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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/19/14

A Tale of Two Alleged Iran Nuke Leakers

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Reprinted from exposefacts.org


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Last week focused a lot of attention on New York Times reporter James Risen, who is facing the threat of jail time for refusing to testify in a leak case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. The Supreme Court refused to hear Risen's appeal of a subpoena to testify in June.

On Monday, a bunch of fellow Pulitzer Prize winners signed a statement supporting Risen. On Thursday, a coalition of press freedom groups submitted 100,000 signatures calling on DOJ to halt its pursuit of Risen's testimony. In an interview with Maureen Dowd after a press conference on press freedom on Thursday, Risen called President Obama, "the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation."

Meanwhile, even as Risen waits to find out whether the Department of Justice will send him to jail to attempt to force him to testify about his source, Sterling also waits, as he has since January 2011, when he was first arrested. The government has done nothing official in Sterling's case since the Supreme Court refusal to take Risen's appeal in June.

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Sterling is accused of providing Risen classified information regarding Operation Merlin, a bungled CIA effort to deal Iran bad nuclear weapons information. The information appeared in Chapter 9 of Risen's 2006 book, State of War, which exposed a number of the Bush Administration's ill-considered intelligence programs.

Risen's account revealed not just that CIA tried to thwart nuclear proliferation by dealing doctored nuclear blueprints to American adversaries, but that in this case, the Russian defector the US charged with dealing the blueprints to Iran told them the blueprints were flawed. In other words, Risen's story -- for which Sterling is one alleged source -- demonstrated questionable judgment and dangerously incompetent execution by the CIA, all in an effort to thwart Iran's purported nuclear weapons program.

Sterling's story, then, makes an instructive contrast with that of retired General James Cartwright, who is alleged by the press, but not yet -- publicly at least -- by the government, to have served as the source for another story about the intelligence community's questionable judgment and dangerously incompetent execution of counter-proliferation plots targeting Iran.

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Over a year ago, NBC reported that General Cartwright had received a target letter informing him he was under investigation as the source for one of David Sanger's stories on US-Israeli efforts to stall Iran's enrichment program with the StuxNet cyberattack.

According to legal sources, Retired Marine Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has received a target letter informing him that he's under investigation for allegedly leaking information about a massive attack using a computer virus named Stuxnet on Iran's nuclear facilities. Gen. Cartwright, 63, becomes the latest individual targeted over alleged leaks by the Obama administration, which has already prosecuted or charged eight individuals under the Espionage Act.

[snip]

As soon as the Times report appeared, Congressional leaders demanded a criminal probe, and President Obama said he had "zero tolerance" for "these kinds of leaks." Republicans charged that senior administration officials had leaked the details to bolster the president's national security credentials during the 2012 campaign.

But, said legal sources, while the probe that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered initially focused on whether the information came from inside the White House, by late last year FBI agents were zeroing in on Cartwright, who had served as one of the president's "inner circle" of national security advisors. Two sources said prosecutors were able to identify Cartwright as a suspected leaker without resorting to a secret subpoena of the phone records of New York Times reporters.

One source familiar with the probe said the Justice Department has not made a final decision on whether to charge Cartwright.

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Subsequent reports revealed Cartwright was stripped of his security clearance sometime last year.

The story for which Cartwright allegedly served as a source did not expose StuxNet --cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab did that. Nor was it Sanger's first story confirming US and Israeli involvement; in 2011 he partnered with other New York Times journalists to provide details on US and Israeli collaboration on the attacks.

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Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler writes the "Right to Know" column for ExposeFacts. She is best known for providing in-depth analysis of legal documents related to "war on terrorism" programs and civil liberties. Wheeler blogs at emptywheel.net and publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon and theProgressive. She is the author of more...)
 
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