One of the highest ranking military officers in the US is under investigation for allegedly leaking top secret information about a cyber attack on Iran's nuclear programme, according to reports.

NBC news channel reported on Thursday that retired General James Cartwright, a former second-highest-ranking officer, was under investigation for leaking information on a covert computer virus, called Stuxnet.

The virus was used in 2010 to temporarily disable 1,000 centrifuges used for enriching uranium by Iran's nuclear facilities.

Cartwright, who was the number two person in the joint chiefs of staff from 2007 to 2011, was instrumental in the development of Stuxnet, and his role was publicised in a New York Times article published last year.

The article exposed that the virus was the Obama administration's key weapon against Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

President Barack Obama responded to the article sternly: "My attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks. These are criminal acts when they release information like this."

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington DC, said that there was ongoing speculation about Cartwright's motive behind the leaks.

"It's simply a stunning development when you consider that the Obama administration has always said that 'people who leak are going to be prosecuted if we figure out who they are.'"

Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists, told NBC that "there are many reasons why people leak classified information".

"Sometimes to attack a programme, sometimes to defend it, sometimes we don't ever know," he said.

According to NBC, Stuxnet is capable of both surveillance and harming computers, and was initally spread using infected removable drives.

Neither Cartwright nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment, reported NBC.

Source: Agencies