Why? Because as he did it for reasons to save his country’s secrets and its people, not for personal gain or popularity. To hang him out to dry, while others like the current Liberal candidate remains free and running to gain control of the whole world is a travesty of judgement. Shame on us.
The Obama administration’s 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.
Still, the FBI’s unprecedented release of documents related to its Clinton investigation shows the Bureau is keenly aware of the public criticism of Comey’s decision not to recommend any charges. And the mere fact that Clinton had the State Department, along with an army of lawyers, negotiating with the FBI over the investigation shows that the playing field is not even for the targets of such investigations. Petraeus, for his part, had several top US senators publicly calling on the FBI to exonerate him before he cut his deal.
Cartwright, by contrast, was short on high-profile Washington friends. 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.
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.
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 (on the record) 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.
One notable difference between Cartwright’s case and that of Clinton and Petraeus was the fact that Cartwright was the subject of a leak investigation. There’s no evidence Clinton or Petraeus’s actions led to the public disclosure of classified information. The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many leakers as all previous administrations combined. The mostly low-level prosecutions have often resulted in harsh prison sentences. For example, Army Private Chelsea Manning is serving 35 years at Fort Leavenworth.
Cartwright’s prosecution allows the Justice Department to say even senior-level leakers face consequences.
In his best-case scenario, Cartwright 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?
© 2016, The Washington Post
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