Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Selective Justice

The Wall Street Journal reminds us

The U.S. and Israel, longtime allies who routinely swap information on security threats, sometimes operate behind the scenes like spy-versus-spy rivals. The White House has largely tolerated Israeli snooping on U.S. policy makers—a posture Israel takes when the tables are turned.

Still, according to "a senior U.S. official briefed on" the news, "it is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy.”   It seems that

Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.

It is one thing for Israel to spy on the USA to enhance its own security; it's quite another to take those secrets and undermine this nation's effort to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But lest you conclude that the American government will turn a nearly blind eye toward this outrage because Israel is involved, consider

Petraeus gave mistress Paula Broadwell – author of his biography, “All In” – access to eight “black books” that collectively contained classified information from his time leading military efforts in Afghanistan. He then lied about doing so to FBI investigators.

The books included “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 [Petraeus’] discussions with the President of the United States of America," the court documents say.

The books also contained "national defense information, including Top Secret//SCI and code word information,” the documents state.

For that, General David Petraeus got two years probation, something less onerous than a slap on the wrist for someone who endangered national security and then obstructed justice by lying about it.

(Before Petraeus' rear end was kissed with the plea deal, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) argued the former general had "suffered enough" because “He lost his job as CIA director because of it. I mean, how much do you want to punish somebody?"

Next up: a guy from south-central L.A. gets arrested for burglary, loses his job, stays in jail for 10 months because he cannot raise bail, and loses his wife and children. Feinstein demands that he be released from jail, given the key to the city and awarded 1,000 shares of Apple stock- tax-free, preferably. After all, he has "suffered enough.")

The Guardian's Trevor Timm wants us to

Compare that to the actions of Chelsea Manning, who is serving 35 years for leaking classified information. As Ellsberg noted: “Chelsea Manning had access to SCI every day… where she worked in Iraq. She chose to disclose none of it, nothing higher than Secret”.

Or there’s John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer, who passed on to an investigator the names of two covert agents whose names were also never published. He received thirty months in jail and a felony conviction 2013. (As CIA director, Petreaus praised Kiriakou’s conviction just days before lying to the FBI about his own leak.) And Ellsberg himself faced 115 years for his leaks: “The Pentagon Papers I disclosed were all Top Secret. I’d been cleared for SCI too, but disclosed none of it, unlike Petraeus.”

Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer, was also just convicted of leaking classified information to New York Times journalist James Risen last month, “having first revealed it to Congress, as I did”, according to Ellsberg. Sterling was convicted of felony counts under the Espionage Act, and faces sentencing at the end of April. Ellsberg says Sterling’s “violations of security regulations were in no way more serious than what Petraeus has now admitted to”, and that, while it’s too late to do anything about his conviction, the judge should take the Petraeus plea bargain into account at his sentencing.

And then there is Edward Snowden, who leaked not to his love bunny but to the American people (photo below from US News not of the real Edwin Snowden, Barack Obama, or of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, trying to offer Snowden a passport in February 2014). But then he is neither Bibi Netanyahu nor Mr. Wonderful, General David Petraeus, who brought us victory in Afghanistan and Iraq and similarly transformed the Central Intelligence Agency.

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