WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28:  Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright holds a news briefing and update on the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal implementation at the Pentagon January 28, 2011 in Washington, DC. On the heels of a visit from the Egyptian Army chief, Cartwright encouraged all the people involved in the recent unrest in Egypt -- including the army, police, politicians and protesters -- to show restraint.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright holds a news briefing and update on the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal implementation at the Pentagon January 28, 2011 in Washington, DC. On the heels of a visit from the Egyptian Army chief, Cartwright encouraged all the people involved in the recent unrest in Egypt -- including the army, police, politicians and protesters -- to show restraint. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

The feds accused Cartwright of providing and confirming classified information to two reporters

Cartwright became Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2007 and retired in 2011

(CNN) —  

The former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff pled guilty in federal court Monday, admitting he lied to the FBI when questioned about whether he provided two journalists with top secret information in 2012.

Retired four-star Gen. James Cartwright sat quietly with his attorney, former White House Counsel Gregory Craig, as Assistant US Attorney Leo J. Wise described the facts underlying the single charge of making false statements to federal investigators.

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.

Cartwright’s sentencing hearing is set for January 17, 2017.