Former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling says Hillary Clinton has been “given a pass” on her handling of classified information.
Last year, Sterling was convicted of 9 counts of espionage and sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for leaking information to reporter James Risen. The information involved a covert program designed to provide Iran with inaccurate plans for nuclear components. Risen published a book discussing the program in 2006. In an interview published Monday by the Washington Post, Sterling says his case was handled differently from other high profile cases of mishandling classified information:
Prosecuting those who leak classified information has been a hallmark of the Obama administration, which has pursued more such cases than all its predecessors combined. Sterling said he believes his treatment was particularly harsh considering what happened to other more, prominent people. Gen. David H. Petraeus, for example, gave his mistress and biographer access to classified materials and was sentenced to only two years of probation and fined $100,000, Sterling said.
Even presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom political rivals have alleged mishandled classified information related to her use of a personal e-mail account while she was Secretary of State, seems to have benefited from her position, Sterling said.
“Again, a high ranking official who should know better, but completely given a pass, and almost an apologetic pass,” he said of Clinton. “So how should us regular citizens feel, especially with heightened concerns about national security?”
Prosecutors portrayed Sterling as a vindictive ex-employee who sued the CIA and later leaked the information to Risen because he was upset with the CIA’s treatment of him. Sterling and his wife both maintain he is innocent of leaking the covert program, though Sterling does admit to knowing Risen.
As for whether Clinton will get a pass, the FBI is still reviewing the handling of classified material on the private email server she set up to handle all of her email, both work related and private. Clinton turned over about half the emails on the server and had her aides delete the rest claiming they were personal. When the story became public Clinton asked that all of the material she turned over to the State Department be released to the public. So far State has released thousands of Clinton’s emails, over 1,700 of which have been deemed classified. At least 22 emails were judged to be classified at the highest “top secret” level and therefore too sensitive to release even in redacted form.
Clinton’s camp has maintained that the emails were all classified retroactively but some reports have suggested that certain types of classified information is “born classified.” In addition, the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community has confirmed some of the emails contained information from IC sources and were highly classified at the time the emails were sent.
Ultimately the decision of whether Hillary or her aides are given a pass will not be made by the FBI but by the Obama Justice Department. The FBI could recommend prosecution for mishandling of classified material but only the Justice Department can decide to pursue it. At least one former Inspector General says an indictment will never happen because the case would have to pass through the hands of “four loyal Democrat women,” including Attorney General Lynch and Obama’s adviser Valerie Jarrett.