As a sponsor family to a Coast Guard Academy Cadet, I have access to some unique opportunities. One such opportunity presented itself on Tuesday when my cadet texted me. “Director Comey is speaking at the Coast Guard Academy on Thursday. Would you like to come?”
Who wouldn’t! Despite a long day at work, I put on a service dress uniform, met my cadet on campus, and walked together up to Leamy Hall. Since the cadets were allowed to ask questions, I asked him what ground rules had been set by the Academy.
“They said the focus was race, and to not ask anything about Hillary Clinton.” I thought the race part was interesting, and no surprise about Clinton. I explained that even if a cadet was brash enough to ask, the Director would likely deliver one or two prepared sentences and move on, and you would have lost the opportunity to get a legitimate answer to a question.
Director Comey started his hour talking about leadership, specifically that good leadership requires both kindness and toughness. He is a very good speaker, and obviously very comfortable getting in front of crowds. He’s also really tall, FYI.
Then he talked about race, specifically the issues surrounding African-Americans and police enforcement. His first big point was that we needed more accurate data to get an idea of how to tackle this problem. He brought up the Harvard study that showed lethal force was more likely against whites, but non-lethal force was more likely against blacks. He wants police officers out of their cars, because “It’s hard to hate up close.” He worried that if policing becomes viewed as an undesirable occupation, then he will struggle to attract good men and women to the force.
Then he brought up Hillary Clinton, which was a surprise. He hit a number of points:
- That he assigned some of the best people to that case.
- That they rendered their decision without political pressure.
- That seven layers of managers agreed with it before he did as well.
He also brought up the most important point of the evening, that even if Hillary Clinton had been an FBI agent, while she would have been disciplined, she wouldn’t have been prosecuted, because we historically don’t prosecute people for those crimes.
He has a point. We’ve had a number of high level people mess up classified handling, and while they get fined, most never serve jail time.
“But this guy was fired from the military!” Yes, that is true in plenty of cases. But the difference is that the military is exercising Non-judicial punishment and Courts Martial authority. It’s NOT a trial. The removal from the military in most cases is done at an Administrative Separation board. While it’s not pretty for the person involved, it doesn’t result in jail time.
So I can see Director Comey’s point. But that brings up a bigger issue. We spend billions to generate classified information, then we fail to protect it because we let people off when they exercise poor judgement. It’s sad when you spend more efforts attacking law-abiding citizens then prosecuting chumps that hide classified in their socks.
If Congress is so enraged over Director Comey’s decision, then start by clamping down on our fickle laws over classified information. Add minimum sentences to mishandling, especially for politicians and other civilians. Start putting people in jail for gross mishandling.
What Hillary Clinton did was wrong. There is no denying that. Personally I find it terrible, and it sickens me that most people seem to shrug it off, not understanding the damage that was done. The fact that it’s happened in the past so many times, without Congressional action to fix it, makes it even worse. At some point, we as a nation need to decide how much we care about classified information and how it is handled.
The views expressed above are of the author and do not reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.
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