On Tuesday morning FBI Director James Comey said the words “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statute regarding the handling of classified information, no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
Really? Since Obama took office in 2009, seven people have been charged under the Espionage Act — all for leaking classified or sensitive information. Five — John Kiriakou, Shamai Leibowitz, Jeffrey Sterling, former State Department official Stephen Kim, and Chelsea (né Bradley) Manning — got jail time.
Skipping Manning because his leak was in a category all its own, the other four shows that there are “reasonable” prosecutors who will bring charges in such cases.
Stephen Kim pleaded guilty in 2014 to disclosing a classified report on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen. That was the case where former AG Eric Holder wiretapped Rosen’s parents. His lawyer said the information at issue “was less sensitive or surprising than much of what we read in the newspaper every day.” Kim spent 13 months in prison.
Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in May for revealing classified information about the CIA’s effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to journalist James Risen (who refused to reveal his sources). Sterling was convicted of sharing information of a failed operation to give flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.
Like Drake, Sterling’s revelations occurred after he tried to get Congress to act:
In 2003, Jeffrey went to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to voice concerns he had regarding ‘Operation Merlin,’ which he worked on while at the agency,” Holly Sterling wrote. “He had grave concerns about mismanagement of the program and potential harm to our country. This was a legal and proper channel for agency employees to voice any such concerns.”
Shamai Leibowitz, was a former FBI Hebrew translator. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to leaking classified information anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein. The documents consisted of around 200 pages containing transcribed conversations recorded by FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington.
In an interview with the New York Times, Silverstein said that Leibowitz released the material “because of concerns about Israel’s aggressive efforts to influence Congress and public opinion, and fears that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran.”
Former CIA official John Kiriakou, who served as a counter-terrorism operative, spent two years in federal prison and three additional months under house arrest. His crime? Leaking the name of a former colleague who interrogated detainees using harsh practices including waterboarding to journalists.
In 2012, Kiriakou plead guilty to leaking the identity of one of the CIA operative and is currently serving a two and a half year jail term. The charges filed against him under the Espionage Act were dropped as part of the deal.
Thomas Drake was prosecuted but received no jail time. Drake was a former U.S. government official who was prosecuted and had his life ruined for supposedly mishandling sensitive records under the Obama administration. Drake is a former NSA official and was prosecuted for mishandling classified information though his only “crime” was being a whistleblower.
Mr. Drake saw mass waste and abuse in the billions of dollars spent on an NSA project, Operation Stellar Wind. He took his concerns through channels, first to his superiors at NSA, to Congress and to the NSA, and Department of Defense Inspectors General (DoD IG). Instead of welcoming his dedication, Drake’s management destroyed his career by removing his responsibilities and shifting him to a meaningless position. He was increasingly isolated, singled-out, transferred away from projects, and marginalized. After his cooperation with DoD IG, which validated his concerns, Drake became the target of a “leak” investigation related to the infamous NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal–despite the fact that he had nothing to do with the “leak.”
“I got hammered good,” Drake told Fox News.
Though the government’s Espionage Act case against him fell apart in 2011, Drake practically lost everything and faced a mountain of legal bills. He pleaded to a single misdemeanor for “exceeding authorized use of a government computer,” a violation he compares to “spitting on the NSA sidewalk.
Understand all of the names above (including Chelsea Bradley Manning) deserved the punishment they received. All violated U.S. Statute 793, subsection F:
Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Some of their crimes adversely impacted the defense of the country more than Hillary Clinton’s, others less. But what really matters is that, like them, Clinton broke the law. Yet, unlike them, she will not face indictment.
That these people were prosecuted and Hillary Clinton was not is proof that there are two sets of rules in the country, one for the Clintons, and one for the rest of us.
Cross-posted at The Lid