The Corner

Law & the Courts

For Some, Mishandling Classified Information Has Lasting Consequences

It turns out that General David Petraeus’s troubles are far from over. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is considering demoting Petraeus, a humiliating move that would cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars:

The Pentagon is considering retroactively demoting retired Gen. David Petraeus after he admitted to giving classified information to his biographer and mistress while he was still in uniform, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Daily Beast.

The decision now rests with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who is said to be willing to consider overruling an earlier recommendation by the Army that Petraeus not have his rank reduced. Such a demotion could cost the storied general hundreds of thousands of dollars—and deal an additional blow to his once-pristine reputation.

“The secretary is considering going in a different direction” from the Army, a defense official told The Daily Beast, because he wants to be consistent in his treatment of senior officers who engage in misconduct and to send a message that even men of Petraeus’s fame and esteemed reputation are not immune to punishment. (Emphasis added.)

While I appreciate sincere efforts to hold even the most powerful of men to the same standards that govern the rank and file, it will be interesting to see if the same beliefs about fairness and the rule of law prevail in the FBI and DOJ, the entities tasked with investigating and potentially prosecuting Hillary Clinton. 

Members of the military and other government employees have been prosecuted and disciplined for infractions far less serious than storing hundreds of emails containing classified information on an unsecured, private server. And the fact that Clinton was Secretary of State makes her infractions worse. She was a prime target for espionage, and her violations of the law gave foreign powers an opening to penetrate deliberations at the highest levels of government. 

She has no excuse. But she does have power. That’s often enough to not just escape accountability but to prosper in spite of lawlessness. Just ask her husband.

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