The Obama administration appeared to be coming down heavy on the U.S. army in the wake of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, about the covert mass surveillance of Internet communications by the National Security Agency.
This week it has emerged that a retired U.S. General, James Cartwright, had been the focus of an investigation by the Department of Justice into the leaking of confidential information about an allegedly U.S.-backed Stuxnet virus attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010.
News of General Cartwright being in the line of fire of Attorney General Eric Holder came even as reports surfaced on Thursday of the U.S. Army blocking its soldiers’ access to The Guardian newspaper’s website “army-wide”. Along with The Washington Post, The Guardian was at the centre of the exposés on the NSA’s secret Internet snooping.
In the Stuxnet case, The New York Times published a detailed account of the virus and its use in June 2012, where it argued that President Barack Obama decided to “accelerate U.S. cyber attacks, which began under George W. Bush.”
This week NBC news reported that General Cartwright, formerly the second-highest ranking officer in the military, was being investigated over the leaking of information Stuxnet, which “temporarily disabled 1,000 centrifuges used by Iran to enrich uranium, setting back its nuclear programme.”
Meanwhile Monterey County Herald in California carried a report saying that employees at the Presidio of Monterey, an active U.S. Army installation, said The Guardian website had been blocked since the newspaper broke stories on the NSA’s “data collection.”
Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email to the Herald that the Army was filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks,” adding that it was routine for the Department of Defence to take preventative “network hygiene” measures to mitigate unauthorised disclosures of classified information.
This week’s news of army crackdowns comes even as the government continues to press “aiding the enemy” charges against Pfc Bradley Manning, the army intelligence officer charged with leaking classified Pentagon and State Department data to WikiLeaks.