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)

March 2009—2014: The Clintons and the Clinton Foundation benefit after Hillary Clinton helps Swiss bank UBS.

Clinton appears with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, (left), at the State Department on July 31, 2009, announcing a settlement in a legal case involving UBS. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Clinton appears with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, (left), at the State Department on July 31, 2009, announcing a settlement in a legal case involving UBS. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

In 2007, a whistleblower gave information about thousands of US citizens who were putting money in Swiss mega-bank UBS to avoid paying US taxes. The IRS [Internal Revenue Service] sues UBS to learn the identities of US citizens with secret bank accounts. UBS faces either complying and violating strict Swiss banking secrecy laws, or refusing and facing criminal charges in a US court.

The US government decides to treat this as a political matter with the Swiss government instead of just a legal problem with the bank. In March 2009, Clinton meets with Swiss officials and brings up a number of unrelated issues where the US wants help from Switzerland, such as using Swiss neutrality to help release a US citizen imprisoned in Iran. The Swiss help with these other issues, and appear to get concessions in the UBS case in return.

On July 31, 2009, Clinton announces a legal settlement: the US government dismisses the IRS lawsuit, and UBS turns over data on only 4,450 accounts instead of the 52,000 accounts worth $18 billion wanted by the IRS.

Some US politicians criticize the deal. For instance, Senator Carl Levin (D), says, “It is disappointing that the US government went along.” A senior IRS official will later complain that many US citizens escaped scrutiny due to the deal.

Former president Bill Clinton and UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann, took the stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2011. (Credit: Brian Kersey /UPI/ Landov)

Former president Bill Clinton and UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann, took the stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2011. (Credit: Brian Kersey /UPI/ Landov)

UBS then helps the Clintons in various ways:

  • Total UBS donations to the Clinton Foundation grow from less than $60,000 through 2008 to about $600,000 by the end of 2014.
  • Starting in early 2010, UBS works with the foundation to launch entrepreneurship and inner-city loan programs, and lends the programs $32 million. In 2012, the foundation will tout these programs as one of their major accomplishments.
  • UBS gives the foundation $100,000 for a charity golf tournament.
  • In 2011, UBS pays Bill Clinton $350,000 for discussing the economy at a UBS event.
  • Also in 2011, UBS pays Bill Clinton $1.5 million to take part in eleven question and answer sessions with a UBS official, making UBS his largest corporate source of speech income.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal will comment, “there is no evidence of any link between Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the case and the bank’s donations to [the foundation], or its hiring of Mr. Clinton. But her involvement with UBS is a prime example of how the Clintons’ private and political activities overlap.”

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and Democrat, will say of the Clintons, “They’ve engaged in behavior to make people wonder: What was this about? Was there something other than deciding the merits of these cases?” (The Wall Street Journal, 7/30/2015)

The Atlantic magazine will comment, “If you’re Bill Clinton and your wife has recently intervened in her capacity as a cabinet secretary to help a giant corporation avert a significant threat to its bottom-line, the very least you could do, if only to avoid the appearance of impropriety, is to avoid negotiating seven-figure paydays with that same corporation. [The fact he didn’t do that] is particularly jaw-dropping because ultra-wealthy Bill Clinton has virtually unlimited opportunities to give lucrative speeches to any number of audiences not directly implicated by decisions that his wife made as secretary of state.” (The Atlantic, 7/31/2015)

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)

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)

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)

October 22, 2012: A CIA official goes to prison for giving classified information to a reporter.

John Kiriakou (Credit: The Associated Press)

John Kiriakou (Credit: The Associated Press)

CIA officer John Kiriakou pleads guilty to disclosing classified information about a covert CIA officer that connected that person to a specific operation. Kiriakou is actually a whistleblower helping to expose the CIA’s torture of some prisoners. He is the first CIA officer to be convicted for passing classified information to a reporter, even though the reporter didn’t publish the name of the operative. He is sentenced to 30 months in prison. (BBC, 2/28/2013) (The New York Times, 1/5/2013)

May 11, 2015: A former CIA official is sentenced to prison for giving the name of a CIA asset to a reporter.

Jeffrey Sterling (Credit: Gawker)

Jeffrey Sterling (Credit: Gawker)

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is sentenced to three and a half years in prison. He was convicted of nine criminal counts for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen in 2003. Prosecutors claimed it was a plot to embarrass the CIA, after he was fired from the agency in 2002. However, others have seen him as a whistleblower. It was alleged that in 2003, Sterling revealed information about a CIA operation to harm Iran’s nuclear program by having a scientist provide Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. However, Risen wrote in a 2006 book that the operation was mismanaged and may have inadvertently aided Iran. Sterling also revealed his concerns about the program to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003.

US District Judge Leonie Brinkema says Sterling caused damage by effectively revealing the identity of someone working for the CIA, and “If you do knowingly reveal these secrets, there’s going to be a price to be paid.” (The Washington Post, 5/11/2015) (The New York Times, 1/26/2015)

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)

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)