Two sets of rules – for us and ‘them’

By Tom Joyce -

Tom Joyce

OK, so if a drunk driver is pulled over, all he or she has to say is “yeah, officer, I’m intoxicated, but I wasn’t intending to kill or hurt anyone.”

Then someone leaves poison out, where it could be ingested by a child or pet, says the same thing — even though that action, while not intending to do so, either harmed someone severely or posed a potential for much harm.

Such arguments sound ridiculous from a law enforcement standpoint, right? Yet that’s the apparent thought process applied to the Hillary Clinton email case this week by top officials including the U.S. attorney general and head of the FBI:

“Sure, we admit Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ in her handling of classified, sensitive information processed through her home-based unsecured email server system (I’m paraphrasing here). But we ain’t going to prosecute or otherwise penalize the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for this.”

You see, it allegedly did not involve any apparent intent of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part, although other persons have had their careers and lives destroyed by such breaches of security.

This situation reminds me of the job I had before rejoining The Mount Airy News in July 2007. From 2004 to 2006, I worked for a defense contractor in Virginia which did research that involved both open-source and classified material. When our reports were completed, a courier from the Defense Department in Washington, D.C., would come down and be hand-delivered those documents.

Everyone in the building had to obtain a federal government security clearance shortly after being hired. This was a traumatic experience in itself, including filling out a long form aimed at ferreting out everything I ever did since birth, plus supplying complete names and addresses of close family members.

Then if you didn’t feel turned inside out enough already, here comes an investigator to interview neighbors, associates, etc., about your personal life while also delving into your credit, work, criminal and other histories to determine if you’re a security risk.

The real fun came when fellow employees and I sat through a half-day seminar conducted by a security manager who put the fear of God in us about what could happen if we misused classified information. Of course, the worst thing you could do was sell it to a hostile nation, but much emphasis also was placed on not being “careless” (there’s that word again) with such data.

We were warned that we could be written up, and fired for repeated violations, of not locking our computers while away from our work stations or leaving out files marked with classified, top secret or similar labels.

And I personally know of people who have lost their jobs because of lax handling of sensitive material, and recall the high-profile case of David Petraeus, a distinguished four-star general who also once headed the Central Intelligence Agency.

Petraeus became embroiled in a scandal and charged criminally for providing classified information to Paula Broadwell, his mistress and biographer. The FBI and Justice Department had no trouble recommending prosecution in Petraeus’ case and he paid a high price for mishandling that information.

So here comes the matter involving Hillary Clinton, who flounces from scandal to scandal unscathed — evidently shielded by the same Teflon coating Ronald Reagan long enjoyed.

Let me now say that it is not a political thing with me. I am an unaffiliated voter who also steadfastly believes that former President George W. Bush and his cronies Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice should be tried as international war criminals for the 2003 decision to invade Iraq.

It is arguably the worst foreign policy blunder in U.S. history, which upset the balance of power in the Middle East and is largely responsible for all the troubles there now.

However, this does not excuse Hillary’s mishandling of classified information.

Her situation is a reminder that there is one set of laws that applies to people like her and another for everyone else.

We all must play by a set of rules on a daily basis and in Hillary’s case, the issue involves more than requiring the same standards of her as the average Joe (or Tom) when it comes to safeguarding sensitive material.

Hillary should be held to an even higher standard due to holding positions (first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state and now presidential candidate) where she should have known better.

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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