Former Pentagon intelligence analyst Lawrence Franklin was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for passing classified information to an Israeli diplomat. At his plea hearing last October, Franklin said he was frustrated with U.S. Middle East policy, prompting him to pass classified data to the diplomat and an pro-Israeli lobbying group. Two members of that group will go on trial for similar charges in April.
As we've said before, a democracy must protect its secrets in order to survive. There are limits on the information we can share with others--even countries that are our friends. For disclosing classified information, Mr. Franklin got what he deserved.
Or did he? One of the counts to which Franklin pleaded guilty was unlawful retention of classified national defense information. Franklin admitted that he sometimes took classified data home, to stay up to speed.
That raises an obvious question: if Franklin is getting jail time for that crime, why aren't Sandy ("Classified Docs in My Pants") Berger and John ("Secret Information on My Home Computer") Deutch in federal prison? Both got a slap on the wrist for deliberately mishandling classified information. Berger got a fine and probation for removing classified documents from the National Archives; investigators found that Deutch had over 1,000 classified files on his home P.C.--which was connected to the internet--after he resigned as Director of the CIA. A copy of the CIA IG report can be found here. Deutch eventually pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information (a misdemeanor) and paid a $5,000 fine. Berger got a $10,000 fine and lost his security clearance for three years.
Franklin won't go to jail until after the lobbyists go on trial. Federal prosecutors have also promised to press for a reduction in sentence, if Franklin cooperates against the lobbyists.
If he has any sense of fairness, Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III should drop any portion of Franklin's sentence connected to the mishandling charges. It's difficult to justify jail time on that charge while Berger and Deutch walk around free. The Justice Department needs to be consistent in prosecuting--and punishing--anyone who mishandles or leaks classified information.