Does Petraeus Deserve to Be Humiliated Further?

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Former General David Petraeus leaves the federal courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 23. Petraeus was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine after pleading guilty to mishandling classified information. Chris Keane/Reuters

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

The Daily Beast reports that the Obama Pentagon is considering retroactively demoting retired General David Petraeus:

The decision now rests with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who is said to be willing to consider overruling an earlier recommendation by the Army that Petraeus not have his rank reduced. Such a demotion could cost the storied general hundreds of thousands of dollars—and deal an additional blow to his once-pristine reputation.

This is simply outrageous. General Petraeus is an American hero. He is the most consequential American general since World War II.

He not only saved the country from a humiliating, Vietnam-like defeat in Iraq. He brought us a great military victory over the forces of terror in Iraq—a victory later squandered by the Obama administration's withdrawal of all U.S. forces, which allowed the rise of ISIS.

Petraeus committed a crime in mishandling classified information, but he has paid his debt to society. He pled guilty in federal court, paid a $100,000 fine and was sentenced to two years' probation. He lost his job, his reputation, and his public career.

Why on Earth would the Obama administration want to further humiliate him? Moreover, with Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya all on fire, doesn't the secretary of defense have more pressing matters on which to spend his limited time?

And what kind of world do we live in where General Petraeus could face a demotion while Hillary Clinton seeks a promotion to commander in chief? What Petraeus did pales in comparison to Clinton's gross negligence in the handling of classified information. On the same day the Petraeus news broke, Fox News reported:

Hillary Clinton's emails on her unsecured, homebrew server contained intelligence from the U.S. government's most secretive and highly classified programs, according to an unclassified letter from a top inspector general to senior lawmakers.

Fox News exclusively obtained the unclassified letter, sent January 14 from Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III. It laid out the findings of a recent comprehensive review by intelligence agencies that identified "several dozen" additional classified emails—including specific intelligence known as "special access programs" (SAP).

That indicates a level of classification beyond even "top secret," the label previously given to two emails found on her server, and brings even more scrutiny to the presidential candidate's handling of the government's closely held secrets.

In the case of Petraeus, national security was not compromised in any way. He shared paper copies of classified information with one person who should not have seen them. But she had a security clearance and no one has suggested the information he shared with her ever fell into the wrong hands or compromised U.S. security in any way.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast put more than 1,300 classified emails onto an unsecured personal server that might very well have been hacked by our enemies. We know that she instructed aides to take classification markings off of classified information and send it to her on unclassified systems.

Moreover, Petraeus admitted to his crime, resigned from office, publicly apologized and pled guilty in federal court.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has repeatedly changed her story about the classified information on her server, and continues to deny any wrongdoing. She has not admitted to her crimes, publicly apologized, or paid her debt to society.

Quite the opposite, while Petraeus's life, reputation, and political ambitions are ruined, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

Secretary Carter says he wants to make sure all leaks are treated equally. Fair enough. So which Obama official has been punished for leaking the classified details of the bin Laden raid? Which Obama official has been punished for leaking classified details of a U.S. cyberattack on Iran's nuclear program?

Which Obama official has been punished for leaking classified details of the CIA drone campaign, including the fact that Obama personally selects the names on a terrorist "kill list"? Which Obama official has been punished for leaking the role of a double agent recruited in London by British intelligence in breaking up a new underwear bomb plot in Yemen?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said that the torrent of leaks from this White House is the worst he has seen in his 30-year intelligence career. Senator Diane Feinstein said, "I've been on the Intelligence Committee for 11 years, and I have never seen it worse."

Yet no senior official in the Obama administration seems to have faced criminal charges for leaking classified information—except General Petraeus.

When the Obama administration finishes punishing all those other leakers, and prosecutes Hillary Clinton, then it can discuss demoting General Petraeus. Until then, maybe it should focus its time and energy on re-defeating the enemy in Iraq and Syria that General Petraeus had already defeated when it arrived seven years ago.

Marc Thiessen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.