Friday, January 20, 2006

This is the Way to Treat Leakers

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.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

The Justice Department needs to be consistent in prosecuting--and punishing--anyone who mishandles or leaks classified information.

That's true. It doesn't follow, however, that Franklin's sentence should be reduced. It would be equally fair to up Berger's and Deutch's sentences. This solution would have the added benefit of punishing the guilty, which is a salient part of our criminal justice system anyway. In theory.

Just because two crooks with political pull got off with a hand-slap is no reason to allow a third crook should walk free. They should all be put in jail.

Unknown said...

As I stated in the article, I'm not in favor of letting Franklin off the hook--just cutting any time imposed for the mishandling of classified documents. That would be accompanied by a strong statement from the judge that the reduction was because of gross inconsistencies in the punishments awarded for similar crimes.

I agree with you--all three should be in jail, on the same cellblock at Leavenworth. And, BTW, I lay some of the blame for "sentence inequity" at the feet of the Bush Administration. You may recall that the federal judge who sentenced Berger actually "increased" the sanctions (if you can call it that). Originally, the Bush Justice Department proposed that Berger received only a few months of unsupervised probation--an offer the judge rejected, saying the punishment was too light. The good ole boy (and girl) network is alive and well in D.C. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the rich (and powerful) are different from you and me.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Yep, injustice is being served, and when enough is served the people will no longer support the Republic. THat's how it works. Hopefully we're not there yet, but it's interesting that there's less difference between Republicans in power and Democrats in power than many folks out there on both sides would like to believe.