Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pardon Patraeus?

Max Boot, at Commentary, notes that David Petraeus’s acceptance of a plea bargain "has been met both with unseemly Schadenfreude by some who delight in seeing an America hero revealed to have flaws as well as criticism from others who believe that he got off too lightly."

Patraeus pled guilty to "unauthorized sharing of classified information" and was fined $40,000 and placed on two years' probation  Boot notes "others have faced stiffer sentences for revealing classified information" but it is also true that "other leaks have not been punished at all." Indeed, leaks of classified information to journalists or authors "are a routine occurrence in Washington." In addition, "few senior officials are ever prosecuted for mishandling classified information." More interestingly, Boot argues "there is little logic to the way that secrecy laws are enforced" and "almost anyone in a position of authority can be prosecuted if prosecutors are so inclined."

Boot's piece then notes:
A breach of security far more egregious than Petraesus’s was committed by one of his predecessors as CIA director, John Deutch, who routinely kept classified material on unclassified computers. A CIA investigation subsequently revealed, that all of these computers “were connected to or contained modems that allowed external connectivity to computer networks such as the Internet. Such computers are vulnerable to attacks by unauthorized persons. CIA personnel retrieved [classified] information from Deutch’s unclassified computers and magnetic media related to covert action, Top Secret communications intelligence and the National Reconnaissance Program budget.” And yet what penalty did Deutch suffer? The Justice Department under Janet Reno declined to prosecute him, and President Clinton issued him a pardon to make sure not that no future prosecutor could ever come after him. By comparison with what Clinton or Deutch did, Petraeus’s offense is pretty minor. 
Boot says that "a friend in the military" wrote to him:
They have pursued [Patraeus] for a charge of which virtually every senior officer in the US military has been guilty. EVERY senior officer has such notebooks (we are a notetaking military, as you know) and EVERY senior officer carries those notebooks around with them. And ALMOST EVERY senior officer I have encountered keeps them after retirement.
In sum, Boot says the offense which Petraeus has pleaded guilty "is a minor one" that was "discovered in the course of a fishing expedition" by the FBI. There is "no evidence" of any harm to national security. Boot asks, "If Deutch could get a presidential pardon, why not Petraeus, who has dedicated most of his life to serving and defending our country?" See full editorial here.

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