James Cartwright, a retired Marine Corps general who as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff served as a key member of President Obama’s national security team, admitted yesterday that he lied to the FBI about his discussions with reporters about Iran’s nuclear program, the New York Times reports. Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed that under sentencing guidelines, the punishment could range from a $500 fine to six months in prison. His lawyer, Gregory Craig, said Cartwright had spoken to journalists after they had already reported their stories and that his motive was to prevent publication of information that might have harmed national security. The investigation focused on leaks to reporters for The New York Times and Newsweek.
The case grew out of a period of political furor over leaks in 2012, when books and articles appeared about Obama’s national security record during his first term. Republicans in Congress accused the White House of deliberately leaking government secrets, endangering national security to make Obama look tough in an election year. The Times said it was “disappointed that the Justice Department has gone forward with the leak investigation that led to today’s guilty plea by General Cartwright. These investigations send a chilling message to all government employees that they should not speak to reporters. The inevitable result is that the American public is deprived of information that it needs to know.”