I was chatting with Terry, my writing partner, this morning. He was in the Intelligence Community for years, as was I; Terry on the analysis side, me in collection and later as a computer security researcher. Both of us had, at one time, an “Extended Background Investigation” clearance, the clearance you need for that stuff people like to say is “beyond top secret.” (It’s not, but that’s another topic I explored in detail back when Edward Snowden turned.)
Now, Terry is a Democrat, pretty liberal, not at all impressed with Trump. But we were talking about Eric Ciaramella who was fired from the White House staff because he was leaking confidential information to the media. According to all the sources, he then returned to the CIA, where he currently works.
Which is, frankly, odd.
How, exactly, do you lose a job for security violations and return to the CIA? One would normally lose one’s clearance, and even janitors and cafeteria workers at CIA are cleared.
Then there’s LTC Alex Vindman, NSC staffer and active-duty Army officer. He has testified that he disobeyed orders, advised foreign governments to resist Trump, leaked internal information to others, and was actively working to subvert the president’s foreign policy.
Now, Gods know I’m not a UCMJ lawyer, but if you look at the Uniform Code of Military Justice, that sounds like an Article 88 (Contempt to officials), Article 92 (Failure to obey order), and Article 133 (Conduct unbecoming an officer). There’s an argument to be made for Article 94 (Mutiny) as well.
So this too is odd. Normally, under these circumstances, a serving officer would at least be relieved and very possibly confined awaiting court-martial.
The third thing that struck us both was the complaint that Trump’s conversations with Zelensky were being stored on a classified server.
Now if you look at the Department of State’s regulations, conversations between American officials and foreign heads of state are automatically classified CONFIDENTIAL and NOFORN.
You normally — at least if you’re not Hillary or one of her minions — store classified information on classified servers. Even confidential. (This one hasn’t been as exciting since it became clear the Obama administration was using the same server for the same stuff.) Some people want to argue that this shouldn’t be classified, but they miss a couple of points: first of all, classification is another one of those Article II powers of the president (see Executive Order 13526). If he says it’s classified, it’s classified. The second is that the White House was concerned about stuff being leaked and warned Vindman explicitly about talking about it.
So why is it surprising that material is being stored on a classified server? Why the hell was it ever stored on anything BUT a classified server?
The point here is that all of these things would, in the normal course of events, be security violations punishable by everything from actually losing a job to extended terms in Kansas making small rocks.
Why was this not the normal course of events?
I’d really like someone in Congress to ask those questions.