As the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct official government business heats up, the Washington Times reports
that a double-standard exists in the Obama White House for those who leak or "mishandle" classified information: Benign punishment, or none at all, for the president's inner circle and a heavy hand for everyone else.
While the Obama administration has "investigated and prosecuted more security leakers and people who mishandled secrets than any other in history" — six people have been imprisoned — high-ranking officials who have committed similar, or more egregious, offenses have received slaps on the wrist.
Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus,
the former CIA director, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq and a top Obama national security adviser, received a plea deal to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information for top secret information he provided to his biographer, who was also his mistress. He reportedly lied to FBI agents during the investigation.
When retired Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was named by a special prosecutor as the target of an investigation of "leaked secrets about a covert program to foil Iran's nuclear program," the White House refused to cooperate, according to the Times, which notes that Cartwright was known to curry favored status with the president.
And according to a draft copy obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, the Times reports, the White House shared military intelligence with makers of the 2012 movie "Zero Dark Thirty" (about the hunt for Osama bin Laden).
Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta disclosed classified information
— including the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the raid as well as the ground commander's name — at a CIA awards ceremony attended by the movie's producer, who was not authorized to hear classified information. Panetta claimed he "assumed all those who were at the ceremony had the proper security clearances," the Times reported
A Salon.com piece penned last year by lawyer Jesselyn Radack, director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, a leading whistleblower organization, pointed out the disparity in treatment of inner-circle government leakers compared to whistleblowers.
Radack represented John Kiriakou, the first CIA official to confirm that torture — including waterboarding —was an official CIA program. In 2013, Kiriakou received a 30-month prison sentence for disclosing to a reporter classified information
about a CIA officer and a covert operation.
"When it comes to leaks, the U.S. government has covered itself on both ends," she writes. "It can engage in both 'authorized' and 'accidental' leaks, and the culprits receive slaps on the wrists or no ramifications at all."
But when a whistleblower comes forward, "the Justice Department leaks to smear and discredit him … or launches federal 'leak investigations' as a pretext to prosecute him under the Espionage Act and make an example of him," Radack said.
Panetta's disclosures should have resulted in a criminal espionage charge, Kiriakou wrote in an op-ed piece published in March 2014 in the Los Angeles Times.
Kiriakou said that he had "revealed no more than others who were never charged, about activities — that the CIA had a program to kill or capture Al Qaeda members — that were hardly secret," and he accused President Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder of using the Espionage Act "against more people than all other administrations combined, but not against real traitors and spies."
"The law has been applied selectively, often against whistle-blowers and others who expose illegal, corrupt government actions," he wrote.
According to the Washington Times, at least nine people — an Army soldier, two National Security Agency personnel, two FBI employees, a State Department contractor, two former CIA officers and Petraeus— have been prosecuted for "leaking or mishandling classified information" by Obama's Justice Department.
"Unlike Mr. Petraeus, the other eight were relatively low-ranking employees, and six were sentenced to prison terms," according to the newspaper, adding that "the Obama administration also has placed government whistleblowers under investigation on claims they made unauthorized disclosures.
"The whistleblowers see these probes as a blatant attempt to silence them."
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