Attorney General Taps Federal Prosecutors for Stuxnet Leak

Monday, June 11, 2012

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Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI opened an investigation into the source of recently leaked information regarding covert operations conducted by the U.S. government.

Now Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two federal prosecutors to lead the investigation into leaks concerning the government's use of a sophisticated cyber weapon known as Stuxnet and a foiled attack by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“These two highly-respected and experienced prosecutors will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI. I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice, wherever it leads,” Holder said.

Previously, FBI Director Robert Mueller had announced an investigation into the leaking of information surrounding the disruption of the a planned attack using a bomb concealed in under garments.

With the appointment of special investigators by Holder, the probe has widened to include the disclosure of the development of the Stuxnet virus, which infected systems that provided operations control for Iranian production networks, and was most likely produced to stifle Iran's nuclear weapons program.

“Leaks such as this threaten ongoing operations, puts at risk the lives of sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources, and damages our relationships with our foreign partners.” Mueller said last month.

Stuxnet, which emerged in 2010, targeted Siemens Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and is thought to have caused severe damage to equipment at Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, setting back the nation's weapons program by as much as several years.

Stuxnet is largely considered to be a game changer in the world of information security, as the infection did not merely cause problems with the tainted systems, but actually affected kinetic damage on the equipment those systems controlled.

The leaked information about the development of the Stuxnet virus was revealed in an article by New York Times' writer David Sanger, which prompted Holder's move to appoint special investigators.

“Leaks such as this have … a huge impact on our ability to do our business, not just on a particular source and the threat to the particular source, but your ability to recruit sources is severely hampered,” Mueller said.

“In cases such as this, the relationship with your counterparts overseas are damaged and which means that an inhibition in the willingness of others to share  information with us where they don’t think that information will remain secure.  So it also has some long-term effects, which is why it is so important to make certain that the persons who are responsible for the leak are brought to justice," Mueller maintains.

Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that the leaks may have been intentional on the part of the White House in "an attempt to further the president's political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest rebutted the speculation, stating "It's classified for a reason, because publicizing that information would pose a significant threat to national security."

President Obama also denied there was an intentional leak emanating from the White House, stating that “the notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong."

The investigation could result in multiple subpoenas, including those directed at White House officials and Time reporter Sanger.

“[The reporters] are going to fight you tooth and nail but, eventually … you can actually subpoena them - but there are strict guidelines," said former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg.

Source:  http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/06/attorney-general-eric-holder-appoints-federal-prosecutors-for-leak-investigations/

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