If Hillary Clinton was a soldier, she would lose her security clearance, face administrative action, and face the specter of criminal prosecution.
Permanent removal of security clearance and kicked out of the military — and that’s the best-case scenario.
The double standards are painful.
I (David French) served ten years as an Army lawyer, and one of my responsibilities was advising the command on matters of military justice, including incidents where soldiers mishandled classified information. And if Hillary Clinton was a soldier, she would lose her security clearance, face administrative action, and face the specter of criminal prosecution.
I’ve not only seen the pattern, I’ve also participated in the process. Here’s how it would work.
Imagine for a moment that an officer downrange in Afghanistan comes across timely drone footage of suspected insurgents — information that would be clearly Secret (if not Top Secret) at the moment of inception.
Unfortunately, however, she doesn’t have immediate access to SIPRNet (for Secret) or JWICS (for Top Secret), so she grabs her iPhone — which is on the base’s civilian WiFi system — and bangs out a text message to a superior officer. She doesn’t describe exactly what she’s seeing, but from context, the message is plain. Shoot or don’t shoot? She needs a decision.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine such a moment. It’s so counter to military training and the military ethos that actions like this are few and far between. But Hillary is nothing if not special, and it’s clear from FBI Director Comey’s press conference yesterday that she sent and received e-mails concerning “matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level” on her homebrew system, a system less secure than Gmail.
If Hillary were Captain Clinton instead of the presumptive Democratic nominee and wife of a disbarred former president, the following things would occur, more or less simultaneously.
First, the command would immediately suspend her security clearance. As a practical matter, this would mean that she would be unable to do her job. Absent extraordinary circumstances, she would become essentially useless to the command, a glorified manual laborer fit to fill sandbags or clean latrines but little else. Unless the officer is cleared, the loss of a security clearance means the loss of her career.
Next, her commander would probably draft an administrative reprimand. A general officer memorandum of reprimand (known as a GOMOR) is a career-killer if placed in an officer’s permanent file, and it can be drafted independently of parallel criminal proceedings. If a GOMOR goes in the permanent file, even if the officer somehow regains her security clearance, promotion is virtually impossible, and the officer would be wise to simply resign.
Finally, the command would consider criminal charges.
Under the facts above, the officer would in all likelihood not only violate the Espionage Act (the same statute at issue in Clinton’s case) but also the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
What happened next — as a practical matter — would probably depend on the gravity of the harm.
If there was any evidence that classified information had fallen into enemy hands, the soldier would probably face court-martial and imprisonment.
If the damage was contained, then the officer might face non-judicial punishment or (also likely) be asked to resign her commission and leave the military. The end result of the entire process is almost always a negotiated end to the officer’s military career as well as a permanent ban on her access to classified information.
In exchange for forgoing criminal prosecution, the officer would leave the military, consent to the permanent loss of her security clearance, and consent to never again seek access to classified information. And that’s a good outcome for the officer — a merciful outcome considering the gravity of the offense.