Obama’s ‘Favorite General’ May Be the Latest Leaker

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Gen. James Cartwright.Photo: Chip Somodevilla/2009 Getty Images

President Obama made it clear on Thursday that he has bigger things to worry about than some "29-year-old hacker," but he may be slightly more interested in the latest leak allegations, as they involve the man Bob Woodward described as "Obama's favorite general." Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, who was the second ranking officer in the U.S. military before his retirement in 2011, is the target of an investigation into the leak of classified information about a U.S. cyber attack on Iran's nuclear program. As NBC News notes, few people were more familiar with the program, as Cartwright "conceived and ran the cyber operation, called Olympic Games, under Presidents Bush and Obama."

A senior Obama administration official told the Washington Post that the former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is being investigated by the Justice Department for allegedly leaking information about the computer virus Stuxnet, which was part of the Olympic Games campaign. In a front page story in June 2012, the New York Times revealed that the joint U.S.-Israeli effort was accelerated by Obama, and set Iran's nuclear program back by up to two years.

Cartwright's potential motives are unclear. He was part of Obama's inner circle of national security matters, and was believed to be one of the leading candidates for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, he was passed over for the promotion in 2011, reportedly because he didn't get along with the Pentagon brass. After the Times report appeared, members of Congress demanded a criminal probe. While Obama said he had "zero tolerance" for "these kinds of leaks," Republicans accused White House officials of leaking the details to beef up the president's national security credentials before the election.

Two sources told NBC that prosecutors managed to track down Cartwright without subpoenaing the phone records of Times reporters. The Times tucked this note into its story on the Justice Department's investigation into its reporting: "Asked about the NBC News report, Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, said, 'We don’t comment on our confidential sources.'"