CBS News is reporting that a retired U.S. Marine, Gen. James Cartwright, is being investigated for leaking information regarding the 2010 cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities involving the Stuxnet computer virus, which Wired described as “world’s first real cyberweapon.” But as the Obama administrations continues its war on whistleblowers, it’s time to call into question why informing citizens of what their government is doing is considered a crime.
The Stuxnet virus was created and deployed, most believe by the U.S. and Israel, with the intention of disrupting 1,000 Iranian nuclear centrifuges.
The New York Times, and subsequently other newspapers, published extensive details about the attack and the Obama administration acted swiftly, launching a leak investigation to determine who provided the secret information.
Most would agree that the U.S. government has the right to hold some information secret in the name of national security. However, oversight is essential to keeping government activity within its constitutional bounds. This is impossible when no one knows what the government does, including Congress. As the spying scandals revealed by leaker Edward Snowden brought to light, the NSA has repeatedly lied to Congress about the scope of its surveillance.
Some will say, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. have said of Snowden, that leakers should be prosecuted because they broke the law. But if distributing information considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information is unlawful, all government whistleblowers break the law.
Prosecuting whistleblowers is a massive threat to transparency, and therefore to limited government. As such, the burden of proof should be on the government to demonstrate how revealing the details of Stuxnet, after its release, harmed national security.
*Contributor’s views are those of their own.