By: Josh Rogin
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
“The Obama administration Justice Department has investigated three senior officials for mishandling classified information over the past two years but only one faces a felony conviction, possible jail time and a humiliation that will ruin his career: former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman General James E. Cartwright. The FBI’s handling of the case stands in stark contrast to its treatment of Hillary Clinton and retired General David Petraeus — and it reeks of political considerations.
“Monday marked a stunning fall from grace for Cartwright, the man once known as ‘Obama’s favorite general,’ who pleaded guilty to the felony charge of lying to the FBI during its investigation into the leaking of classified information about covert operations against Iran to two journalists. His lawyer Greg Craig said in a statement that Cartwright spoke with David Sanger of the New York Times and Dan Klaidman of Newsweek as a confirming source for stories they had already reported, in an effort to prevent the publication of harmful national security secrets.
“Under his plea deal, Cartwright could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Last year, Petraeus cut a deal with the Justice Department after admitting he had lied to the FBI and passed hundreds of highly classified documents to his biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell. He 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 at all for what FBI Director James B. Comey called ‘extremely careless’ handling of ‘very sensitive, highly classified information.’ Comey said that although there was ‘evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information,’ the FBI’s judgment was that no reasonable prosecutor would have filed charges against Clinton or her associates …
“In its statement announcing the conclusion of its three-year investigation of Cartwright, the FBI emphasized that his prosecution showed that the Justice Department is willing to go after senior officials …
“’They seem to be trying to make a policy point,’ [Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists] said. ‘The Justice Department would say they are not influenced at all by policy or political considerations. In the real world, of course they are influenced.’”
“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. The State Department maintains Kennedy made no such offer. The FBI said no deal was struck but it would investigate the issue …
“I interviewed Cartwright on his way out of the Pentagon in 2011, after he was passed over for the job of Joint Chiefs chairman. A high-stakes whispering campaign about an alleged affair made the appointment politically difficult for Obama. Cartwright confirmed to me… that the president had promised him the job but later reneged due to the smear campaign. From that point on, Cartwright was a pariah to many of the Very Important People in Washington’s national security elite …
“[C]artwright could avoid prison time but will be saddled with a felony conviction that will bar him from most money-making opportunities. In the worst-case scenario, he could be getting released from prison around the same time Clinton finishes her first term.
“In his statement taking responsibility for lying to the FBI, Cartwright asserted his motivations were patriotic. ‘My only goal in talking to the reporters was to protect American interests and lives; I love my country and continue to this day to do everything I can to defend it.’
“Can Clinton or Petraeus plausibly make the same claim regarding their indiscretions?”
Read the full article here.
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