DOJ On The Verge Of Dropping Third Straight Espionage Prosecution

from the ever-vigilant-against-the-threat-of-non-spycraft dept

Maybe the DOJ has grown accustomed to the FBI handing over fully-groomed terrorists for it to prosecute. Its recent attempts to go outside of the realm of young, impressionable men when seeking spy-related prosecutions have gone disastrously.

Last month, it thought it had cornered a pesky Chinese spy and found itself instead looking at someone who had committed no criminal activity. The feds believed Xi Xiaoxing (the head of Temple University’s physics department) had shared secret semiconductor-related blueprints with Chinese scientists. Well after moving forward with its prosecution, the DOJ discovered the FBI’s investigative work had come to erroneous conclusions. It dropped all charges and left Xiaxiong to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

This came on the heels of the DOJ’s aborted prosecution of Sherry Chen, a National Water Service employee. While visiting China she passed on some PUBLIC website links related to water reservoir funding to a friend of hers, who was a senior official in China’s Ministry of Water. She also put him in touch with a former colleague from the Army Corps of Engineers, who rewarded the official’s queries by reporting this contact to the DOJ. Another life was turned upside down based on the most specious of suspicions.

Third time’s the charm. The DOJ is seemingly ready to drop another espionage-related prosecution due to a lack of culpatory evidence. (h/t Unredacted)

Last fall, federal agents raided the home and office of Robin L. Raphel in search of proof that she, a seasoned member of America’s diplomatic corps, was spying for Pakistan. But officials now say the spying investigation has all but fizzled, leaving the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute Ms. Raphel for the far less serious charge of keeping classified information in her home.

The fallout from the investigation has in the meantime seriously damaged Ms. Raphel’s reputation, built over decades in some of the world’s most volatile countries.

An intercepted conversation involving Raphael, collected during routine surveillance of Pakistani officials, seemed to suggest the State Department advisor was passing on state secrets. The government put Raphael under surveillance for several weeks, which culminated in a search of her home and office. The DOJ then stripped her of her security clearances, but refused to give her any information about its suspicions.

The smoking gun the DOJ found was tepid, given its recent prosecutorial history: some classified documents in Raphael’s home. At this point, the DOJ doesn’t appear to have any evidence this information was distributed, which puts Raphael in the company of other mishandlers of sensitive documents — like General Petraeus… and Hillary Clinton. The range of punishments those two received ranged from a wrist slap to nothing at all. If the DOJ’s going to maintain any consistency (and it won’t), Raphael should receive something within that same range. And if that’s all that’s to come of it, it hardly seems worth pursuing.

For her part, Raphael has rejected the plea deals offered by the DOJ, claiming she’s actually innocent. At most, she took home documents she shouldn’t have. The DOJ seems hesitant to move forward, although the New York Times quotes anonymous prosecutors who would like to see her charged with a felony under the Espionage Act — charges that could result in years of prison time. To do so would be unnecessarily punitive, considering the government’s ongoing refusal to punish members of the “in crowd.”

Even if the DOJ decides to drop the case, Raphael may be no better off than Thomas Drake — another person whose career was destroyed over the alleged “mishandling” of classfied documents. The government claimed Drake held onto classified documents — despite being told to hold onto them by the Inspector General investigating his whistleblower case and despite these documents being declassified before the prosecution was over. Drake went from working with the NSA to manning an Apple store “Genius Bar.” Raphael is likely on a similar path, even if charges are dropped. Officials from combative nations will be far less likely to confide in someone who’s obviously under US government surveillance and the US government itself likely won’t be offering her any advancement opportunities.

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Comments on “DOJ On The Verge Of Dropping Third Straight Espionage Prosecution”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So they only like cases where the target isn’t able to fight back, and even with the full power of the government making its own rules can’t manage to overcome the shocking incompetence of its employees.
Couldn’t go after the banks because it would be to hard to make a case, and can’t be bothered to let evidence get in the way of their wild guesswork.

Anyone else feeling way less safe?

Anonymous Coward says:

so the paranoia continues and the only ones who really need to be prosecuted are the bloody idiots in the FBI and DOJ! what should happen in cases like these is those responsible should be prosecuted, not those accused, who lose their lives (not by dying, of course), are shown no sympathy and i doubt even get an apology! those affected should then receive significant compensation to make up for the loss of future employment opportunities!!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is why...

I’m probably butchering the quote, but…

‘You have tyranny when the public fears the government, and democracy when the government fears the people.’

Like you say, don’t be afraid, be angry. The government wants people to be afraid, that’s why they’re always going on and on about the countless ‘threats’ everywhere, because fearful people are people who can be convinced to give up their rights if only someone would ‘protect’ them. Angry people though… angry people can change things, angry people can fix things.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is why...

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

“Fear cuts deeper than swords.”

RedBeard (profile) says:

Nothing to hide

“An intercepted conversation involving Raphael, collected during routine surveillance of Pakistani officials, seemed to suggest the State Department advisor was passing on state secrets.”

Hmmm. What do some of those, umm . . . patriots say about snooping, “If you don’t have anything to hide you don’t have to worry about the government spying on you.” Well this is a perfect example of how wrong they are.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

It's a matter of Rank

No, no Raphael will be punished; the best she can hope for is loss of home, job, career, and income–assuming they drop the case–but she should probably brace for worse. See, she doesn’t matter; not as a matter of rank.

Unlike Petraeus and Clinton: they’re too important to be punished because they do matter.

At least, in our current broken legal system: where lower caste means higher penalties.

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