The double standard is now standard

The lawyers for Stephen Kim, who is serving a 13-month jail term for talking to a reporter about a classified matter that was considered minor, are asking the Department of Justice to immediately release him from jail, saying that the plea deal they made with David Petraeus reveals a “profound double standard”. Peter Maass at The Intercept has the details.

Petraeus avoided prison time for disclosing a trove of classified information to his lover and lying to the FBI about it. Kim, meanwhile, was sentenced to 13 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act by talking to a Fox News reporter about a single classified report on North Korea. Kim pleaded guilty after a five-year legal battle that depleted his finances and sent him to the brink of suicide. Petraeus, in the wake of his plea arrangement, is expected to continue his lucrative career working for an investment bank and giving speeches.

Kim’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, noted in a scathing letter to the DOJ that Petraeus, in his plea deal, admitted leaking a range of highly-sensitive material “at least as serious and damaging to national security as anything involved in Mr. Kim’s case” to Paula Broadwell, his lover and authorized biographer. Petraeus also acknowledged that when he was director of the CIA he lied to the FBI about leaking to Broadwell, as well as about keeping classified information at his home.

Yet while Kim, a former State Department official, was prosecuted under a draconian law against leaking — even though he merely discussed a single document that a government official later described in court filings as a “nothing burger” — Petraeus was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense of mishandling classified information, and he was not charged at all for the felony of lying to the FBI. Under the deal, he is expected to be placed on probation for two years and pay a fine of $40,000.

I doubt that they will succeed in their effort though they have to be commended for trying to keep this issue in the public eye. It may help the lawyers for Jeffrey Sterling, who is awaiting sentencing in April for also doing something far less serious than Petraeus and yet faces decades in jail, argue for a more lenient sentence.

Spencer Ackerman compares the treatment that five insiders (Leon Panetta, Michael Vickers, James Cartwright, John Brennan and, of course, David Petraeus) received, none of whom went to prison for their offenses and some were even rewarded, with that meted out to people whom the government disapproved of, such as Stephen Kim (13 months in prison), Chelsea Manning (35 years), Jeffrey Sterling (facing decades in prison), and John Kiriakou (two years).

We are well past the stage when the blindfolded lady justice figure symbolized that everyone was equal before the law. We are now well established as a corrupt plutocracy with one set of laws for the rich and well connected and another set for the rest of us.


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