Ken White over at Popehat calls our attention to Gen. David Petraeus’ plea bargain for leaking federal code-word classified secrets: essentially, he’s getting a misdemeanor and the feds are recommending 2 years probation, no actual prison time.
White’s summation of the facts (these are the facts as conceded by the Petraeus defense):
The statement discusses his “Black Books” containing his schedules and notes during his command in Afghanistan; those books contained “national defense information, including Top Secret/SCI code word information.” (Factual Basis at paragraphs 17-18.) Petraeus, after acknowledging that “there’s code word stuff in there,” gave the Black Books to his biographer/girlfriend at her private residence. “
So, okay, we can acknowledge that there are material differences between Petraeus’ actions and, say, Manning’s or Snowden’s. None the less, the core of the action is pretty similar: making public classified documents. And the difference in prosecution is pretty goddamned stark: Manning’s prosecutors sought life in prison. It seems pretty clear that if Snowden is ever actually prosecuted in the current climate, he’d face the same.
Petraeus gets a misdemeanor and two years probation (or possibly not, but it’s what the prosecutors are seeking. A judge could override, but at worst, Petraeus is looking at one year in prison). White’s gloss is that this is what being rich and sophisticated get you, and certainly there’s some truth to that, but I think it’s mostly that this is what being politically well-connected gets you. Petraeus seems like he’s wealthy but not ultra-rich. Probably Snowden and Manning can get equal quality legal representation as Petraeus (they’re less wealthy but have supporters who are willing to donate to their legal defenses). The difference is that Petraeus is or was a mover and shaker in Washington and has ongoing connections with non-disgraced movers and shakers. And he didn’t burn bridges in his crime — he wasn’t out to embarrass the NSA or the military. So they’re willing to let him off with a slap on the wrist.