Cartwright, who became vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2007, signed more than 36 non-disclosure agreements related to Department of Defense programs during his tenure, the government said. Cartwright retired in 2011, but kept his top secret security clearance.
After his retirement, Cartwright again signed a "Classified Information Non-Disclosure Agreement," which included warnings "that unauthorized disclosure ... by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation," according to the government's court filing detailing the charge against him.
In 2012, investigators showed Cartwright classified information, including top-secret information, in a book by David Sanger, a national security correspondent for The New York Times, but Cartwright denied providing the material to Sanger, the government said. The government did not reveal the title of Sanger's book. He has written two books on US foreign policy, the second of which was published in 2012 and titled, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power."
Cartwright similarly told investigators that he had not provided classified information to Daniel Klaidman, then at Newsweek.
"So you are pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty?" asked US District Court Judge Leon.
"Yes, sir," Cartwright answered.
As CNN has previously reported, Cartwright has been under federal investigation for providing classified information to reporters since 2013.
While the charge of making false statements to federal investigators carries a five-year maximum sentence, Cartwright's plea agreement states that he should face no more than six months in prison.
There are clear differences between Cartwright's case and Hillary Clinton's email server. But the common link is in the non-disclosure forms both had to sign.
The NDA signed by Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State is significant because the State Department has never publicly acknowledged that she signed documents, confirming she was "advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling" of top secret material was a punishable offense.
The use of a private server for government business, on its face, is a clear violation of the NDA agreement.
The NDA goes on to say -- "I have been advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of SCI by me could cause irreparable injury to the United States or be used to advantage by foreign nationals."
This summer the intelligence community's inspector general or ICIG reviewed a random sample from Clinton's server used for government business. The rules are straight forward: the agencies that obtain the intelligence have final say on classification matters, and the affected agencies confirmed to the ICIG that four emails contained classified information that did not originate with the State Department. Two of the emails contained Top Secret/SCI material -- the most highly classified. "Sensitive Compartmented" material has limited access, and requires security clearance holders to sign additional paper work, "to be read in, and off" the project. This second NDA is designed to reinforce how important it is to protect the information as well as sources and methods.
On Friday, based on anonymous sourcing, Politico reported that "the U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton's private account contained top-secret information,"
A spokeswoman for the ICIG, Andrea. G. Williams, told Fox the classification had not changed, and no formal notification had been received by her office. The State Department requested a second review of the emails by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who oversees the 17 agencies. A statement was expected Friday from the ODNI, that no such determination had been made and the review was ongoing.
The Clinton campaign seemed quick to seize on the Politico report, in light of thenow public NDAs. A second NDA for classified information, not specific to special programs, signed by Mrs. Clinton also became public.
Clinton aides had countered the NDA by referring to the Politico report.
The inspector general of the CIA finally concluded that there were several emails that were marked classified that had been stored on Clinton's server - a clear violation of her signed NDA which prohibited "negligent handling" of classified information.
Given what we know now about Clinton's top aide at the State Department, Patrick Kennedy, urging the FBI to change the classification on at least one email, you have to wonder what kind of pressure by state was applied to members of the intelligence community that caused them to "back away" from claims that Clinton mishandled classified information.
Cartwright is going to spend 6 months in jail for lying to investigators. He could have been sentenced to many years more for exposing classified information. The bottom line is that the government threw the book at Cartwright and let Clinton go scott free.
It helps to have friends in high places if you're Hillary Clinton.