Retired Four-Star General Pleads Guilty to Leaking Secrets

By - October 21, 2016
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A former Joint Chiefs of Staff official pleaded guilty this week to releasing top secret information and making false statements related to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The guilty plea was entered in Washington DC.

The announcement from the Justice Department involved retired General James E. Cartwright, 67, from Gainesville VA. The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord.

She noted that Cartwright violated the trust that was put in him by the American government by willfully providing confidential information that could risk national security to people who were not authorized to receive the information. He then lied about it to the FBI on more than one occasion during interviews.

A US attorney on the case stated that people who gain access to classified information after they have promised to not disclose it have to be held accountable when they violate that promise on purpose. He noted that the Justice Department did a complete investigation that included collecting thousands of documents through search warrants, subpoenas and requests for documents. The government also interviewed many former and current employees of the federal government.

The evidence proved that Cartwright disclosed classified information without proper authorization to two journalists and then lied to the FBI about it. Because of these actions, he has been convicted of a federal felony offense and faces a prison sentence that could be up to five years.

The Justice Department also noted that Cartwright pleaded guilty to making statements to the FBI that were false regarding classified information that he released to reporters.

The government noted that the investigation was very rigorous, careful and complete through several years by special agents from the Justice Department. They conducted many interviews, including several of Cartwright himself.

The plea agreement stated that Cartwright held a top secret security clearance and had access to sensitive, compartmented information. He signed more than 35 non disclosure agreements that were related to several Department of Defense programs. The forms state that the person who signs them must, according to federal law, not ever disclose classified data without prior authorization. Cartwright did receive annual training about the proper handling of classified information.

After Sept. 1, 2011, Cartwright retired from the Marine Corp. After he retired, Cartwright kept his top secret clearance. This enabled him to do consulting and working in the private sector. This included sitting on a committee of board of directors for a defense contractor. This oversaw that company’s classified government materials and contracts.

When he retired, he signed a classified information non-disclosure agreement again. But from January to June 2012, he disclosed classified material to two journalists and did not have prior authorization. Some of the data was classified top secret. Each reporter put classified information into articles that were published. Classified material also was included in a book that one of the journalists wrote.

FBI agents conducted an interview of Cartright in Nov. 2012. Cartwright stated false information to the FBI. He stated that he did not provide classified information to the first journalist and was not the source of any classified material that was used in the book.

Cartwright also said that he did not discuss a particular nation with the other reporter. He confirmed that classified material about that country to the reporter, as the investigation showed.

Cartwright faces up to five years in prison for making false statement to the FBI. He will be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2017.

Critics Blast Alleged Special Treatment for Hillary Clinton

There is ample criticism of how the FBI and Justice Department are acting in Cartwright’s case, while Hillary Clinton is not being charged for what FBI Director James Comey called ‘extremely careless handling’ of highly classified information.

Critics charge that Cartwright is having his career ruined and being sent to prison for crimes that are no worse than what Clinton is alleged to have done. Some say that Cartwright did not have nearly as many friends placed up high as Clinton does, and is being hung out to dry.

Cartwright had had run ins with two of his bosses at the Pentagon – Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen. Both are said to have never forgave him for joining VP Joe Biden to present the president with a back up plan to do a troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009.

Critics also say that Cartwright’s major error was not disclosing classified material to reporters. It was not playing the Washington political game well enough. There, some senior official appear to be able to get around the rules and then use their political power to get them off.

It would seem that some in Washington can get away with engaging in corruption or being sloppy with classified material, and others are not allowed to do so.