Political luminaries, including Adams and Marshall, have long affirmed that the United States is a nation of laws, not men. When President Nixon resigned following his association with the Watergate crimes, Vice President Gerald Ford stated, “Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men.”
Our government’s legitimacy rests on this principle. As citizens, we believe, at least to some degree, that even the mighty can not act with impunity. Celebrities get arrested. Politicians go to jail. War heroes pay their parking fines. As government employees, we recognize that rank has its privileges, but we trust that when the brass does bad things, they eventually get punished. When I was fighting in Afghanistan under General Petraeus, troops were getting cited for crimes such as adultery. I believed that barring some occasional exceptions, soldiers were generally held to the same standards. Legitimate organizations have to hold everyone accountable to the same laws.
It turned out that DCI Petraeus was mishandling classified information and having an affair in AFG. As an OPSEC NCO, I hoped that they nailed him to the wall. If not, every soldier who was cited for the same things should have had their punishments vacated and reversed. Petraeus got off fairly easily, but his prosecution demonstrated that even at the highest levels, there were consequences. The Pentagon is even pursuing additional measures against the former general.
Today it seems that power privilege has run amok. GOP candidate Donald Trump was recently filmed directing his campaign staff to engage in petty larceny. This is not protected speech, and violates the Brandenburg Test. This also makes him party to conspiracy (to commit petty larceny). This is on video. The local authorities have not issued an arrest warrant. I once had a warrant for an expired inspection sticker ticket that I had already paid. We shouldn’t need a petition to hold people accountable to the laws.
Let’s consider the 89 percent of SOFREP readers who support Trump. Imagine these readers were walking down the street and saw a group of people wrestling with a man. The group’s ringleader was shouting, “Take his coat!” Would these readers be OK with that? I suspect no, they wouldn’t. They’d be offended at such disrespect for local laws. Some might even intervene and stop the blatant theft.
Are we suddenly perfectly willing to accept criminal behavior from famous wealthy people?
Enter former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Recently, the inspector general of the intelligence community has confirmed that dozens of emails on Clinton’s private email server contain classified material. Some of these documents include information classified as Top Secret/Special Access Programs. Most people without clearances (the vast majority of Americans) don’t understand just how serious this is. It’s an offense to just talk about TS/SAP material unless you’re in a specifically authorized facility. Even if the people you’re talking to have the appropriate clearance, it’s a violation.
Failing to follow appropriate transport protocols for an un-formatted drive just marked as classified can land people in hot water. Not actually transporting classified material incorrectly, mind you. Just transporting a storage container with a sticker on it.
Right now there’s a Pentagon employee who accidentally had a thumb drive in his backpack while in the wrong room. He didn’t have any data on the drive. Had he tried to use the device, he wouldn’t have been able to. Any attempt would have alerted INFOSEC. A thumb drive buried at the bottom of his bag, in the wrong building, and his future is hanging on a thread.
Many years ago, Frank Zappa was reported to have observed that “the United States is a government of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.” Today, in the case of our leading partisan candidates, it seems that Zappa may have been correct. Let’s hope he turns out to be wrong, and Vermont slaps Trump with misdemeanor charges while the U.S. Attorney General prosecutes Clinton so a trial can trial determine her guilt or innocence.