Letter from Jim McKinney, recently retired Army Foreign Area Officer.
Dear Director Comey,
I respectfully ask you to please clarify some things for me, and for the tens of thousands of security professionals who serve our nation every day. In reference to the former Secretary of State Clinton’s private email server, I read on CNN that you claimed in a memo that “…there really wasn’t a prosecutable case.” Would your position stand for me if I had done the same?
I am a retired intelligence officer. If I ordered my staff to place an un-cleared private server in my home, had them forward my official government emails to that server, used unsecure remote devices to access that server, wouldn’t I be in violation of law or government security policies? If in those emails, held on that server, I either received or sent classified material, knowingly or unknowingly, wouldn’t I be in violation of the National Security Act? Wouldn’t I be risking national security? If my predecessors did the same would that exonerate me, or them?
I served as a Senior Defense Official/Defense Attaché during Secretary Clinton’s tenure, twice as a Security Assistance Officer at US Embassies, and in Counter-Terror and Special Operations organizations. I served in some of our nation’s most sensitive programs under the NSA, the NRO, and I worked with the CIA, FBI, Treasury and allied nations routinely. In 2013, I received the National Intelligence Award from the Director of National Intelligence, GEN Clapper, for intelligence operations.
I was also trained as a Special Security Officer (SSO) in the control and handling of classified material. In fact, the FBI SSO was in my SSO training class at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Her training was the same as mine. She was a good student, and honorable person. I am pretty sure the FBI, as with all U.S. government agencies, still keeps a pretty tight handle on classified information.
A few years ago, a State Department colleague was given a security “violation” from our Embassy’s regional security officer – 2 or more “violations” will get you relieved. He wrote the 4-digit code to his door on a sticky note in his wallet, in Chinese.
His door was behind three locked doors, a Marine Guard detachment, a guarded exterior gated wall and video surveillance – all to protect Confidential (C) and Secret (S) data in locked safes, often sent from HQ in SEC Clinton’s name. A little extreme, but this security violation met security requirements under then SEC Clinton.
From all my experience, all my professional training, and all my expectations that our leaders would do the right thing to protect the security of our nation and the integrity of our government, I am confident I would be removed from my position, my clearance would be suspended, I would face prosecution and a likely conviction if I acted the same as SEC Clinton. I hope this would be the case for anyone.
What changed in three years since I retired? Has Congress changed our national security laws to allow incompetence? Has our government changed so much that we are now willing to provide exceptions in handling our most sensitive relations with foreign governments?
I am one of those “…people no longer in government…” you referenced as chest beating. I am not chest beating. I am truly trying to understand. I wonder why you had to send a memo to your staff to explain your decision. Shouldn’t it stand on its own? I wonder why you referenced former government officials. Do former government officials have no knowledge of these lenient new laws, or no right to speak? Is this a warning to those still in government service to toe the line?
You are an intelligent man. You must understand that by sending such a memo you are indirectly (or directly) sending a message to your staff to shut up and follow, regardless of their legal knowledge of the rules for handling classified materials and national security.
There is grave danger when a leader enforces loyalty over integrity. It’s not the best form of leadership. Loyalty over integrity undermines organizations, and it undermines confidence in government.
For me, every policy I followed, every risk to life I took, and everything I defended under five presidents is called into question with your decision to not recommend penalties for one of our national leader’s negligent acts.
How do I, and many Americans, keep faith in our government if there is such an appearance of gross inequality in our justice system on such a grand scale? I would humbly like to know. Your people in the FBI need to know. Those risking their lives for this nation today, and every day, need to know.