January 1, 2003: An FBI agent is charged with gross negligence but pleads guilty to lesser charges.

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Ex FBI agent James J. Smith (Credit: The Associated Press)

James Smith is an FBI agent for more than 20 years, running counterintelligence operations against Chinese spies. In 2003, three years after retiring from the FBI, he is arrested by the FBI and charged with gross negligence. He had a sexual relationship with a longtime source, Katrina Leung. He is alleged to have carried classified documents in a briefcase and sometimes left the case open and unattended while he visited her. Leung was believed to be a double agent working for the Chinese government but loyal to the FBI. However, she copied some of the documents, which were found in her safe. Smith is also charged with wire fraud for submitting false reports on Leung’s activities as an FBI asset.

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Katrina Leung makes the front cover of U.S. News & World Report on November 2, 2003. (Credit: public domain)

The original charges against Smith are later dropped in a plea deal whereby he pleads guilty to a single felony count of making false statements by failing to mention his affair with Leung. He is sentenced to three months of home confinement, three years of probation, and a $10,000 fine. It is alleged there was no damage to national security because the classified information never got further than Leung when she was arrested at the same time he was.

Leung is charged with obtaining and keeping classified documents in violation of the Espionage Act, but without an explicit charge of espionage. She also strikes a plea deal, pleading guilty to making a false statement and filing a false tax return. She is sentenced to probation.

In July 2016, FBI Director James Comey will announce he is not going to charge Clinton with gross negligence, claiming only one other person, Smith, has been charged with it in 100 years. (Politico, 7/7/2016)

July 7, 2016: FBI Director Comey claims David Petraeus’ security violations were more serious than Clinton’s.

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David Petraeus (left), James Comey (center), Hillary Clinton (right) (Credit: public domain)

At a Congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey is asked to compare the cases of Clinton and former CIA Director David Petraeus. Petraeus pled guilty to a misdemeanor in 2015 and served no jail time. Comey says that Petraeus’ case “illustrates the categories of behavior that mark prosecutions that are actually brought. Clearly intentional conduct. Knew what he was doing was violation of the law. Huge amounts of information if you couldn’t prove he knew, it raises the inference he did it, and effort to obstruct justice, that combination of things making it worthy of a prosecution. A misdemeanor prosecution but a prosecution nonetheless.” He says he stands by the FBI’s decision to prosecute Petraeus and not Clinton. (Politico, 7/7/2016) (CNN, 7/7/2016)