Make no mistake, I'm not endorsing crime, just mystified by how we punish those who commit it.
Between the Wikileaks exposés, the Bradley/Chelsea Manning leaks or the Edward Snowden releases of classified information, we're experiencing some startling reveals. And to many, these are breaches in national security. Names of people or enough identifying information has been parsed that lives have become in danger. Thousands, perhaps millions of US tax dollars has been blown by giving up this information.
These are national security risks for sure. Based on the 'secret' information revealed, we now face risks because the Taliban or Al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group knows they've been infiltrated. Our safeguards, our methodology, our agents or double-agents have potentially been exposed.
This is heinous and endangers us all.
A few days ago, according to the NEW YORK TIMES,
A former F.B.I. agent has agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified information to The Associated Press about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen last year, the Justice Department announced.
Federal investigators said they were able to identify the man, Donald Sachtleben,
Mr. Sachtleben, 55, of Carmel, Ind., who was an F.B.I. agent from 1983 until 2008 and was later hired as a contractor, has agreed to serve 43 months in prison for the leak, the Justice Department said.
Forty-three months, just over 3 1/2 years. I'm not sure how that sentence was calculated considering Bradley/Chelsea Manning, through a military judge last month was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking archives of documents to WikiLeaks.
But back to Sachtleben. By his revealing how we were able to foil the bombing plot, he gave away a secret plan and potentially the identity of the agent working for us. And the reporters who broke this story refused to give up their source.
DOJ went to work to find out who this leaker was and in doing so, tapped the phone records of the reporters at AP. Now that Donald Sachtleben has been revealed, the whole situation has caused quite an uproar. Mining phone data is a big issue as it goes to the heart of news reporters freedom of the press.
Yet this case took an even more obscure turn this week when the DOJ revealed the man's identity
...only after secretly obtaining A.P. reporters’ phone logs, a move that set off an uproar among journalists and members of Congress of both parties when it was disclosed in May.
The Justice Department cross-referenced his phone calls with those of the Associated Press reporters who had written a story that indicated a terrorist attempt was thwarted because of an "inside" source. That news story also let the terrorists know they had a mole on the inside.
Much has been made of the reveal, but not so much has been made of the reason the justice department had access to Sachtleben's private data to start with. His personal computer had been confiscated because he was under investigation for another crime at the time. Possession of child pornography.
Now here's the interesting thing, the part that gets me wondering which crime is worse? A man costs this country millions of dollars in cash, training, assets, time, and potential lives -- crime one; or he has possession of banned material, a non-violent offense -- crime two . Both are awful. Both are clearly criminal. Both are felonies.
So, how do we punish these offenses?
Mr. Sachtleben has separately agreed to plead guilty and serve 97 months in the pornography case.
Sachtleben has agreed to serve 43 months in prison for the leak.
So possession of pornography, in the justice department's eyes, is more than twice as bad as betraying his country -- revealing secrets and putting our whole national security at risk?
Again, I'm not saying either should go unpunished, but is the balance of justice a little askew here? This man is not accused of directly harming a child. This isn't a rape case. It's a possession case. He wasn't making or selling pornographic material. For that he gets over 8 years in prison.
Yet he puts all of our entire country's lives in jeopardy and his punishment for that seems to be a comparative wrist slap.
Should the punishment fit the crime? I could understand those sentences being reversed, but there sure seems to be some unbalanced prison stays being handed out.
Just ask Chelsea Manning.
I was lucky enough to have an email correspondence with Ms. Thomas a few years back, and she was as irrepressible and feisty as you would have thought. I regret I never could accept her invitation to lunch. No need to gloss over her failings, she was as adamant in them as she was her virtues.
WASHINGTON — Helen Thomas, the irrepressible White House correspondent who used her seat in the front row of history to grill nine presidents — often to their discomfort and was not shy about sharing her opinions, died Saturday. She was 92.
Thomas, who died at her apartment in Washington, had been ill for a long time, and in and out of the hospital before coming home Thursday, according to a friend, Muriel Dobbin.
Thomas made her name as a bulldog for United Press International in the great wire-service rivalries of old, and as a pioneer for women in journalism.
She was persistent to the point of badgering. One White House press secretary described her questioning as “torture” — and he was one of her fans.
Her refusal to conceal her strong opinions, even when posing questions to a president, and her public hostility toward Israel, caused discomfort among colleagues.
In her long career, she was indelibly associated with the ritual ending White House news conferences. She was often the one to deliver the closing line: “Thank you, Mister. President” — four polite words that belied a fierce competitive streak.
One more L.A. Times letter to the editor, because our voices matter:
It's a crying shame that in a democracy, a journalist can be jailed for failing to reveal a source. But [Judith] Miller isn't the best person to make this point.
When the Bush administration was stirring up public support for an unnecessary and ultimately disastrous war, Miller acted as an agent of disinformation for the White House, writing stories based on lies published in the New York Times about Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.
This is not journalism, and Miller is not a journalist, any more than her employer, Fox News, is a news organization.
Marvin J. Wolf
Mar Vista Heights