Thursday, March 5, 2015

It was just a couple of weeks ago that longtime NBC News anchor Brian Williams was relieved of duty by the network and placed on unpaid suspension for six months. The reason America’s #1 newsman was forced out? It came to light that Mr. Williams had embellished - let’s call it what is was, he lied - about one or more stories.

In order to enhance his own image, Mr. Williams lied about the details of his helicopter coming under fire in Iraq and his life being in peril. It turned out neither was the case. After much hand wringing, NBC decided it would undermine the credibility of its news organization to keep a confirmed liar on as the face of NBC News.

During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton made claims remarkably similar to the Brian Williams story. She recounted how while as first lady her helicopter landed in Bosnia under heavy sniper fire. She described with some flair how she and her party had to run for cover. Shortly thereafter, a video surfaced of Mrs. Clinton’s actual landing in Bosnia. The video showed a smiling Clinton being greeted on the tarmac by an 8-year-old girl with flowers and a poem. There was no sniper fire. There was no run for cover. Like Mr. Williams, Mrs. Clinton had sought to enhance her own reputation with lies.

Fast forward to March 2015 and there is an even more disturbing comparison. Former CIA Director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus pleaded guilty this week to a misdemeanor county of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. His maximum punishment under the law would be a fine of $100,000 and a one-year prison sentence. Prosecutors are recommending Petraeus should serve two years of probation and pay a $40,000 fine.

His problems stem from an affair with his biographer/mistress and sharing classified information with her in his home. By not following the law and bringing sensitive information to his personal residence, Petraeus has been reminded no one is above the law. As a result, he will carry a soiled reputation with him for the remainder of his days.

Imagine a high-ranking government official with access to sensitive data ignoring the law and expecting never to be held accountable. Shocking? Maybe not. In the case of Petraeus, he has been repentant, apologetic and remorseful. Mrs. Clinton, however, is another story.

During her four years as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton didn’t send a single email on a government account. How was that possible? She set up her own email system for her and trusted subordinates, complete with a unique address @ClintonEmail.com. But wait, it gets better.

Mrs. Clinton didn’t just create a unique address. She had an email server installed in her private residence under a fictional name. This server served as the nerve center for all emails she sent and received, as well as the emails of select subordinates. No government server involved, thus, no public records. Clever? Maybe. Illegal? Yes.

All of the secretary of state’s emails are public record, except for those with security implications. Under normal circumstances, any request for those records would be sorted out by State Department employees. Government workers would determine which content would be redacted and all emails would be maintained for historical purposes.

Because Mrs. Clinton set up her own private system and cut the government out of the loop, Mrs. Clinton and her personal team are now determining what will and won’t be released. It goes against the Obama administration’s promise of complete transparency. Worse yet, it violates the law.

Where Petraeus was convicted for bringing home a box of sensitive information, Mrs. Clinton set up a complete email network to capture and control all the communication, sensitive or otherwise, of the secretary of state of the United States and her minions, for four years. She maintained that network under a fictional name at her private residence and is now determining what records to release and what to keep private.

If NBC News holds someone accountable for lying about coming under fire in war-torn territory, the American public should hold a would-be president to the same standard.

More importantly, though, if the U.S. Department of Justice believes a high-ranking official should be punished for breaking the law and maintaining sensitive information in his personal residence, surely they will hold all high-ranking officials to the same standard — including Hillary Clinton.

For more information about Tim Constantine and “The Capitol Hill Show,” which airs weekdays, visit timconstantine.com.

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