Federal investigators looking into leaks that exposed a cyber operation that targeted Iran’s nuclear program have bolstered pressure on current and former senior government officials suspected of involvement, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
The inquiry, which was launched last June, is examining disclosure of classified information about Stuxnet, a computer virus developed jointly by the United States and Israel that damaged nuclear centrifuges at the Islamic Republic’s primary uranium enrichment plant.
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Sources privy to the investigation told the Washington Post that prosecutors are pursuing “everybody – at pretty high levels, too. There are many people who’ve been contacted from different agencies.”
According to the report, investigators have conducted extensive analysis of the e-mail accounts and phone records of current and former government officials in a search for links to journalists.
The Obama administration so far has prosecuted six officials for disclosing classified information, more than all previous administrations combined. But the Stuxnet probe could be the highest-profile probe yet, and it could implicate senior-level officials, considering that knowledge of the virus was likely to have been limited to a small set of Americans and Israelis
The Post asserted that the advent of sophisticated software capable of sifting through huge volumes of e-mail messages have significantly improved the ability of the FBI to find evidence. And the Stuxnet probe is just one in a series of inquiries into leaks of sensitive information.
“People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick,” a person familiar with one of the inquiries said. “There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations.”
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