NBC reports that Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright is under investigation as the source for David Sanger’s 2012 New York Times article revealing that the United States is behind the Stuxnet computer virus, which was used to infect computers at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facilities and at the Bushehr nuclear energy plants and delay their going hot.
High government officials in Washington routinely leak classified information, as part of turf battles inside the government. Cartwright may have been using Sanger to ensure that Stuxnet was not wholly abandoned (it was his baby). That such leaks are so routine, and are part of Washington’s way of doing business, is what makes the harsh espionage charges against people like Edward Snowden so hypocritical. He who is without leaks should cast the first stone.
The Cartwright story (and remember that he is only a suspect) intersects with Edward Snowden’s revelations about National Security Administration spying in many ways. It seems likely that suspicion is now falling on Cartwright because the NSA knows David Sanger’s phone number and has been looking at everyone he talked to on the phone in the months leading up to his article. We know that the NSA has been repeatedly requesting massive amounts of US phone information and storing it for easy search. Since Sanger’s article is proof that an illegal act was committed, as Obama said at the time, getting a FISA warrant to go through Sanger’s already-stored records would have been child’s play. When the PATRIOT Act was proposed, the FBI promised it would be used only for counter-terrorism. But that promise has for many years rung hollow.
While Osama Ben Laden knew not to use the phone during the last seven years of his life, American reporters and generals thought they were safe. PRISM did not catch Ben Laden because he went off the communications grid, and now anyone who wants to do anything the Federal government considers illicit had better do the same. This simple observation demonstrates that the Obama/ NSA cover story, that they are collecting all these phone records to fight terrorism, makes no sense. The data is most likely to be used against American non-terrorists
Another cautionary tale about NSA warrantless surveillance and Stuxnet is that the program shows how the US government is now a criminal enterprise and entirely willing to take risks that harm ordinary Americans. In 2010 the US government programmers made an error in Stuxnet that allowed it to escape from Iran’s Natanz computers out onto the internet, where it became a pest, infecting ordinary business and home computers around the world, including inside the US. By August, 2010, the worm had infected 100,000 computers in 115 countries in the world. Obama decided not to shut Stuxnet down even after it had caused all this damage. The ordinary consumers and businesses affected ought to sue the US government.
If we can’t trust them not to infect us with worms, why in the world should we trust them with all of our personal information?
Since Cartwright is a member of the inside-the-Beltway elite, you can bet that the courtier press will not treat him the way they have Edward Snowden, even if he proves guilty. Here will be the differences:
1. No one will obsess about the exercise habits of Gen. Cartwright’s wife.
2. Gen. Cartwright will not be characterized as “a 63-year-old hacker.”
3. Gen. Cartwright will not be described as “nerdy” or “flaky.”
4. David Gregory will not ask that David Sanger be prosecuted for espionage because he aided and abetted Cartwright’s leaking.
5. We won’t get stories every day about where in McLean, Virginia, Gen. Cartwright is living.
6. Gen. Cartwright won’t be accused of being a spy for Iran.
7. No lurid stories will be rehearsed on the Sunday afternoon shows about Cartwright’s allegedly overly familiar relationship with a young female aide in 2009, with heavy innuendo as to what the episode said about his reckless character.
8. No FBI informants will be placed inside the elite Alfalfa Club in DC that Cartwright was known to attend.
9. Cartwright’s loyalty to the United States won’t be impugned by anchors or congressmen.
10. Dirt won’t be dug up on David Sanger’s private life in an attempt to discredit his reporting on Cartwright’s Stuxnet.
It’s not what is done. It is who does it that matters in Washington. Even past closeness to power covers a multitude of sins.
( Just for the humorless, I don’t think any of the above 10 things should be done, but these smear techniques also shouldn’t have been deployed against Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian).