If David Sanger's account in his new book, Confront and Conceal, on President Obama's foreign policy, is to be believed - and I find it very believable - we certainly are . . .

"The virtue of this book - its foundation of White House sources who give the author insiders' material like a transcript of Mr. Obama's last telephone call with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak - is also its weakness. That is, Mr. Sanger shows us the world through the eyes of Mr. Obama, Mr. Donilon and those around him. But he also tends to depict Washington and the world as they see it. The perceptions of White House officials, especially in the first year of the Obama presidency, which saw a steep learning curve for the president and those around him, are not always dispositive."

From NPR:

"On Monday's Fresh Air, Sanger talks about the president's changing foreign policy strategies in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where early idealism in the White House eventually transitioned into a policy called 'Afghan Good Enough.'

"'Afghan Good Enough,' the nickname of a committee organized to narrow the goals in Afghanistan, met regularly with the president to determine what was considered 'good enough' in terms of goals for the country.

"'The kind of conversations that took place within that group represented a realpolitik that no one ever admits to on Sunday morning talk shows,' writes Sanger. 'One participant told me later, 'We spent the time asking questions like, How much corruption can we live with?'"

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See also:
* When Reporters Discover Selective Leak Targeting.

* Obama Defends Leak Prosecutions.

* Obama's Efforts To Control Leaks 'Most Aggressive Since Nixon,' Report Finds.

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Previously:

* Obama Worst FOIA President Ever.

* How Obama Undermined FOIA Reforms.

* Obama's FOIA Fail.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* Only Nixon Harmed A Free Press More Than Obama.

* Why Reporters In The U.S. Now Need Protection.

* Technologists Turn On Obama.

* EFF Sues NSA Over FOIA.

* EFF Wins FOIA Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions On Government Spying.

* Oscar And Pulitzer Award-Winning Journalist Laura Poitras Sues U.S. Government To Uncover Records After Years Of Airport Detentions And Searches.

* Obama: No Questions, Please!

* Sunlight Wins 13 Years Of Federal Contract Data.

* Workshop On Government's Openness Is Closed To Public.

* Government Could Hide Existence Of Records Under FOIA Rule Proposal.

* Trying (And Trying) To Get Records From The 'Most Transparent Administration' Ever.

* Delayed, Denied, Dismissed: Failures On The FOIA Front.

* SPJ, Again: Transparency Has Gotten Worse Under Obama.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on October 18, 2016


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