Former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman General James E. Cartwright pleaded guilty lying to the FBI during its investigation into the leaking of classified information about covert operations against Iran to two journalists and is currently facing a felony conviction, jail time and a fine.
Cartwright currently faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine while the FBI let Hillary Clinton go free and only gave General Petraeus two years probabtion and a $100,000 fine for lying to the FBI and mishandling classified information.
In an Opinion piece published on the Washington Post, Josh Rogin argues that the FBI is being tough on Cartwright since their image is tarnished after letting Hillary off the hook even though she was “extremely careless” in here handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” as FBI Director James Comey said.
“There is a lack of proportion just based on the facts that one figure, Cartwright, is getting severely punished and others so far have escaped the process,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “He is being singled out for prosecution and public humiliation. It’s an implicit rebuttal to those who argued that other senior officials such as Clinton or Petraeus got off scott free or got too light of a sentence.”
In its statement announcing the conclusion of its three-year investigation of Cartwright, the FBI emphasized that his prosecution showed that the Justice Department is willing to go after senior officials.
“The FBI will continue to take all necessary and appropriate steps to thoroughly investigate individuals, no matter their position (emphasis added), who undermine the integrity of our justice system by lying to federal investigators,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Abbate.
That statement reveals that the FBI is trying address public criticism that it gives senior officials like Petraeus and Clinton special and favorable consideration, Aftergood said.
“They seem to be trying to make a policy point,” he said. “The Justice Department would say they are not influenced at all by policy or political considerations. In the real world, of course they are influenced.”
The announcement of the charges and Cartwright’s guilty plea came on the same day the FBI released documents that allege the State Department, through Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, offered the FBI a “quid pro quo” for altering the classification of documents found on Clinton’s private email server. The State Department maintains Kennedy made no such offer. The FBI said no deal was struck but it would investigate the issue.
Still, the FBI’s unprecedented release of documents related to its Clinton investigation shows the Bureau is keenly aware of the public criticism of Comey’s decision not to recommend any charges. And the mere fact that Clinton had the State Department, along with an army of lawyers, negotiating with the FBI over the investigation shows that the playing field is not even for the targets of such investigations. Petraeus, for his part, had several top U.S. senators publicly calling on the FBI to exonerate him before he cut his deal.
Cartwright, by contrast, was short on high-profile Washington friends. He had long ago run afoul of his two Pentagon bosses, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who never forgave him for going around the chain of command to join with Vice President Joe Biden to present Obama with an alternate plan for the Afghanistan troop surge in 2009.
Cartwright’s greatest mistake was not talking to reporters or lying about it; he failed to play the Washington game skillfully enough to avoid becoming a scapegoat for a system in which senior officials skirt the rules and then fall back on their political power to save them.