Clinton’s Disregard of Secrecy Laws

While admitting a “mistake,” Hillary Clinton was largely unrepentant about the FBI calling her “extremely careless” in safeguarding national security data, another sign of a troubling double standard, says ex-CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman.

By Melvin A. Goodman

There is a new poster child for the U.S. government’s double standard in dealing with violations of public policy and public trust — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will receive no punishment for her wanton disregard of U.S. laws and national security.

Clinton merely received a blistering rebuke from FBI Director James Comey, who charged her with “extremely careless” behavior in using private email servers to send and received classified information as well as using her personal cell phone in dealing with sensitive materials while traveling outside the United States.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Some of these communications referred to CIA operatives, which is a violation of a 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act to protect those individuals working overseas under cover.

A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, received a 30-month jail sentence in 2014 for giving a journalist the name of a CIA operative, although the name never appeared in the media.  Kiriakou’s sentence was praised by CIA Director David Petraeus, who faced his own charges for providing sensitive materials to his biographer, who was also his mistress.

In denying facts in that case, Petraeus lied to FBI investigators, who wanted to confront the general with felony charges.  The Department of Justice reduced the matter to a single misdemeanor, and Petraeus received a modest fine that could be covered with a few of his speaking fees.

The treatment of Clinton is reminiscent of the handling of cases involving former CIA Director John Deutch and former national security adviser Samuel Berger. Deutch placed the most sensitive CIA operational materials on his home computer, which was also used to access pornographic sites.  Deutch was assessed a fine of $5,000, but received a pardon from President Bill Clinton before prosecutors could file the papers in federal court.

Berger, who served in Clinton’s administration, stuffed his pants with classified documents from the National Archives, and also received a modest fine. President George W. Bush’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez kept sensitive documents about the NSA’s surveillance program at his home, but received no punishment.

Another Double Standard

There is a similar double standard in dealing with the writings of CIA officials. Critical accounts get great scrutiny; praise for CIA actions is rewarded with easy approval.

A classic case involved the memoir of Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., who destroyed over 90 CIA torture tapes and wrote a book that denied any torture and abuse took place. The Department of Justice concluded that it would not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the videotapes, although it was clearly an act to obstruct justice.

Jose Rodriguez, former director of operations for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Jose Rodriguez, former director of operations for the Central Intelligence Agency.

A senior career lawyer at CIA, John Rizzo, who took part in decision-making for torture and abuse, received clearance for a book that defended CIA interrogation at its secret prisons or “black sites.”

In addition to the velvet glove approach for Rodriguez and Rizzo, the authors of the torture memoranda at the Department of Justice — John Yoo and Jay Bybee — received no punishment for providing legal cover for some but not all of the CIA’s torture techniques.

Even Yoo, now a faculty member at the University of California’s law school in Berkeley, conceded that CIA officers went beyond the letter of the authorization and should be held accountable. Meanwhile, Kiriakou, the first CIA officer to reveal the torture and abuse program, was convicted of disclosing classified information and sentenced.

A CIA colleague from the 1970s, Frank Snepp, wrote an important book on the chaotic U.S. withdrawal South Vietnam with unclassified information detailing the decisions and actions that left behind loyal Vietnamese. Snepp had to forfeit his considerable royalties because the book wasn’t submitted for the agency’s security review.

More recently, however, former CIA Director Leon Panetta presented his memoir to his publisher in 2013 without getting clearance from the CIA and only at the last minute — before the book’s distribution — did it receive a cursory review.

Former Director George Tenet received special treatment with his memoir, getting deputy director Michael Morell to intervene to reverse Publications Review Board decisions to redact sensitive classified materials from the director’s book.

All of these decisions point to a flawed and corrupt system that permits transgressions at the highest level of government, while the government pursues those at a lower level.

President Barack Obama’s legacy will include the fact that he irresponsibly used the Espionage Act of 1917 more often than all previous presidents over the past 100 years, and contributed to the demise of the Office of the Inspector General throughout the government, particularly at the CIA.

One of the key causes of the current hostility and cynicism toward politicians and the process of politics is the double standard at the highest levels of government.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism, and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA (City Lights Publishers, 2015).  Goodman is the national security columnist for, where this story first appeared.

6 comments for “Clinton’s Disregard of Secrecy Laws

  1. Joe Tedesky
    July 10, 2016 at 23:19

    Read this link I’m posting below. Represent Tulsi Gabbard is sponsoring bill HR4108 to end America’s war on the Assasd government for regime change. So far, in my opinion this Rep. Gabbard is turning out to be the real deal. She is now asking for all of us to get behind her, by calling your local U.S. Representative and telling that representative to vote for her bill HR4108….. Gabbard wants to send a message to the new (whoever it turns out to be) President before he or she should take office.

  2. exiled off mainstreet
    July 10, 2016 at 22:50

    On the major issue of the post, the refusal to prosecute Clinton strips away the last remnants of legitimacy from the yankee regime, particularly in light of its unprecedented level of persecution based on the usage of laws such as the espionage act of 1917, which would have been held unconstitutional decades ago had the rule of law not already been basically neutered by US jurisprudence.

  3. Bill Bodden
    July 10, 2016 at 12:56

    One of the key causes of the current hostility and cynicism toward politicians and the process of politics is the double standard at the highest levels of government.

    Perhaps the above should read: One of the key causes of the continuing hostility and cynicism toward politicians and the process of politics is the interminable double standard at the highest levels of government.

  4. Jonny James
    July 10, 2016 at 12:42

    While I fully agree with the article, there are much LARGER crimes at issue here. Her disregard of secrecy laws are small potatoes compared to the high crimes she and the others have clearly committed for the world to see.

    Willfully lying to Congress and the American people about national security and war, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people represents a host of serious crimes. One could even say it is de-facto treason.

    Cheer leading and helping to orchestrate military attacks in Libya and Syria makes her a party to WAR CRIMES. Libya is now a failed state and in chaos. The layers of crime here are many.

    Orchestrating an illegal coup in Honduras represents a whole other raft of crimes.

    Helping and supporting the coup in Kiev, along with her crony, Vicki Nuland, is also a crime. The coup resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians, many of them women and children.

    Obama, HRC, Bush Jr., Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and the crew should all be charged with perjury, high crimes and misdemeanors as well as war crimes.

    The NDAA, Full Spectrum Surveillance, War on Whistleblowers, mass murder, Illegal Wars and attacks etc. etc. are crimes so horrible and so horrific that few are capable to deal with it. To do so would be to admit that the corruption and abuse of power are so rampant that just about every aspect of US government, finance, and corporate oligarchy is corrupt, abusive and criminal.

    • Joshua Laudermilk
      July 10, 2016 at 21:52

      Thank you for speaking out, for speaking truth to power. You are probably not wealthy, not powerful or influential, but you’ve suffered through all this and continue to suffer through it. In spite of that suffering, you are still speaking truth to power. The people who control society, to the extent that they actually do control it, directly or indirectly, worship at the altar of power and have utterly lose their humanity. They are traitors to humanity. Never stop speaking truth to power. Things are going to get a lot worse, but never stop.

    • exiled off mainstreet
      July 10, 2016 at 22:47

      I concur with all of this, including the treason aspect, and also suspect that the reason for the personal email server was to cover up the Harpy’s continuing corruption using her influence to get massive foreign bribes cycled in to the Clinton Foundation. Along with her status as a war criminal mentioned above based on her role in the destruction of Libya, this additional unparalleled corruption should be a game-breaker for all of those unwilling to vote for a stinking sack of excrement for president based on the name of the party apparatus she has gamed. If that isn’t enough, the Ukrainian cycle of crime threatens nuclear war. I think survival trumps political correctness, and being a war criminal and corrupt international fraudster should qualify a person for life in prison rather than a stint at the whitehouse.

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