General who confirmed Stuxnet cyber attack is pardoned

Gen. James Cartwright

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The Marine Corps four-star general who pled guilty to confirming the secret U.S.-Israeli cyberattack dubbed Stuxnet was pardoned Thursday by President Barack Obama.

Retired Gen. James Cartwright, formerly the vice chairman of the joint chiefs and the second-most senior officer in the entire U.S. military, had been facing a possible two-year sentence at the end of the month, according to court documents. He pled guilty in October to one felony count of making false statements.

According to court documents, the New York Times’ reporter David Sanger already had the story when he called Cartwright for confirmation, sometime in early 2012. Cartwright said he spoke to him — and later to Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek — to try to persuade them “not to report information that would be harmful to the U.S.” and was successful in that.

But when asked about both reporters in Nov. 2012 by FBI agents, during a voluntary interview where he was not represented by counsel, Cartwright said he had never discussed classified information with either of them. He went back to the agents two days later and made a clean breast of his contacts with the reporters.

Stuxnet was a computer worm that caused Iranian uranium purification centrifuges to destroy themselves while the system that monitored their operation told engineers all was well. The sophisticated, multi-stage cyberweapon marked the first hacking attack against industrial control systems — the specialized computers that run factories, refineries and chemical plants.

In a statement, Cartwright thanked the president, noting his “greatest pride” in serving the U.S. military for more than 40 years and concluding “God bless the United States of America.”

His attorney, Gregory Craig, also issued a statement calling the pardon “wise and just.”

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