Sunday, January 22, 2006

I Stand Corrected

Earlier I predicted that Roger el-Simon and his money-losing website wouldn't touch the story of Larry Franklin, the traitor who passed classified intelligence to foreign officials and lobbyists. Well, I was wrong.

Today, Depends Media quoted a blog, written by a right-wing hack claiming to be a "former member of the U.S. intelligence community," which said the following about the Franklin conviction:

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.

Fair enough. But then the Depends crew urges you to "read the rest" of the post, which continues as follows:

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.

So Harriet the Spy admits he knows nothing about whether any of Franklin's sentence was for mishandling documents, but nevertheless demands -- in the interest of "fairness" -- that Franklin's charges be reduced. Here's a distinction for you, Harriet: Franklin took home documents containing information concerning classified military information so he could give them to officials of foreign countries -- persons who could use them against the United States, sell them to people who could use them against the United States or give them to such people. Berger and Deutsch did not. And it's not up to you, or Brother Leeden, or Moses Whine to decide which countries deserve to have access to classified material.

By minimizing Franklin's crimes, Depends Media does worse than not publishing anything about Franklin; it continues to smear the officials who brought Franklin to justice and the judge who sentenced the traitor to jail.

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