President Barack Obama has pardoned a retired Marine general who allegedly lied to the FBI about leaks to reporters.
The pardon of James Cartwright came on January 17 on a day in which Obama also granted a sentence commutation to another former military member who leaked government secrets: Chelsea Manning.
Cartwright had pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI over whether he had spoken to reporters about a computer virus designed to hobble Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cartwright Was Accused of Telling Reporters About a Computer Virus Being Used to Sabotage Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program
According to the Daily Beast, the accusations against Cartwright center around the “so-called Stuxnet computer virus, which the U.S. government reportedly used to sabotage centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear facility in 2008 and 2009.”
The Hill reported that the U.S. government had undertaken the computer sabotage effort with Israel, and dubbed it “Operation Olympic Games.”
2. Cartwright Was the Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
According to Fox 31 Denver, Cartwright had a lengthy and distinguished military career before the leak investigation.
“Cartwright’s career was marked by decades of distinguished military service. From August 2007 to August 2011, he served as the second-highest uniformed officer and, before that, he served as commander of US Strategic Command,” reported the television station. “During his tenure in these posts, he held the highest security clearance, and retained top security clearance upon his retirement from the military in 2011.”
3. A New York Times Reporter Exposed the Computer Sabotage Program
A New York Times reporter named David Sanger wrote about the computer virus in 2012, which caused federal investigators to open a probe that eventually led them to Cartwright.
Sanger has said that he believes Cartwright’s motivations were to protect the United States, reported The Hill. The reporters submitted letters on Cartwright’s behalf, and his attorney said that Cartwright had “successfully persuaded them not to report information that would be harmful to the United States,” reported KDVR.
In a sentencing memo, the government contended that Cartright “lied about his discussions with Sanger and Daniel Klaidman, who wrote a Newsweek article focused cyberattacks against Iran,” the Hill reported.
4. Cartwright Lost Consciousness When Confronted By Authorities
The Hill reported that federal investigators produced an email that showed Cartwright’s denials were not true, and “Cartwright immediately became ashen, the report stated, and lost consciousness.”
Cartwright had not yet been sentenced, but court filings indicated authorities were seeking 2 years in prison, according to KDVR-TV.
5. Obama Also Commuted the Sentence of Chelsea Manning
Cartwright was not the only person who imperiled government secrets and received clemency from President Obama.
In his most high profile clemency grant, the president commuted most of the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who had leaked government documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning was serving a 35-year prison sentence, but she will now be released from prison in May.
You can read more about the Manning sentence commutation here: