The Obama administration has an overly hard line record on prosecuting minor security breaches. Hillary Clinton, who has never had a very good record with regards to either government transparency or civil liberties, might inadvertently wind up reversing this trend. While the FBI did not recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton despite her reckless handling of classified information, people lower down have commonly been prosecuted for less. The handling of Clinton’s case is now likely to be cited in subsequent cases. Politico reported on one such case:
Citing Clinton, sailor seeks leniency in submarine photos case
A Navy sailor facing the possibility of years in prison for taking a handful of classified photos inside a nuclear submarine is making a bid for leniency by citing the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over classified information authorities say was found in her private email account.
Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier, 29, is set to be sentenced Friday on a single felony charge of retaining national defense information without permission. In May, Saucier pleaded guilty in federal court in Bridgeport, Conn., admitting that while working on the U.S.S. Alexandria in 2009 he took and kept six photos showing parts of the sub’s propulsion system he knew to be classified.
The defense and prosecutors agree that sentencing guidelines in the case call for a prison term of 63 to 78 months, but defense attorney Derrick Hogan cited the treatment of Clinton as he argued in a filing last week that Saucier should get probation instead.
“Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Secretary of State Hilary [sic] Clinton…has come under scrutiny for engaging in acts similar to Mr. Saucier,” Hogan wrote. He noted that FBI Director James Comey said 110 emails in 52 email chains in Clinton’s account contained information deemed classified at the time, including eight chains with “top secret” information and 36 with “secret” information.
“In our case, Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as ‘confidential/restricted,’ far less than Clinton’s 110 emails,” Hogan wrote. “It will be unjust and unfair for Mr. Saucier to receive any sentence other than probation for a crime those more powerful than him will likely avoid.”
There are distinctions between the cases. Saucier admitted as part of a plea bargain that he “knew from his training and his specialized work upon the submarine” that the photos contained classified information and he wasn’t authorized to take them. He also admitted that after being confronted by law enforcement in 2012 he destroyed a laptop, camera and memory card.
Clinton has said she didn’t know any information on her server was classified, although Comey has said anyone in Clinton’s position “should have known that an unclassified system was no place” for some of the subjects being discussed. While Clinton had tens of thousands of emails erased from her system in 2014, she did so with the advice of lawyers and before the FBI investigation was underway.
Regardless of whether people such as this sailor receive more lenient handling, I also wonder if Clinton will be as hard on such matters as the Obama administration has been if elected (which looks likely based upon current polls and Donald Trump’s continuing incoherence while campaigning). While her natural conservative inclination might be to be a hard liner, she might also be dissuaded by the inevitable comparisons to her case.
In related news, two Republicans have laid out their arguments for the Justice Department to investigate Clinton for perjury in her testimony before Congress. This includes lying over whether she sent or received classified information on her private server, the claim that her lawyers had gone through each email individually before deleting them, her claim that all work related email was turned over to the State Department, and her claim that she used only one server while Secretary of State. The FBI report contradicts each of these claims made when she testified before Congress.