Nightly News   |  June 27, 2013

DOJ investigates former top military leader in cyber attack leak

Retired Marine General James “Hoss” Cartwright was the second-highest ranking member of the U.S. military, and a key Obama advisor who served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Legal sources tell NBC News Cartwright has been notified he’s the target of a Justice Department criminal investigation into a leak about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program. NBC’s Michael Isikoff reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. nbc news has learned the former number two man in the joint chiefs at the pentagon, a new retired marine corps four- star general with a close working relationship with president obama is under veinvestigation for leaking a top secret government project called the stuknet virus. it wormed its way into computers that ran iran's nuclear program . the leak of it's existence did damage to u.s. efforts against iran . the president vowed to find the person responsible. now comes our report tonight. his name is james cartwright , known as hos, his call sign as a fighter pilot. he is the target of a criminal investigation by the department of justice for a leak of intelligence. we begin with michael isikoff .

>> reporter: cartwright was in the key circle of national security for president obama . cartwright is notified he is the target of a justice department criminal investigation into a highly sensitive leak about a covert u.s. cyber attack on iran's nuclear program .

>> my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks, these are criminal acts when they release information like this.

>> reporter: the "the new york times" last year broke the story that president obama had secretly ordered a stepped up cyber weapon attack, using a computer virus known as stuxnet. and he conceded and oversaw the special operation from the pept dwon. he did not respond for a request for contact. gregory craig said only i have no comment, his attorney. key details about the stuxnet attack, include code word olympic games and success in disabling nearly 1,000 iranian centrifuges.

>> this leak was very damaging. clearly what was going on here was a method and should have been protected and it had devastating consequences.

>> reporter: the fbi originally focused on when the leak came from the white house , but late last year, agents started zeroing in on cartwright, who retired from the pentagon in 2011 . the motives of whoever leaked remain a mystery.

>> many reasons people leak classified information . sometimes to attack a program. sometimes to defend it. many times we just never know.

>> reporter: white house and justice department officials declined to comment on any aspect of the case, but legal sources tell nbc news, federal prosecutors have not issued subpoenas for phone records from "the new york times." brian.