Report: U.S., Israel developed Stuxnet virus

The U.S. National Security Agency and the Israeli military jointly developed Stuxnet, the complex computer virus that destroyed centrifuges in Iranian nuclear installations, the New York Times reported.

The cooperation began in the Bush administration and was accelerated by the Obama White House, according to the report, and may have been prompted in part by an American effort to dissuade Israel from launching a preemptive military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.

The Israel Defense Forces intelligence unit 8200 worked with the NSA to develop what Americans called “the bug,” according to the report. To do so, the teams built replicas of Iranian centrifuges using equipment that had been provided by Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi regime when it revealed its nuclear program to international inspectors in 2003.

After successful tests, “spies and unwitting accomplices” with access to the Iranian plant at Natanz infected computers there with thumb drives, the newspaper reported.

Many Western countries believe the Iranians are using what they say is a civilian nuclear energy program to mask an effort to make nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmad-inejad has said Israel should be “wiped off the map.” His country has dragged out negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency for inspections of its sites.

Israeli officials repeatedly have pressed the United States and other Western countries to halt the Iranian program and are widely believed to have prepared military strike plans against Iranian nuclear sites.

President Barack Obama has said he has not ruled out any options when it comes to halting the suspected Iranian weapons program. — jta