Monday, March 16, 2015

The rewards of power: Petraeus edition

I think the takeaway is not that this situation is unfair, (which it clearly is) but that it is supposed to be unfair. Things are run to cement the position of those with unearned privilege. The injustice is baked into the system. Our job is to get used to it.
The plea deal given to retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, which spares him prison time even though he gave military secrets to his mistress, reveals a “profound double standard” in the way the Obama administration treats people who leak classified information, a lawyer for an imprisoned government contractor wrote in a letter to prosecutors.
The sharply worded letter calls for the Justice Department to immediately release from prison Stephen J. Kim, an arms expert and former State Department contractor who is serving a 13-month sentence for disclosing classified information about North Korea to Fox News. Mr. Kim has said he was trying to call public attention to the threat posed by that country.
 Mr. Petraeus, one of the most celebrated American generals of his generation, is scheduled to be sentenced next month for giving his handwritten journals — containing notes from his meetings with the president, the names of covert officers and other secrets — to his lover for a glowing biography she was writing about him. The Justice Department agreed not to seek jail time.
 “The decision to permit General Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor demonstrates more clearly than ever the profound double standard that applies when prosecuting so-called ‘leakers’ and those accused of disclosing classified information for their own purposes,” wrote Abbe D. Lowell, a lawyer for Mr. Kim.
The letter, dated March 6, arrived in what are likely to be Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s final weeks in office. And it serves as a sort of epilogue to the leak crackdown the attorney general has overseen. More people have been charged with discussing national security matters with journalists during his tenure than during all previous administrations combined.
Unlike Mr. Petraeus, though, most of those charged were low- or midlevel officials or contractors.
Mr. Lowell does not argue that Mr. Petraeus’s deal was too lenient, only that Mr. Kim’s was too harsh for what amounted to the same conduct.
Unfair, irrational rewards and punishments accustom the 99% to our unworthiness and inadequacy. They tell us to learn our place, whether or not we like it.

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