11 December 2019

US leak investigation stalls over fears of revealing US-Israel anti-Iran operation

KONFRONTASI - An investigation into a top US military general accused of leaking sensitive information has been halted over fears it could confirm a joint US-Israeli covert operation against Iran's nuclear program, according to US officials.

Federal prosecutors had been investigating whether former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General James E. Hoss Cartwright, leaked highly classified information to a New York Times reporter, current and former US officials say.

The leaked information was about a highly-classified operation to hinder Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage, an operation not acknowledged by Israel or the US.

The reports have not been acknowledged by Israel or the United States.

Federal prosecutors will have to overcome considerable national security and diplomatic considerations if they want to move forward, including setting the White House against Israel if Tel Aviv is opposed to any information being exposed in court about the cyber-sabotage program.

Such an action may harm relations even further between two, which are already tense due to disagreements over Washington’s efforts to reach a nuclear accord with Iran.

 “There are always legitimate national security reasons for not proceeding in one of these ­cases,” said John L. Martin, who handled many sensitive espionage investigations as a former Justice Department prosecutor.

The Washington Post said the investigation has generated a tension between national security concerns and federal prosecutor's desire to hold high-ranking officials accountable for disclosing classified information.

“There’s a fundamental tension in cases­­ like this between the needs of a criminal prosecution and the needs of national security,” said Jason Weinstein, a former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division,

The US Department of Justice has not said if it will proceed with a case against Cartwright, who retired in 2011. He helped design the cyber-campaign against Iran under former President George W. Bush and escalated the program under President Barack Obama.

FBI investigators focused on Cartwright in the fall of 2012 and interviewed him at least twice, according to people who are familiar with the investigation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The covert cyber-sabotage operation, code name Olympic Games, was revealed in a 2012 book by the New York Times reporter David E. Sanger.  

Even before the book, security experts and researchers speculated that the US and Israel were behind the Stuxnet worm.[ptv]

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