A retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as the second-highest ranking US military officer has become a target of justice department probe into information leak about a covert US-Israeli cyberattack on Iran's nuclear programme, according to a senior Obama administration official.
The Washington Post reported retired general James E ''Hoss'' Cartwright served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was part of president Obama's inner circle on several critical national security issues before his retirement in 2011.
Charges, included a weapon mass destruction weapon use, which would carry a maximum sentence of death or life in prison.
According to the administration official, cited by the newspaper, Cartwright was suspected of revealing information about a highly classified effort to use a computer virus later came to be known as Stuxnet to sabotage equipment in Iranian nuclear enrichment plants.
Stuxnet formed part of a broader cyber campaign called Olympic Games that The New York Times disclosed last year as one of the first major efforts by the US to use computer code as a weapon against a major adversary.
Cartwright, who helped launch the campaign under president Bush and pushed for its escalation under Obama, was recently informed that he was a ''target'' of a wide-ranging justice department probe into the leak.
According to NBC News and The Washington Post, the US Department of Justice was investigating Cartwright for allegations that he provided reporters with information about the covert computer virus, Stuxnet. The operation is said to have been run by Cartwright.
Iran's government said in November 2010 that Iranian nuclear enrichment efforts had been temporarily disabled.
The investigation of the leak about the Iran cyberattack was among several national security leak investigations under the Obama administration.
Congressional leaders called for the criminal probe into who leaked the information, while Obama said his administration would not tolerate such leaks.
According to Republicans, the operation was leaked to increase Obama's national security credentials while he was running for re-election.
(See: Russian scientists raise alarm over Stuxnet damage at Iran's Bushehr N plant and Iran says Bushehr nuclear plant unaffected by Stuxnet virus)