FBI Director James Comey recommended no criminal charges for Hillary Clinton. According to Comey, there was no precedent to charge Hillary Clinton for all the abuses he outlined in his 15 minute press conference.
That’s hard to believe.
Comey explained that no combination of the following existed:
- No clear, willful mishandling of classified information;
- The amount of classified material did not meet the threshold for prosecution;
- The actions did not imply or infer a disloyalty to the United States;
- There was no clear effort to obstruct justice;
He went to great lengths to explain that, in his estimation, her actions were incredibly careless. But they did not meet the criminal intent for even gross negligence.
But gross negligence does not rest solely on purposeful or premeditated intent. The definition of negligence includes carelessness. These rules were hammered into our heads as protectors of Special Access Program (SAP) information. Based on the law, an unwillingness to protect secrets got you in trouble. Your intent only determined the level of punishment.
So now I wonder, all the steps I took as a counterintelligence specialist to protect special access information really, in essence, didn’t matter. The paperwork. The tradecraft. The precaution. Any time I chose to follow even the most redundant rules for safeguarding SAP, Comey now says those were unnecessary steps because my heart was in the right place.
So why does letting Clinton walk matter to national security? The resolution to this case tells those guarding SAP information that mishandling it in an honest but clumsy way will be excused (depending on who you are). Even premeditated actions, such as building a private server to transfer information, will be overlooked if you didn’t intend that information to harm the United States. It’s hard to demand rigorous oversight when all someone has to claim is “I never intended for this to happen.”
The most frightening consequence of this decision, however, concerns the message it sends to our current informants risking their lives around the globe or any future sources willing to help the United States. Comey’s laundry list of misdeeds that climaxed with the stunning choice not to bring criminal charges told sources that the American government will not work terribly hard at protecting their identity, and will not take it seriously when exposed. I fear we just lost future access from many, many useful people.
National security succeeds based on information and a major portion of that information comes by way of sources. I explain here why protecting Special Access is so very important.