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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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 3:47am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 4:36am

      Re:

      Look on the bright side, think of how much damage they could do if they were actually competent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 7:03am

        Re: Re:

        Unfortunately, while they make look incompetent, they're thorough. We're only seeing the main targets - they trash EVERYONE connected to a person in this kind of investigation. From close family members to office janitors. We just don't hear about it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Oct 2015 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      Not fight back, or at least be unwilling to roll over for a nonsense plea deal.

      Frankly, plea deals have become an atrocity in this country, since the government will make you scared to defend your innocence, but make you willing to accept some lessor 'guilt' to help make it less painful than defending yourself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 4:45am

    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!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Orwell, 21 Oct 2015 @ 4:49am

    Petraeus and Clinton are more equal than the others...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 5:01am

    "We admit it - we're trigger-happy morons, except you know, when it comes to prosecuting the bankers."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 5:29am

    IF they prosecuted those actually committing treason they would lose half their agents as well as most of their leadership

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Londo Mollari (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 5:59am

      Re:

      That would actually be a good thing, I think. Those collections of bumbling fools could use a good dose of reality for once. I tire of them running this country into the ground, and I think we all would be much better off without them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 6:01am

    It looks like most of the paranoia is coming from the government itself. I hope this guys sues them until they turn tits up.

    At this rate the government looks like it wants to FORCE a war with its own citizens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 21 Oct 2015 @ 6:34am

    This is why...

    This is why you should FEAR government... they can destroy lives with fear of repercussions.

    The larger the government, the more power. The more power, the more lives they ruin in a desperate attempt to justify their own existence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 7:13am

      Re: This is why...

      Do not fear. Fear makes you stupid and weak. Be angry instead.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 8:23am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re: This is why...

          ...angry people can change things, angry people can fix things...

          Angry people can also destroy things.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 11:03am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why...

            "Angry people can also destroy things."

            ...and build a better world from the ashes...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 12:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why...

              Unfortunately they are more likely to end up with a Napoleon or Stalin than a democratic government.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 12:09pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This is why...

            Yes, but on the whole angry people are responsible for a lot less wonton destruction than fearful people.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 1:44pm

        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."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 7:08am

    hey, govt, there's another toe.

    try to take it off in one shot this time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 8:18am

    Color me surprised that anonymous prosecutors would advocate for her prosecution.

    "I'll get to run for senator on the platform that I prosecuted traitors and spies during my time at the DOJ!"

    Chris Christie probably wouldn't be in office if be didn't do something similar.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    RedBeard (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 11:37am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2015 @ 11:52am

    Breeding a culture of, everythings illegal, except this, this and that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 21 Oct 2015 @ 12:32pm

    Rule of Man or Rule of Law?

    To do so would be unnecessarily punitive, considering the government's ongoing refusal to punish members of the "in crowd."

    Arbitrary application of the law is tyranny.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 21 Oct 2015 @ 1:20pm

    Mission status

    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.

    Mission completed successfully.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 21 Oct 2015 @ 2:08pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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