How this will play out is impossible to predict. But there is a precedent of surpassing importance. John Deutch was Bill Clinton’s CIA chief from May 1995 until December 1996. Days after his CIA directorship came to an end, technicians discovered classified information on his personal computer at his Bethesda, Md., home.
Deutch’s violations were not trivial. Throughout his tenure in office, according to a 2000 postmortem by the CIA’s inspector general, he had “continuously processed” a “large volume” of “highly classified” information on computers configured only for unclassified use.
When the breach was first uncovered, an internal investigation began at the CIA, but so did a slow-rolling cover-up. The 2000 postmortem noted that the discovery of a security violation of this magnitude would ordinarily “be expected to generate a crimes report” to the Department of Justice. However, a gaggle of Deutch’s own appointees to the CIA, still in place following his departure, “determined such a report was not necessary.”
Only after a year of spinning wheels did CIA managers finally refer the matter to the Justice Department. Attorney General Janet Reno responded initially with the most minimal conceivable action, suggesting that Deutch’s security clearance be reviewed. But after the CIA’s critical report became public in 2000, igniting a firestorm on Capitol Hill, prosecutors swung into high gear.