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General Petraeus, Secretary Clinton, and Equal Justice Under the Law

Updated on July 10, 2016
Bobby Shanahan profile image

Robert is a freelance writer/researcher in the Seattle, WA area. He covers current political, economic, and geopolitical news.

March 17, 2016, file photo: CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus is interviewed on the Fox Business Network, in New York.
March 17, 2016, file photo: CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus is interviewed on the Fox Business Network, in New York. | Source

Can anyone catch the Clintons?

FBI Director James Comey recently revealed that Hillary Clinton will not be charged with anything following an investigation into the use of classified information on her own server while secretary of state. While many view this as vindication that Hillary did no wrong, others point to the similarities between her investigation and others in the past.

General David Petraeus, former CENTCOM commander and CIA chief, was recently charged for mishandling similarly classified information. So, why was he charged and Hillary was not?

Daniel Sobieski wrote in The American Thinker that “The cases are almost identical, but Petraeus admitted his crime, apologized for it and paid a fine. Now the man who is arguably the most significant American general since World War II ... is going to be publicly humiliated and his reputation permanently tarnished.” Meanwhile, Clinton marches on to become possibly the next president.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge noted in her January 2016 blockbuster report:

“According to court documents, former CIA Director David Petraeus was prosecuted for sharing intelligence from special access programs with his biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell. At the heart of his prosecution was a non-disclosure agreement where Petraeus agreed to protect these closely held government programs, with the understanding ‘unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention or negligent handling … could cause irreparable injury to the United States or be used to advantage by a foreign nation.’ Clinton signed an identical non-disclosure agreement Jan. 22, 2009.”

The sheer amount of wealth amassed by Bill and Hillary Clinton since leaving the White House, is astounding. Since the early 2000s, after her stints as senator then secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton helped bank nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. This alone should raise questions, but crimes committed by Clinton's generally go unpunished.

It’s clear that Clinton lied to the authorities. Comey even admitted as much. The FBI found at least 113 email chains that contained material that was classified at the time it was sent, including some that were classified top secret. Still, Clinton said she was fully cooperative, turning everything over to the FBI. Yet this was another outright lie, as the Inspector General of the State Department contradicted this, stating Clinton simply refused to cooperate.


Clinton the cooperator?

Clinton and her campaign have claimed all along that her server was secure. Comey said the FBI did not uncover a breach, but he did add that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.” The Russians already know everything about Mrs. Clinton and whatever other state secrets were on her server at the time.

At the very least, Clinton sought to keep her correspondence hidden from the public, deliberately aiming to violate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires all classified documents from government officials become public records to journalists upon request. Since her emails were on a private server, Clinton assured no FOIA requests could get her.

Classic Clinton thinking.

What should really be getting asked is why Clinton was so insistent on avoiding the reach of FOIA. She obviously has something to hide. The Clintons have been collecting huge sums of money from rich people, companies, and foreign entities for years and using the Clinton Foundation to funnel much of the money through. The correspondence relating to this and the Clinton Foundation were on the server, and Clinton was able to pick and choose which emails to deliver to the authorities.

On a private server, these kinds of communications were certainly marked “private” by Mrs. Clinton and her attorney, “wiped” from existence forever.

Hillary Clinton has been fighting these kinds of investigations for over 20 years. Clinton narrowly escaped a similar legal peril during the Whitewater investigation that engulfed much of her husband’s time as president. Internal documents from the inquiry show how close prosecutors came to filing charges at that time against Hillary Clinton. They even drew up a draft indictment for Clinton, which has never been made public, according to The Washington Post.

However, Comey says today, like in the 90s, there is no sufficient evidence to bring up charges against Mrs. Clinton. Comey said that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified material but that there was no evidence she had broken the law by intentionally mishandling it. He insisted that her status as a famous former secretary of state, senator and first lady played no role in the decision.

Republican presidential prince, Donald Trump, tweeted after Comey’s announcement last week: "The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair! As usual, bad judgment.” While the system is certainly rigged, the parallels between Petraeus and Clinton are not so certain.

Petraeus’ case made him more legally vulnerable than Clinton. He knew he was exposing confidential information and then lied to the FBI about it. Petraeus shared eight notebooks, or “black-books,” with Paula Broadwell, his biographer at the time. These pages contained his own handwritten notes on classified matters.

Clinton’s case, on the other hand, involved information she handled electronically. As there were thousands of emails on a private server that could have been hacked by anyone from anywhere, the information was more vulnerable to theft than Petraeus’ notebooks. Unfortunately for the American people, but fortunately for the former first couple, we don’t know the exact contents of the emails. This makes it difficult to say which breach was worse.

A nation of laws or men?

Comey believes Clinton’s case is one of a kind. At the July 5th news conference, the FBI director said that the case did not resemble others in which prosecutions had been pursued for mishandling classified information.

"All the cases prosecuted,” Comey began, “involve some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information or vast quantities of information exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct or indications of disloyalty to the United States or efforts to obstruct justice," Comey said. Since Comey and the FBI could not prove Clinton’s criminal intent, she will live without the consequences. But since when does one have to prove both an intentional and willful mishandling of information?

Petraeus’ mishandling of documents was indisputably intentional, and Petraeus obstructed justice by lying to FBI agents investigating the case. But Clinton withheld much evidence from the FBI and was not exactly cooperative. Yet at the end of the day, she did not intend any of it so is therefore innocent of any criminal misconduct?

According to Comey, withholding thousands of work-related emails from the FBI is not enough to prove intention. He said there was evidence of “potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information.” But, he also said, there was no evidence that anyone intended to violate any laws and that the FBI’s judgment was “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case."

Eric Zuesse, author and investigative historian, thinks there most certainly is a case. He finds Hillary Clinton in violation of the following six criminal U.S. laws:

  1. 18 U.S. Code § 2232 — Destruction or removal of property to prevent seizure

  2. 18 U.S. Code § 1512 — Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant

  3. 18 U.S. Code § 1519 — Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy

  4. 18 U.S. Code § 2071 — Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally

  5. 18 U.S. Code § 641 — Public money, property or records

  6. 18 U.S. Code § 793 — Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information

If we are in fact a nation “of laws, not of men,” then Ms. Clinton would have been prosecuted, at least through the grand jury stage. The broader public will have no say in her fate, as the chief Executive intervened to cement his legacy. A fully functioning democracy would have let Clinton face the music. Any government which violates this underlying principle of law and order, undermines its very existence, pushing confidence in American government to an all time low.

United in distrust?

This is not a partisan issue. Democrats do not trust Hillary. Independents don’t seem to want to give her a chance. And most Republicans have not trusted her since 1993. Now, many are not trusting the Obama administration to act objectively in this matter. Obama has nullified at least six laws, in order to allow his likely successor, Hillary Clinton, who surely will not prosecute Obama for his overstepping of executive power while “leading” this nation and destroying our democracy, to stay out of prison.

Zuesse parted from both the Republicans and Democrats in 2012 “as they and the government they operate have been since at least 1980 — not at all democratic, but instead aristocratic: holding some persons to be above the law.” Once again, politics is put before principle in D.C. Self-serving politicians do what they must to save their own necks, while forgetting about their annoying constituents back home.

According to Stephen Lendman at Rense, “Ordinary Americans are held to one standard, privileged ones another… Rule of law principles don’t matter.” It’s all about who you know. Especially in politics. Hillary Clinton knows just about everyone in every important position. It pays to be connected.

On Thursday, however, just two days after Comey’s big press conference, the State Department said it’s reopening its earlier suspended investigation on whether Clinton and her aides mishandled classified information. This has given conservatives one last shot to take down Mrs. Clinton, though it will undoubtedly come after her final foray into presidential politics.

A cavalcade of responses have come down on the side for justice over the past week from former and current law enforcement officials.

Former FBI director Chris Swecker said Comey should have brought charges against Clinton:

“He seemed to be building a case for that and he laid out what I thought were the elements under the gross negligence aspect of it, so I was very surprised at the end when he said that there was a recommendation of no prosecution and also given the fact-based nature of this and the statement that no reasonable prosecutor would entertain prosecution, I don’t think that’s the standard.”

Shannen Coffin, who served in senior legal positions in the U.S. Department of Justice, wrote on the interesting involvement of criminal intent in this investigation:

“Comey simply ignored — or rewrote — the plain language of § 793(f), which does not require any showing of criminal intent. There is a reason that Congress did not require a showing of intent in this provision of the Espionage Act: to protect against even inadvertent disclosure or risk of disclosure of protected information where the perpetrator demonstrated gross disregard for the national security. How Comey could conclude that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ could make this case is inexplicable in light of his own words.

It is interesting to see how far Comey went in saying that there was no ‘there, there’ in the Clinton email investigation. Many Beltway beauties take this in without an ounce of insight. Others believe Comey’s decision reveals the inherent corruption in Washington.


Can we trust our government to do the right thing?

Bill Binney, the highest-level NSA whistleblower in history, told Washington’s Blog: “This shows our non existing justice system.”

CIA whistleblower, John Kirakou, agreed, noting:

“Comey’s decision reflects the utter hypocrisy of the justice system in matters of national security … If you are a whistleblower you can expect the entire weight of the US government to fall on your head. But if you are a well-connected political figure, or a friend of the president, you can violate the country’s espionage laws with impunity and know that you’ll get away with it.”

The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. Snowden flees for Moscow. The Clintons march back to the White House.

There seem to be two sets of systems for justice in America. One for the wealthy and one for everyone else. The government protects its own, goes after whistleblowers, keeps crooks in office, and the downtrodden in prison. The Obama administration, for all its promises of openness and transparency, has sentenced whistleblowers to more jail time than all other presidents COMBINED). The government goes to great lengths to prosecute whistleblowers, while elites accused of criminal wrongdoing get off without a hitch.

Hillary’s last name is Clinton. Therefore, she gets a different sort of treatment. As Richard Manning of Americans for Limited Government put it, Hillary Clinton is too big to jail. Given the evidence that Comey seemed to outline, it was pretty perplexing to find that the former secretary of state did not meet an evidentiary threshold.

Comey called Clinton’s server shenanigans “careless,” something she should’ve “known better.” Even if one adopts Comey’s fragile argument that criminal intent should be implied into the statutes, one cannot deny the fact that Clinton knew what she was doing, and was doing it to circumvent FOIA requests.

Either way you slice it, Hillary Clinton abides by and lives by a different set of rules than the rest of us.


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    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 19 months ago from Yorktown NY


      Rice and Powell used private email accounts like yahoo and gmail. They did not use their own email server. Please don't insult our intelligence.

      It makes you look uninformed and biased.

    • Sychophantastic profile image

      Sychophantastic 21 months ago

      So this is the second hub of yours I've read and I will read no more. You are just perpetuating lies. The two cases are not even close to being the same as the FBI Director clearly articulated. Petraeus INTENTIONALLY gave somebody classified information, plead guilty, and yet was only charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor! And your meme suggests Hillary shared 30,000 classified emails, which is also patently untrue. I believe the FBI Director said there were 3, and none of them was properly indicated as such, which would mean that Clinton might not have thought they were classified. The State Department has since come out and said they either shouldn't have been classified or were classified retroactively. Further, both Secretaries Rice and Powell used personal servers and the Bush Administration deleted something like 5 million emails. The point being that if Clinton is charged and/or indicted, there are a lot more people in line.

    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 21 months ago from Uruguay

      I watched for many hours from beginning to end James Comey in front of congress and that is an issue he explained very clearly and at length.The difference between Hillary and Petraeus is that he pleaded guilty to having knowingly given classified top secret information to his lover and biographer and they have proof that he declared to her that what he was doing was breaking the law.He confessed to this in his plea deal because there were more charges they could bring against him of more serious nature.Moreover,He also incurred in obstruction of justice because he lied to the FBI and tried to cover up his actions until they found proof .He also explained for hours why he recommended not to pursue criminal action against Hillary. So even though Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are good on convincing the simpleton what they usually spew is not the truth.