Former Marine general focus of cyber warfare leak investigation

The former No. 2 officer in the U.S. military is now the focus of a Justice Department investigation on the illegal leak of classified information on American cyber warfare operations. 

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Federal investigators are exploring whether retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright disclosed details of U.S. efforts to hack into Iranian networks and sabotage the country's nuclear enrichment program. 

Cartwright, who was the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until his retirement in 2011, is suspected of revealing details of the U.S.-led cyber hacking operation against Iran, code named Olympic Games, to the New York Times. 

NBC News first reported details of the ongoing investigation into Cartwright late Thursday.

The four-star general reportedly concieved and ran the Olympic Games operation in 2010, in which agents working with Washington and Israel infected the Iranian networks within the nuclear program with the Stuxnet virus, the Times reported shortly before Cartwright's retirement. 

The Stuxnet virus, introduced into the nuclear enrichment systems via thumb drives, reportedly took down 1,000 nuclear centrifuges being used by Tehran to enrich uranium. 

Attorney General Eric Holder initiated the probe into the Olympic Games leak, focusing on the administration's national security team. 

However, FBI investigators focused the leak probe onto Cartwright based on information gathered during the investigation, NBC reports. 

Federal prosecurtors claim that evidence from the leak query point to Cartwright as the main suspect, according to recent reports. 

The former four-star general had been a key member of President Obama's inner circle of national security advisers, and was seen as the favorite to replace then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. 

During his tenure inside the Pentagon, Cartwright was one of the early advocates of cyber warfare operations among the department's top officer corps. 

However, tensions between Cartwright, Mullen and much of the Pentagon's brass scuttled the four-star general's chances of replacing Mullen as the U.S. military's top officer. 

Cartwright was eventually passed over for the chairmanship, in favor of current Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. 

Since 2011, Cartwright has served as a senior board member and adviser to the Washington-based defense think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

The White House and Pentagon have been cracking down on illegal disclosures in recent months, to mixed results. 

In June, Pentagon investigators intentionally omitted details of possible disclosures of top-secret information to the makers of "Zero Dark Thirty" in their final review of the department's involvement in the film. 

The movie was a fictionalized chronicle of U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism operations leading up to the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

A draft version of the review claimed former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed classified information to filmmakers during his tenure as CIA director. 

The Pentagon omitted any mention of those disclosures by Panetta in the department's final report on the matter. 

The department is still conducting an investigation into whether Defense Intelligence Undersecretary Michael Vickers released any classified details to the movie-makers

-story was updated at 12:56pm