Only one man is currently being prosecuted by the FBI for the mishandling of classified information

by WorldTribune Staff, October 19, 2016

The FBI insists it has no problem going after senior officials when it comes to mishandling classified information.

The prosecution of Gen. James E. Cartwright is the legendary agency’s example.

Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, leaves U.S. District Court on Oct. 17. /Getty Images
Retired Gen. James Cartwright, leaves U.S. District Court on Oct. 17. /Getty Images

While the two highest-profile officials recently investigated for mishandling classified material, Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus, got off relatively scot-free, the FBI’s prosecution of Cartwright “reeks of political considerations,” Josh Rogin wrote in an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Oct. 18.

“Cartwright’s greatest mistake was not talking to reporters or lying about it; he failed to play the Washington game skillfully enough to avoid becoming a scapegoat for a system in which senior officials skirt the rules and then fall back on their political power to save them,” Rogin wrote.

Under his plea deal, Cartwright could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“There is a lack of proportion just based on the facts that one figure, Cartwright, is getting severely punished and others so far have escaped the process,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “He is being singled out for prosecution and public humiliation. It’s an implicit rebuttal to those who argued that other senior officials such as Clinton or Petraeus got off scot-free or got too light of a sentence.”

Cartwright, once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” pleaded guilty on Oct. 17 to the felony charge of lying to the FBI during its investigation into the leaking of classified information to two journalists about covert operations against Iran.

Last year, Petraeus pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor of mishandling classified information and was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. Clinton was not charged for what FBI Director James Comey called “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Cartwright “was short on high-profile Washington friends,” Rogin wrote.

“He had long ago run afoul of his two Pentagon bosses, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who never forgave him for going around the chain of command to join with Vice President Joe Biden to present Obama with an alternate plan for the Afghanistan troop surge in 2009.”

The FBI emphasized that the prosecution of Cartwright showed that the Justice Department is willing to go after senior officials. “The FBI will continue to take all necessary and appropriate steps to thoroughly investigate individuals, no matter their position (emphasis added by Rogin), who undermine the integrity of our justice system by lying to federal investigators,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Abbate.

“The announcement of the charges and Cartwright’s guilty plea came on the same day the FBI released documents that allege the State Department, through Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, offered the FBI a ‘quid pro quo’ for altering the classification of documents found on Clinton’s private email server,” Rogin wrote. “The State Department maintains Kennedy made no such offer. The FBI said no deal was struck but it would investigate the issue.”

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