WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama pardoned James Cartwright on Tuesday.
Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, pleaded guilty in October to a single charge of making false statements to federal investigators in 2012 when he was questioned about leaking top secret information on U.S. efforts to cripple Iran’s nuclear program to two journalists.
Cartwright’s career was marked by decades of distinguished military service.
From August 2007 to August 2011, he served as the second-highest uniformed officer and, before that, he served as commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
During his tenure in these posts, he held the highest security clearance, and retained top security clearance upon his retirement from the military in 2011.
Federal prosecutors had sought a two-year prison sentence for Cartwright in court filings earlier this month, but his attorneys asked for probation, emphasizing his desire to persuade journalists to modify their reporting to protect national security interests.
“General Cartwright understands the magnitude of his offense and deeply regrets the decision that he made … He has accepted responsibility and acknowledged his guilt,” his attorneys wrote in court papers.
“(I)n General Cartwright’s communications with both journalists, he successfully persuaded them not to report information that would be harmful to the United States.”
One of those reporters, David Sanger of The New York Times, submitted a letter in support of Cartwright, explaining that “throughout the interview, (Cartwright) consistently showed his concern that information damaging to U.S. interests not be made public.”
The other reporter, Daniel Klaidman, who wrote for Newsweek, also submitted a letter on Cartwright’s behalf, as did several current and former members of Congress, along with military officials from the Bush and Obama administrations, all urging the judge for leniency in light of Cartwright’s decorated military career.
Cartwright, 67, served 40 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and was widely regarded within the military for his technical acumen and work in the areas of nuclear proliferation, missile defense and cybersecurity.
He was scheduled for sentencing before D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon on Jan. 31.