Petraeus may not get jail time for talking to a journalist, but Sterling and others did

David H. Petraeus (Reuters / Alex Gallardo)

David H. Petraeus (Reuters / Alex Gallardo)


Bradley Manning trial, NSA leaks, Petraeus affair


CIA, Corruption, Court, Crime, FBI, Guantanamo, Human rights, Intelligence, Law, Military, Politics, Scandal, Security, Snowden, USA, War

Following his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, disgraced former CIA director David Petraeus is likely to avoid jail time for a crime similar to those committed by whistleblowers that received far worse punishment.

, Petraeus, the famed four-star general who is
credited with “saving” American war strategy in Iraq,
pleaded guilty to unauthorized removal and retention of
classified material. In 2011, Petraeus allegedly allowed his
biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell, to briefly possess
eight “Black Books” containing highly-classified
material pertaining to his time as top military commander in

The binders contained “classified information regarding the
identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence
capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and
deliberative discussions from high-level National Security
Council meetings, and defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’s
discussions with the President of the United States of

to the plea deal.

“The Black Books contained national defense information,
including Top Secret/SCI and code word information.”

Petraeus illegally retained the Black Books in an unlocked desk
drawer of his home office even after he signed a debriefing
agreement when he retired from the US Defense Department in which
he affirmed: “I give my assurance that there is no classified
material in my possession, custody, or control at this

MORE: Obama admin could have been much tougher on whistleblowers,
leakers – Holder

Yet, as part of the deal, Petraeus was not asked to plead guilty
for lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who asked if
he had supplied classified material to Broadwell, according to
court documents.

It was proven that on October 26, 2012, he knowingly deceived the
FBI, saying that “he had never provided any classified
information to his biographer,”
and that “he had never
facilitated the provision of classified information to his

On October 23, 2012, days before Petraeus lied to the FBI about
the sharing of classified information, the then-CIA director
applauded the guilty plea of CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who
had revealed to a journalist a covert officer’s identity that,
ultimately, made him the only government employee to publicly
disclose the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program.

“Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those
who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow
officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate
with the requisite degree of secrecy,”
Petraeus said in a CIA memo.

Kiriakou was indicted in 2012 on one count of violating the
Intelligence Identities Protection Act, three counts of violating
the Espionage Act, and one count of making false statements. He
was sentenced to 30 months in prison, and was finally released
last month.

The 14-year veteran of the CIA is one of many whistleblowers who
have been targeted with the punitive, World War I-era Espionage
Act for working with journalists to reveal government secrets:


The criminal investigation that eventually led to Kiriakou began
in 2009, when government officials learned that defense lawyers
for high-profile Al-Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were
identifying witnesses to their clients’ interrogations while in
CIA custody. The lawyers wanted to make the case that the
government tortured their clients, and wanted someone involved to

READ MORE: ‘No one went to jail but me’: CIA
whistleblower John Kiriakou speaks out

During an FBI investigation, authorities discovered that back in
2008, Kiriakou had told a journalist the name of a covert CIA
officer involved in the interrogations of the Al-Qaeda suspects.
The journalist then disclosed the covert officer’s name to a
researcher working for a lawyer at Guantanamo. With the name of
an officer involved in the torture program in hand, Guantanamo
lawyers were able to name the officer in their lawsuits.

Chelsea Manning

In 2010, Army whistleblower Priv. Bradley Manning leaked
classified information – including Iraq and Afghan war logs, as
well as diplomatic cables, that exposed American war and foreign
policy machinations – to Wikileaks. The war logs revealed
internal US military information, not unlike the binders Petraeus
gave to Broadwell.

Chelsea Manning (Reuters / Gary Cameron)

Manning was
with 22 counts, including violations of the Espionage
Act and aiding the enemy, the most serious charge of which she
was later acquitted. After enduring torturous
treatment while awaiting trial, Manning was sentenced to 35 years
in prison on Aug. 21, 2013 — she
the next day that, as a trans woman, she would like
to be known as Chelsea. She is currently serving her sentence at
the maximum-security, military correctional facility at Fort

Jeffrey Sterling

Despite a
lack of evidence
implicating him in the crime, former CIA
officer Sterling was recently convicted
of all charges against him under the Espionage Act, including
nine counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense
information and other related charges. He now awaits sentencing.

was accused
of illegally disclosing classified information
about a mission meant to slow Iran’s nuclear program to New York
Times reporter James Risen, who then wrote about the CIA’s
Iranian plot in his 2006 book, “State of War.”

Stephen Kim

Kim, a former contract analyst for the US Department of State,
guilty a year ago to one felony count of unauthorized disclosure
of secret government information for leaking government secrets
to Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009 regarding a possible
nuclear test being planned by North Korea in retaliation to
sanctions from the West.

The next year a grand jury conducted an investigation that ended
with them agreeing Kim “knowingly and willfully” shared
information “about the military capabilities and preparedness
of a particular foreign nation.”
As a result he was indicted
and charged with making false statements as well as violating the
Espionage Act. He was given a 13-month term in prison.

Shamai Leibowitz

A former contract translator for the FBI,
pleaded guilty in December 2009 of knowingly
disclosing classified FBI information to Richard Silverstein,
author of the Tikun Olam blog, who writes about Israeli-American
relations. Leibowitz was sentenced on May 24, 2010, to 20 months
in prison.

Thomas Drake

Former National Security Agency official Drake was charged in
2010 with Espionage Act infractions regarding “willful
of “national defense” documents. Drake
had revealed information to a Baltimore Sun reporter data about
waste, fraud, and abuse at the NSA. The information was neither
classified nor sensitive.

In 2011, the 10 original charges were dropped after Drake pleaded
to one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a

Edward Snowden

Snowden, a former
intelligence contractor who exposed in 2013 the National Security
Agency’s vast global surveillance regime, has been charged with
two violations of the Espionage Act: “Unauthorized
communication of national defense information”
“willful communication of classified communications
intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”
remains in political exile in Russia.

Edward Snowden (Reuters / Mark Blinch)

Snowden’s lawyer said this week that the whistleblower would like
to return to the US, but only “on the condition that he be
given guarantees to receive a fair and impartial trial.”

Russia has
that the US Department of Justice has assured that Snowden would
not face torture or the death penalty if he returned.

James Hitselberger

Hitselberger, an Arabic translator for the US Navy, was accused
by the US of copying documents that revealed troop activities and
gaps in the US intelligence in Bahrain. He worked in a unit
conducting “unconventional” warfare, counterterrorism,
and special reconnaissance. Despite lack of evidence of
espionage, Hitselberger originally faced Espionage Act charges.

In late 2012, a federal judge released
Hitselberger from jail and ordered him to remain within 25 miles
of the Washington, DC area after he pleaded not guilty to charges
of possessing classified documents without authorization.


The Espionage Act of 1917 was created to charge Americans who
helped the country’s enemies. Prior to President Barack Obama’s
time in office, it had only been used three times, to prosecute
government officials who had leaked classified material.

After less than a year on the job, Petraeus retired as CIA
director in November 2012 as his affair with Broadwell was

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