President Obama Lets Alleged Source of Stuxnet Leak Walk Free

President Barack Obama gave Gen. James Cartwright a full pardon for lying to the FBI.
January 17, 2017, 11:01pm
Image: Master Sgt. Adam Stump/U.S. Department of Defense

President Obama pardoned retired General James Cartwright, who is believed to be the source who told a New York Times reporter that the United States and Israel were behind the famous "Stuxnet" cyberattack. The cyberattack made headlines around the world in 2010 and is widely considered to be among the first to target infrastructure and make real-world damage, as it sabotaged equipment in an Iranian nuclear facility.

Read more: The History of Stuxnet: The World's First True Cyberweapon

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced that the President was pardoning or shortening sentences to several people, including Cartwright and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning. Cartwright plead guilty to lying to the FBI during its leak investigation last year, when he denied that he was the source of the leaks surrounding the Stuxnet computer worm, which slowed down the country's nuclear enrichment program.

Cartwright was set to be sentenced on Tuesday but, instead, he received the full pardon from Obama. He was facing a punishment that could have ranged between a $500 fine and six months in prison.

A White House official justified the pardon referring to Cartwright's extensive 40-year record in the US military.

"He's somebody who's dedicate his life and his career to protecting the country, and his service to the country has weighed heavily in the President's decision," a senior administration official said during a press call on Tuesday.

Moreover, the White House underlined the fact that during Cartwright's trial, a reporter said he had only contacted Cartwright to make sure he wasn't publishing facts that would endanger US national security, and that Cartwright didn't tell him anything he didn't know already.

"Obviously when the president's is making clemency decisions, motive matters. And it's clear in this case, based on what the journalist has said and based on what General Cartwright has said that General Cartwright's motive was different than most people who are facing charges of leaking classified information to journalists," the official said.

Steve Vladek, the co-editor in chief of Just Security, wrote in a blog post that Cartwright's pardon is far more significant than Manning's from a policy perspective.

"Is it possible, then, that the Cartwright pardon is a tacit admission on the government's part that it has been a bit too hard on leakers and those, like General Cartwright, who have interfered with leak investigations?" Vladeck asked rhetorically.

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