Israel’s role in the cyber-sabotage of Iran’s nuclear weapons development could hinder a leaks prosecution.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the inquiry by the US government into whether James Cartwright, a retired general in the US Marines, leaked the information about the Stuxnet virus to The New York Times was stalled, among other reasons, over fears that moving forward would expose Israeli secrets.
The computer virus, first discovered in 2010, sabotaged uranium-enriching centrifuges. It has been widely attributed to the United States and Israel, working in tandem, but neither country has acknowledged responsibility.
If the US decides to move forward with the case despite Israeli concerns, it may worsen already frayed relations between the country, particularly in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress earlier this month, in which he warned of a ‘bad’ agreement taking shape between the US and other Western powers and Iran regarding its nuclear program.
US officials also fear revelations in the case may complicate the negotiations.
The Justice Department did not make clear whether it plans to proceed with the case against Cartwright, who helped designed the cyber-campaign against Iran under President George H.W. Bush’s administration.
“There’s a fundamental tension in cases like this between the needs of a criminal prosecution and the needs of national security,” Jason Weinstein, a former deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, told the Washington Post.
“Where that comes to a head is when prosecutors want to use evidence in a courtroom that is highly classified and very sensitive.”
Under the Espionage Act, prosecutors may file charges against Cartwright within ten years from the date of the alleged crime.