January 19–20, 2001: John Deutch pleads guilty to mishandling government secrets, then Bill Clinton pardons him.

CIA Director John Deutch (Credit: public domain

CIA Director John Deutch (Credit: public domain

Deutch was CIA director from May 1995 to December 1996. Shortly after he retired from the job, it was discovered that he stored and processed hundreds of highly classified government files on unprotected home computers that he and his family also used to connect to the Internet. An investigation began which dragged on for years. He was stripped of his CIA security clearance in 1999.

On January 19, 2001, Deutch agrees to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for mishandling government secrets as part of a plea bargain with the Justice Department. However, just one day later, President Bill Clinton officially pardons him. This is Clinton’s last day as president. (The Associated Press, 1/24/2001)

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)

July 17, 2014: Former Navy contract linguist James Hitselberger pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of taking classified documents without authority.

He is sentenced to two weeks of time served, eight months of house arrest, and a $250 fine. While working as an Arabic linguist for the Navy in Bahrain, he printed two documents classified “secret” off of a classified computer system and attempted to leave a secure work area with them. He also was accused of sending some classified documents to a public archive at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. (Politico, 4/25/2014)

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)