‘Hoss’ Under Fire: Retired Gen. Cartwright Subject of Federal Probe

Then-Gen. James "Hoss" Cartwright (left) with President Barack Obama at the White House on May 4, 2011. Two years later, Cartwright is retired and under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Washington is a town known for inaction and obstruction. The late former President John F. Kennedy uttered this now-famous quip about its slow-going nature: “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”

But that’s not true when it comes to falls from grace. For instance, one day you’re in the president’s inner circle, the odds-on-favorite to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then, months later, you’ve retired earlier than you expected and find yourself the subject of a Justice Department investigation.

Just ask James “Hoss” Cartwright, the retired former Marine Corps general and one-time vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

On Thursday evening, NBC News first reported that the man known in national security circles as “Hoss” is being investigated for leaking details of the “stuxnet” virus, a sophisticated computer bug that U.S. and Israeli officials allegedly used to disrupt Iran’s nuclear arms program.

The New York Times had previously reported that Cartwright came up with the idea for the “stuxnet” operation and oversaw its formation and execution, which spanned the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Here’s how NBC News on Thursday evening described the Justice Department probe’s focus on “Hoss”:

“But, said legal sources, while the probe that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered initially focused on whether the information came from inside the White House, by late last year FBI agents were zeroing in on Cartwright, who had served as one of the president’s “inner circle” of national security advisors. Two sources said prosecutors were able to identify Cartwright as a suspected leaker without resorting to a secret subpoena of the phone records of New York Times reporters.

One source familiar with the probe said the Justice Department has not made a final decision on whether to charge Cartwright.”

The author of that Times piece, David E. Sanger, later published a book titled “Confront and Conceal” that discusses in some detail the “stuxnet” bug and operation. A quick scan of that book shows information and quotes attributed to “a participant” in the operations, and several sections attributed to former officials familiar with “stuxnet.”

One appears to have been Cartwright, of whom insiders long said both Bush and Obama thought highly. In Washington, so many cliches hold true. But, perhaps, none more true than this: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett