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)

August 22, 2001: A top al-Qaeda expert quits the FBI due to fallout from a briefcase incident.

John P. O'Neill (Credit: public domain)

John P. O’Neill (Credit: public domain)

John O’Neill, considered the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda, retires from the bureau. In July 2000, he left a briefcase containing classified documents in a room with other FBI agents while he went outside to take a cell phone call. His briefcase was missing when he returned. It was recovered by police a short time later with only a pen and lighter missing. Fingerdusting revealed the documents were never touched, and a Justice Department investigation cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

However, he felt the incident damaged his career so much that he took a job offer to work as head of security at the World Trade Center. He is killed on 9/11 just a couple of weeks after starting his new job. (PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002) (US Department of State, 3/31/2016)

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

030101JamesJSmithAP

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.

030101KatrinaLeungUSNewsWorldReport

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)

March 30, 2006: An NSA employee gets six years for taking home NSA manuals.

Kenneth W. Ford Jr. (Credit: public domain)

Kenneth W. Ford Jr. (Credit: public domain)

Kenneth W. Ford Jr., a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee, is found guilty of illegally storing classified papers in his home. He is sentenced to six years in prison.

On his last day working for the NSA in 2003, he took home manuals about NSA computers and electronic networks. His home was raided a month later after a tip-off. He didn’t do anything with the material but prosecutors argued he might have tried to sell them or use them for a future employer later. (The Baltimore Sun, 3/31/2006)

April 11, 2006: A TSA whistleblower is improperly fired and accused of leaking classified information.

Robert MacLean (Credit: public domain)

Robert MacLean (Credit: public domain)

In early April 2006, TSA [Transportation Security Administration] official Robert MacLean appears on NBC News incognito to complain that the TSA is requiring sky marshals to wear suits and ties, making them easily identifiable to potential terrorists. But his identity is somehow discovered by the TSA, and he is fired on April 11, 2006.

The TSA claims he leaked “Sensitive Security Information.” However, he argues that the text message he leaked wasn’t marked as classified and was sent to sky marshals over regular phone lines.

In 2014, after years of legal battles, the US Supreme Court will rule that the Whistleblower Protection Act prevented his firing. A year later, he will be reinstated, but he says he is still fighting with the TSA.

In September 2015, he will note similarities between his case and Clinton’s email scandal, but he predicts she will have an easier time than he did. “There’s just a different standard for whistleblowers than for politicians.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

January 1, 2007: An NSA whistleblower is harassed by the government despite no evidence against him.

William Binney (Credit: Thomas Peter / Reuters)

William Binney (Credit: Thomas Peter / Reuters)

In 2002, William Binney, a recently retired NSA [National Security Agency] official, alerted the Defense Department’s inspector general that the department is wasting over $3 billion on a new system to track Internet data, when it could be done for $3 million instead.

In 2007, the FBI searches his home in a hunt for whoever leaked details of a secret post-9/11 domestic wiretapping program. He isn’t prosecuted, since he had nothing to do with that leak, but government officials “blackball” his consulting firm for intelligence agencies, costing him millions of dollars. He is wiretapped, stripped of his security clearance, and threatened with prosecution for two years.

In 2015, he will complain that he was unfairly targeted because he was a whistleblower. He says Clinton and other top ranking officials will never get prosecuted, no matter what they do. “These people are above the law.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

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)

December 16, 2011: Clinton criticizes Manning, who will be sentenced to 35 years for leaking classified information

Chelsea Manning (Credit: Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press)

Chelsea Manning (Credit: Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press)

Clinton comments on the imminent court martial case of Army Private Bradley Manning (later Chelsea Manning), after Manning gave a large cache of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Clinton says, “I think that in an age where so much information is flying through cyberspace, we all have to be aware of the fact that some information which is sensitive, which does affect the security of individuals and relationships, deserves to be protected and we will continue to take necessary steps to do so.” (CBS News, 12/16/2011

Manning is later convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison, although none of the documents in question are rated “top secret.”

The Intercept will later note that Clinton’s comments occur “during the time that she had covertly installed a non-government server and was using it and a personal email account to receive classified and, apparently, even top-secret information.” (The Intercept, 8/12/2015)

Summer 2012: A Marine is fired for giving an urgent warning that mentions classified information.

Jason Brezler walks with Afghan children in Afghanistan. (Credit: Corporal Zach Nola)

Jason Brezler walks with Afghan children in Afghanistan. (Credit: Corporal Zach Nola)

Marine Major Jason Brezler sends an email attachment over an unsecure line in an urgent attempt to save the lives of other Marines in Afghanistan. The message is classified, but not marked as such, as Brezler doesn’t know it is classified at the time. The message warns other Marines about the imminent arrival of corrupt Afghan official.

Three weeks later, three Marines will be shot and killed inside a US base by an associate of the official. After finding out that his message contained classified information, Brezler reports this to his superiors. He is later investigated and given an unwanted honorable discharge from the Marines as a result.

The media will later note the similarity between Brezler’s case and Clinton’s. In 2015, the Daily Beast will quote a friend of Brezler’s, who asks him: “Hey, Jason, what did you do that Hillary didn’t?” (The Daily Beast, 8/13/2015)

September 18, 2012—February 2013: A nuclear energy whistleblower is targeted for allegedly having classified information on a computer.

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

On September 18, 2012,  NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] engineer Lawrence Criscione sends a long letter to NRC chair Allison Macfarlane about dangerous problems at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. He shares the letter with 13 members of Congress.

One day later, the NRC’s inspector general begins investigating if he illegally made information marked “For Official Use Only” public. Another government agency soon rules that such information is an “unofficial administrative marking that has no legal import.”

But in February 2013, the inspector general nevertheless asks the Justice Department to charge him with misusing his government computer to transmit sensitive information. Several days later, the department decides not to prosecute him. But it takes another 13 months before he is formally cleared.

Speaking in 2015, Criscione believes he was unfairly targeted to discourage other whistleblowers. Referring to Clinton’s email scandal, he says, “If a career civil servant had a server with ‘top secret’ information in his basement, he would without a doubt do time” in prison. (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

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)

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)

April 23, 2015: Petraeus is given a remarkably lenient plea bargain despite his serious security violations.

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

A federal judge sentences former CIA director and general David Petraeus to two years of probation and a $100,000 fine for giving his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, access to notebooks, classified information about official meetings, war strategy, and intelligence capabilities. Petraeus had been the CIA director from 2011 to 2012, but he was forced to quit due to the scandal. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015) 

The FBI seeks jail time for him, but doesn’t get it due to the plea bargain with the Justice Department. The New York Times will later report that FBI Director James Comey made the case to Attorney General Eric Holder that “Mr. Petraeus deserved to face strenuous charges. But the Justice Department overruled the FBI, and the department allowed Mr. Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.” (The New York Times, 10/16/2015) The sentence is considered surprisingly light, given the evidence.

In 2016, the Washington Post will report, “FBI officials were angered by the deal and predicted it would affect the outcome of other cases involving classified information.” One former US law enforcement official will complain the deal “was handled so lightly for his offense there isn’t a whole lot you can do.” (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016)

July 29, 2015: Former Naval Reserve Commander Bryan Nishimura pleads guilty to transferring classified data from a government computer to a personal computer.

150729BryanNishimuraZeroHedge

Bryan Nishimura (Credit: Zero Hedge)

He is sentenced to two years probation and a $7,500 fine. He obtained a large amount of classified data and satellite imagery while serving in Afghanistan in 2007 and then brought it home in 2008. He apparently simply kept the information for himself, as he had a reputation for collecting things. He also destroyed evidence when he was investigated in 2012. (The Sacramento Bee, 7/29/2015)

September 29, 2015: Some former government whistleblowers believe that “the scales of justice weigh differently for [Clinton] and other senior officials than it does” for low-level government employees.

Danielle Bryan (Credit: The Project on Government Oversight)

Danielle Bryan (Credit: The Project on Government Oversight)

This is according to McClatchy Newspapers. Cabinet-level officials like John Deutch, Sandy Berger, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus were charged with mishandling classified information, and yet all of them escaped jail. Thus, some believe that Clinton “will get off easy,” due to the politically powerful getting special treatment.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), says that whistleblowers who reveal confidential or classified information have “lost their livelihoods, have been prosecuted, have even had their homes raided for heroically trying to stop wrongdoing. This is a far cry from how politically connected senior officials who have actually mishandled classified information, either for convenience or for self-aggrandizement, are treated. This double standard is frankly un-American.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

January 28, 2016: The Navy’s intelligence chief had his security clearance suspended during an investigation, but Petraeus and Clinton did not.

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch had his security clearance suspended in November 2013, after the Navy learned his name surfaced in a Justice Department-led corruption investigation involving dozens of Navy personnel. No evidence has emerged that he compromised military secrets or committed any crimes. However, over 800 days later he has neither been charged nor cleared. He is the head of the Navy’s intelligence division, but he has less access to classified information than the lowest ranking sailor. He can’t even walk into any office without it being swept by security personnel first to make sure any classified documents are locked up. (The Washington Post, 1/28/2016)

By contrast, news reports indicate that neither Clinton nor any of her top aides have had their security clearances suspended, despite the ongoing FBI’s investigation into the mismanagement of classified information in their unsecured emails. Additionally, when CIA Director David Petraeus came under FBI investigation for mismanaging classified information in late 2012, his security clearance also was not formally revoked. He only had it suspended after he resigned. (Bloomberg News, 2/4/2016)

May 3, 2016: Clinton’s email scandal is likened to the charges that led to David Petraeus’ conviction.

Nathan Sales (Credit: Syracuse University)

Nathan Sales (Credit: Syracuse University)

Law professor Nathan Sales compares a possible indictment of Clinton with the conviction of former CIA Director David Petraeus in 2013.

He notes that Petraeus did not ultimately plead guilty to sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer, but to charges related to keeping the information in a desk drawer inside his house. “The conduct that is being investigated [in Clinton’s case]—keeping the documents on an unclassified server—that’s kind of the digital equivalent of locking it in your desk drawer, which is ultimately what did in General Petraeus. […] Based on what we do know so far, I think there is a not insignificant chance that a grand jury could look at the facts and say, ‘Actually, she may have violated various laws protecting classified information.’” (Rolling Stone, 5/3/2016)

May 5, 2016: Some of Clinton’s emails may remain private because of a legal precedent involving former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger participate in "Conversations on Diplomacy, Moderated by Charlie Rose,” at the Department of State in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2011. AFP Photo/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Clinton and Henry Kissinger in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2011. (Credit: Jewel  Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Kissinger made transcripts of some of his work-related phone calls. After he left office in January 1977, he took the only copies with him and eventually had them transferred to the Library of Congress, with tight restrictions on who could access them. A watchdog group sued for access, but the US Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-two decision that the State Department had no obligation to search for documents that had been removed, even if they had been improperly taken.

However, there is a footnote written by Justice William Rehnquist that the ruling might not apply when someone is actively trying to thwart the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In two ongoing civil suits, judges have granted discovery to Judicial Watch in part to determine if Clinton or her aides had actively tried to thwart FOIA. That opens the possibility of a judge eventually ordering Clinton to hand over even the emails she deemed personal, if she still has them. (Time, 5/5/2016)

May 24, 2016: An intelligence veterans group calls for Clinton to be prosecuted due to her email scandal.

Three members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: former CIA analyst Ray McGovern (left), former NSA Technical Director William Binney (center), former NSA Senior Executive Thomas Drake (right). (Credit for all photos: public domain)

Three members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: former CIA analyst Ray McGovern (left), former NSA Technical Director William Binney (center), former NSA Senior Executive Thomas Drake (right). (Credit for all photos: public domain)

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group of veterans of US intelligence agencies, publishes a letter that is highly critical of Clinton’s behavior in her email scandal. It concludes, “[T]he question is not whether Secretary Clinton broke the law. She did. If the laws are to be equally applied, she should face the same kind of consequences as others who have been found, often on the basis of much less convincing evidence, guilty of similar behavior.”

The letter is signed by seventeen intelligence veterans. Many of them are government whistleblowers. Some of them, such as Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, were punished for security violations that seem far less serious than what Clinton has been accused of. For instance, Drake was convicted of possessing one classified document that was not actually marked as such. (Common Dreams, 5/24/2016)

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)