April 1, 2010: An NSA official is convicted for possessing a document not marked classified.

Thomas Drake (Credit: H. Darr Beiser / USA Today)

Thomas Drake (Credit: H. Darr Beiser / USA Today)

Whistleblower Thomas Drake, a former senior National Security Agency (NSA) official, is indicted under the Espionage Act for keeping an NSA email printout at home that was not marked as classified. Drake will later plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

In contrast to this case, Clinton and some of her supporters will later claim that she does not face legal jeopardy if the emails on her private server were not explicitly labeled as classified. (The New York Times, 8/8/2015)

February 26, 2012: The Obama administration punishes whistleblowers for leaks, but not high-ranking officials leaking favorable information.

Obama signs The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act on November 27, 2012. (Credit: public domain)

Obama signs The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act on November 27, 2012. (Credit: public domain)

The New York Times reports that “[t]he Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance ‘whistleblower laws to protect federal workers,’ has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers. The Espionage Act, enacted back in 1917 to punish those who gave aid to our enemies, was used three times in all the prior administrations to bring cases against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media. It has been used six times since the current president took office.”

ABC News reporter Jake Tapper says: “I have been following all of these cases, and it’s not like they are instances of government employees leaking the location of secret nuclear sites. These are classic whistle-blower cases that dealt with questionable behavior by government officials or its agents acting in the name of protecting America.”

The Times concludes, “There is plenty of authorized leaking going on, but this particular boat leaks from the top. Leaks from the decks below, especially ones that might embarrass the administration, have been dealt with very differently.” (The New York Times, 2/26/2016)

June 19, 2014: A Naval officer pleads guilty to storing classified documents on a home computer.

Chief Petty Officer Lyle White (right) signals to Australian Able Seaman Adam Hubbard as he prepares to rappel from an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, on July 8, 2006. (Credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Rebecca J. Moat, US Navy / Department of Defense)

Chief Petty Officer Lyle White (right) signals to Australian Able Seaman Adam Hubbard as he prepares to rappel from an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, on July 8, 2006. (Credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Rebecca J. Moat, US Navy / Department of Defense)

Naval Chief Petty Officer Lyle White pleads guilty to violating military regulations because he took classified documents from his Navy office and stored them on a hard drive in his house. He says he kept the documents out of convenience, because they were useful for when he was training other soldiers. White is sentenced to 60 days in prison and fined $10,000. The sentence is suspended, but a federal espionage conviction will remain on his record. (The Virginian-Pilot)

May 27, 2016: US Naval Machinist Kristian Saucier pleads guilty for taking photos inside the attack submarine he had been working on.

Kristian Saucier (Credit: public domain)

Kristian Saucier (Credit: public domain)

He was arrested in May 2015 on charges that he took some pictures that included classified engineering spaces in the backgrounds. It does not appear he attempted to share the photos with anyone, but he threw a cell phone into a dumpster that contained the phone, and someone else found it and reported it. He pled guilty to one felony count of unlawful retention of national defense information. This is part of the Espionage Act, even though he has never been accused of espionage. Sentencing guidelines suggest he could get five to six years in prison.

Politico reports that some are comparing Saucier’s case to Clinton’s email scandal, and suggesting that the less powerful like Saucier face stiffer punishments. The photos he took have been deemed “confidential,” the lowest classification ranking, while Clinton had some emails on her unapproved private server at the higher rankings of “secret” and “top secret.” Edward MacMahon, a Virginia defense attorney not involved in the Saucier case, says: “Felony charges appear to be reserved for people of the lowest ranks. Everyone else who does it either doesn’t get charged or gets charged with a misdemeanor.” (The Navy Times, 8/1/2015) (Politico, 5/27/2016)