FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The CIA’s Double Standard

The  new poster child for the CIA’s double standard is none other than former CIA director General David Howell Petraeus, who escaped a jail sentence despite providing eight notebooks of highly classified information, including names of covert operatives, to his biographer-mistress Paula Broadwell.  The fact that he lied to the FBI about providing classified information to his mistress should have meant an automatic prison sentence.  In 1991, I was questioned by the FBI regarding Robert Gates‘ role in Iran-Contra, and it was made clear at the outset that the “truth and the whole truth” carried a special meaning for the FBI.

General Petraeus presumably understood this as well, but in a miscarriage of justice that my good friend Ray McGovern termed “too big to jail,” the general was given a misdemeanor wrist-slap and a $40,000 fine, which the general can more than cover with one of his public speaking fees.  McGovern, a CIA veteran and well-known dissident, was jailed for merely trying to get into a speaking event featuring General Petraeus at the 92nd Street YMHA in New York City on the eve of Halloween in 2014.  McGovern was denied entrance to the YMHA  despite having a ticket to the event, but New York’s finest were summoned and McGovern was dragged away and spent the night in jail.  It is reasonable to assume that the government’s monitoring of McGovern’s Internet activity, which included the purchase of the ticket to the event, led to the encounter at the Y.

There is nothing new here, however.  Former CIA director John Deutch placed the most sensitive operational materials of the CIA on his home computer, which was also used to access pornographic sites among other things.  Like Petraeus, Deutch agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge and was assessed a modest $5,000 fine.  Before the prosecutors could file the papers to federal court, President Bill Clinton pardoned Deutch on his last day in office, which contributed to his presidential sobriquet of “Slick Willie.”  Clinton’s national security adviser Samuel Berger similarly pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and received a $10,000 fine for stuffing into his pants classified documents from the National Archives in 2005.

Several years later, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was not even charged–merely admonished–for keeping sensitive information about the NSA’s surveillance program at home.  Meanwhile, NSA official Tom Drake was charged with violations under the Espionage Act for dealing with unclassified information.  Other NSA officials were also harassed by the government for the handling of unclassified information and one of them, Edward Loomis, faced a one-year government review of his book on NSA transgressions.

Conversely, John Kiriakou, a CIA operative, who revealed the decision making involved in CIA’s torture and abuse, was given a 30-month jail sentence, for providing the name of one CIA operative to two journalists who never used the name in any of their stories.  No one was quicker to praise the sentencing of Kiriakou than CIA director Petraeus.

Meanwhile, the CIA cleared for publication the memoirs of two senior officers with more than 70 years of professional experience at the CIA who claim there was no such thing as torture and abuse.  John Rizzo, a senior career lawyer at the CIA who took part in the decision making for torture and abuse, defended CIA interrogation at its “black sites.”  Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA operative who destroyed the 92 torture tapes, denied that CIA conducted torture and abuse, hiding behind the so-called “torture memoranda” of the Department of Justice that provided legal cover for some–but not all–of the CIA practices.  Meanwhile, the major author of the torture memoranda, John Yoo, who is on the faculty of the University of California’s law school in Berkeley, has conceded that CIA officers went beyond the letter of the authorization and should be held accountable.

A colleague of mine from the 1970s, Frank Snepp, wrote an important book with no classified information that was not submitted for Agency clearance.  As a result, he had to forfeit his considerable royalties, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for violating his obligation to submit such a manuscript.  Nevertheless, former director Leon Panetta submitted his memoir to his publisher in 2013 long before he passed the manuscript to the CIA for security review; he received no punishment whatsoever, not even an admonishment.  Snepp’s book was severely critical of the CIA and the U.S. government for leaving behind loyal Vietnamese in our withdrawal in 1975.  Conversely, Panetta had great, albeit misguided, praise for the CIA.

The fines for the crimes of Petraeus, Berger, and Deutch must be compared to the jail sentences given to low-ranking government officials and contractors who have mishandled classified information.  Stephen J. Kim, a contractor, received a one-year prison sentence for disclosing information to a reporter for Fox News, who was also charged for merely doing his job of investigative journalism.  A former FBI technician received a four-year sentence for discussing classified information with a reporter from the Associated Press.  Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, is facing a lengthy prison sentence for discussing classified information with James Risen of the New York Times.  Risen also faced serious charges but in a sudden twist, Attorney General Eric Holder realized that his controversial legacy at the Department of Justice shouldn’t include the harassment of journalists and journalism.

Although President Obama campaigned on openness in government, no president has been so zealous in defending official secrecy or in using the Espionage Act from 1917.  More U.S. officials have been charged with leaking secret information by the Obama administration than any other, and no president has done more harm to the institution of the Inspector General.  Whistleblowers simply have no place to go other than the media because of the weakness of the Offices of the Inspector General  in the intelligence community, and the fact that the congressional intelligence committees are in the hands of Republican apologists for the intelligence community.

The charges against General Petraeus were the most ironic of all.  The general’s mistress was the target of the leak investigation, which led to the discovery of the classified documents.  At that point, the FBI actually believed the CIA director was the target of hacking; no one suspected a felony offense.  Next time, the good general should give any classified information to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward because he has been publishing state secrets from high-level officials for several decades with no accusations or investigations.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of “Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA,” “National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism,” and the forthcoming “The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA” (City Lights Publishers, 2015).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

 

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent book is “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing), and he is the author of the forthcoming “The Dangerous National Security State” (2020).” Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail