Separate And Unequal: Gen. Petraeus Facing Mild Wrist Slap For Leaking Eight Books Full Of Classified Info To His Mistress

from the granted-Most-Favored-Leaker-status dept

The administration still wants to punish whistleblowers and leakers, but only if it can do it with logic borrowed from Animal Farm. When it comes to prosecution, some leakers are more equal than others.

John Kiriakou — who exposed a single CIA operative’s name while exposing its waterboarding tactics — spent more time in jail than former CIA director Leon Panetta, who has spent (at last count) a grand total of 0 days locked up for leaking tons of classified info to Zero Dark Thirty’s screenwriter, Mark Boal.

Of course, some leaks just aren’t leaks, at least not according to the government. Kiriakou’s were wrong. Panetta’s were right. And Kiriakou spent three years in prison for a lesser “crime.”

Thomas Drake faced a potential 35-year sentence for his exposure of wasteful NSA spending. The government’s case against him self-imploded, however, resulting in a guilty plea to a misdemeanor and no jail time.

General Petraeus, who leaked classified information to his mistress, is in line to receive the lightest of wrist slaps for his indiscretion: two years probation and a $40,000 fine. The lightness of the sentence suggested by government prosecutors belies the extent of Petraeus’ wrongdoing.

What he handed over to his mistress far surpasses anything the above whistleblowers “leaked.”

While he was commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus “maintained bound, five-by-eight inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes he took during official meetings, conferences and briefings,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina writes in a statement of fact regarding the case…

All eight books “collectively contained classified information regarding the identifies of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings… and discussions with the president of the United States.”

The books also contained “national defense information, including top secret/SCI and code word information,” according to the court papers. In other words: These weren’t just ordinary secrets. This was highly, highly classified material.

On top of that, he lied to the government about these books, first in the form of a sworn statement

Petreaus retained those Black Books after he signed his debriefing agreement upon leaving DOD, in which he attested “I give my assurance that there is no classified material in my possession, custody, or control at this time.” He kept those Black Books in an unlocked desk drawer.

And again to investigating FBI agents.

In an interview on October 26, 2012, he told the FBI:

(a) he had never provided any classified information to his biographer, and (b) he had never facilitated the provision of classified information to his biographer.

Simply lying to the FBI has consequences far greater than those Petraeus will face. But that’s because he’s General Petraeus and you’re not — as 22-year-old Kirstie Barratt recently discovered.

United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Kirstie Elaine Philome Barratt, age 22, of Fort Mill, South Carolina was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment today after earlier pleading guilty to making a false statement to a federal agent, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. imposed the term of imprisonment, which will be followed by a 3 year term of supervised release. In October, Barratt plead straight up to the charge without a plea agreement. Barratt also may face deportation as a result of her guilty plea. During the sentencing hearing, Judge Anderson granted the government’s motion for an upward departure from the federal guidelines sentencing range of 0 to 6 months, noting that this was a “rare” case and that Barratt “knowingly placed a law enforcement officer’s life in jeopardy” by her false statement.

Petraeus was a trusted member of the military and the CIA. And he turned over eight books worth of classified info to his biographer/mistress just because she asked. But because he’s part of the administration’s arbitrarily-selected “in crowd,” and because he didn’t embarrass the government as much as he embarrassed himself, he’s facing a sentence of nearly nothing. His suggested punishment will have zero effect on his current position at a top equity firm and his life will suffer none of the disruptions Kiriakou and Drake experienced. He’ll be $40,000 poorer — and with “deterrents” like these being deployed — none the wiser.

What’s most disgusting about Petraeus’ cakewalk of a proposed sentence is that he himself took a hypocritical hardline stance on leaking after Kiriakou’s sentencing.

When John Kiriakou pled guilty on October 23, 2012 to crimes having to do with sharing a single covert officer’s identity just days before Petraeus would lie to the FBI about sharing, among other things, numerous covert officers’ identities with his mistress, Petraeus sent out a memo to the CIA stating,

“Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”

Yeah. “Oaths matter.” Except when you’re the one uttering them, right? Apparently, a “requisite degree of secrecy” means stashing eight books full of classified info in an unlocked desk drawer and handing them out to your clandestine SO in hopes of keeping your knob biography as polished as possible.

This administration is severely hypocritical, but seemingly no more so than in its treatment of whistleblowers. There are those who will be persecuted and punished and those whose similar indiscretions will be waved away by government prosecutors. The problem is: you may not know which of these faces of the administration you’ll be facing when you decide to start blowing the whistle. Chances are — given this administration’s track record — it will be the vindictive, angry administration that continually hopes to “send a message” with each new whistleblower/leaker prosecuted.

Those on the inside of the military/industrial/surveillance supercomplex — who leak under the name of “anonymous official” to aid filmmakers, deploy talking points or steer narratives — will never see this side of the two-faced administration. Their leaks are more equal than others.

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Comments on “Separate And Unequal: Gen. Petraeus Facing Mild Wrist Slap For Leaking Eight Books Full Of Classified Info To His Mistress”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

gee, you don’t think he has knowledge/evidence of other USG skullduggery, skeletons in closets, and where the bodies are buried that he used to extort favorable terms ? ? ?

goshies, i’m certain that can’t be the case…

(when you are being threatened by goons of the state, it helps if you can (credibly) threaten back; otherwise you are going to be steamrolled flatter than a fritter…)

Anonymous Coward says:

I dont understand what you are upset about. It has always been this way, everywhere. Just because one country built a succesful propaganda machine and convinced its entire population that they are all equal and live in a free democracy.
Only a blind idiot would believe this even after seeing countless examples of it being bullshit.
But dont worry, history repeats itself and they are really pushing for it these days…

David says:

Well, she was his mistress

Nudge nudge wink wink say no more. Human weakness. Nudge nudge wink wink say no more.

That’s something one can sympathize with and forgive.

In contrast, Snowden, Kiriakou et al committed their crimes because of possessing strong morals and character, and love of and belief in their country.

That’s unforgivable and has no place in the U.S. government. They must be rooted out and made an example of. It took the government literally centuries to stamp out the treacherous teachings of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and their revolutionary ilk.

This poison needs to be eradicated before it spreads again. Fortunately, it’s well under control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Difference between what you believe and what you know...

Actually, Kirakou and Snowden didn’t believe they were above the law though. They believed they were within the law due to the circumstances under which they were “breaking” it. Exposing criminal behavior committed by the government is not supposed to be a violation of the law.

jim says:


Be worse then I thought, he gave in, plead guilty. To avoid the tribunal of friends? Must have been direct treason, and betrayal, you know, the firing squad type, if it was anything. He’s gotten what I suspect or hope snowden/manning should have gotten. Their level there are few if any secrets, bosses level, firing squad secrets. But then he’s repented and said worse things about the clintons…and got away with it then, special? No, protected class ass yes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. We know there isn’t, but if there was any sense of consistency from the government, Petraeus would be in a cell.

This article is the best example about what hacks me off about my government today. The gov’t is so much about their secrets. They have managed to create a world about themselves where they can make everything a secret, and claim the release of even the smallest “secret” the gravest of crimes.

Then this joker comes around and spills a bunch of them. If the secrets are really so damn important that legal FOIA requests for them drown in redactor’s ink, then why does a release of this scope merit so little punishment? They should really drop the facade and admit that the secrets have nothing to do with the information, and everthing to do with the power it lets them have over others, including the citizens and Constitution they swear to protect.

David says:

Re: Re:

Petraeus only impressed his mistress. Snowden the whole world. Petraeus embarrassed himself. Snowden embarrassed the U.S. government. Petraeus betrayed his country for selfish reasons. Snowden exposed the betrayers of his country for patriotic reasons.

Really, totally different scale here. Cleaning up after Petraeus is going to be a lot easier than cleaning up after Snowden.

Ambrellite (profile) says:

Widespread abuses, no answers

It’s the role of judges to prevent these kinds of hypocrisy from becoming endemic. Unfortunately, abuses of prosecutorial discretion are very difficult to adjudicate, even without obsessive executive secrecy and an awful statute.

Profligate misconduct by prosecutors gives an idea of the scale of the problem. Judges just don’t have the tools to bring prosecutors in line, and they need a dysfunctional congress to help repair the crumbling justice system.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

"The administration's arbitrarily-selected 'in crowd'"

Ah, the Council Of Grand Dukes It’s good to be friends to the king.

During the cold war it was a common belief that women were useless in tradecraft, despite the countless stories that trickled from WWII covert operations (and, when they crossed Ian Flemming, served as inspiration for Mrs. Moneypenny.) The Soviets oddly had the same attitude because…boobs, I guess.

And yet, the KGB was famous for their sparrows, whether as the foil in a honey trap or if a long-term relationship could be established (many were), a pillow-talk source in perpetuity. In those cases, the honey trap often came later when the affair was losing its passion.

(While the CIA preferred to focus more on techy electronic surveillance solutions, don’t think we didn’t have our seductresses and honey traps. They were difficult to insert and exfiltrate behind the iron curtain, but lonely sailors and neutral ports.)

So, it’s hard for me to imagine a freaking general being so incautious. Coming from an era of nuclear threats this is positively unthinkable.

Either this slap-on-the-wrist is going to be followed by a terrible medical onset six months from now (heart attacks are a favorite) or our administration is really just that incompetent. And they will likely underestimate partisan activity.


Anonymous Coward says:

speaking of leaks ...

When Vice President Dick Cheney ordered his top lieutenant I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to leak the identity of an undercover CIA agent (Valerie Plame) as revenge because her husband had exposed some of Bush’s many lies, no one ever expected Cheney or Libby to actually go to prison for a crime that any “normal” person would certainly go to prison for.

It was the perfect circlejerk. When caught, Libby would fall on his sword to protect the vice president, who would likewise protect the president, who as the only person in the country with the power to grant clemency or pardon Libby — promptly did so the moment Libby’s appeals had run out (after insisting for months that he would absolutely not interfere with the course of justice). So once again, a crime had been committed, the perpetrators were caught — yet no one went to jail.

Many of us (naïvely) believed Obama’s promises that he would cancel the Bush administation’s get-out-of-jail-free cards and actually start prosecuting at least some of the many Bush-era lawbreakers, but it eventually became obvious that Obama and Bush were just two sides of the same coin, equally corrupt and self-serving.

Padpaw (profile) says:

They don’t give a dam when someone with power leaks info that gets people killed but the moment one of the little people leaks info all hell breaks loose.

You ever wonder why the team that killed Osama bin laden all died together. Mostly because their whereabouts and info was leaked for political gain by Obama.

Obama got 30 people killed by leaking information on purpose so he could score political points. Do you really expect his administration to penalize anyone that isn’t a little person?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

um...[Citation Needed]

Robert O’Neil, who personally shot at Bin Laden appears to be very much alive, as is Mark Owen / Matt Bissonette. It’s not easy for me to readily track the identities of the less public members of the Operation Neptune Spear insertion team.

If you’re referring to the Chinook shootdown in 2011 in which thirty Americans died including fifteen members of Seal Team Six, those weren’t the same guys, being part of Gold Squadron. Red Squadron carried out Neptune Spear.

We’re certainly in an age when such a thing could happen, where the position of a transport could be leaked to the enemy because we wanted its passengers annihilated, but the ducks don’t seem to line just right in this case.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: um...[Citation Needed]

There’s so much anti-Obama nonsense floating about that if anyone makes up mad lies about him, no one on the right questions it because it’s just more **** to fling at him.

Meanwhile, on the Dem side, they’re waving pom poms and cheering for him. The only objective coverage I get of what the White House is actually up to is right here on Techdirt.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: As much as I'd like to have more optimism for the human species...

A lot of the anti-Obama sentiment expressed by bystanders in media has been on the grounds that he’s a Kenyan Muslim Terrorist, and not, say, that he’s completely failed regarding the transparency of his administration, that he’s super-hostile to whistle-blowers despite his original claim otherwise, that he’s pro-surveillance state, that he’s allowing the CIA torture program.

In short, he’s got about the same integrity of any other 21st century US elected representative…which is a crying shame.

After a campaign about hope and change (e.g. please undo all the terrible things Bush did), we got damn little in the way of actual reform. And with two candidates in a row who completely betrayed their identities as candidates (Remember Bush the Compassionate Conservative?) I know that I can’t expect anything good from the next one, no matter how they behave when trying to win votes.

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