Why Hillary Clinton is not Petraeus, Snowden or Manning

In the aftermath of FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation against charges for Hillary Clinton’s email server, typical Republican and leftwing anti-establishment outrage flooded the media.

Clinton’s “extreme carelessness,” they said, was more damaging to American national security than Edward Snowden’s, David Petraeus’s, and Bradley Manning’s security violations, and thus demanded a proportionate punishment. Though Snowden himself seems puzzled with the verdict, Comey’s statement was well-reasoned on the issues of intent in the criminal prosecution of national security violations.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

What differentiates Snowden’s, Petraeus’, and Manning’s cases from Clinton’s was that the former three intentionally distributed classified information to unauthorized individuals.

Snowden turned over documents on the PRISM program, among other government operations, to The Guardian.

Petraeus gave confidential information to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and lover.

Bradley Manning sent documents to WikiLeaks.

It does not matter whether any of these individuals’ actions were morally right or wrong. They included an intent to leak that Clinton simply did not have.

Now, Snowden and Manning might be heralded as whistleblowers fighting against an increasingly secretive American government that has violated the Constitutional and human rights of millions of Americans. And It could be argued that they, and Petraeus, did not harm national security if one truly believes that the documents were not exploited by foreign entities (and that’s a bit of a stretch).

However, as in the prosecution of libel, intent matters far more than consequences when proving the existence of a crime. Unless malicious intent—in this case, distribution of classified information to non-cleared individuals—can be proven, careless incidents endangering government secrecy are treated more like liabilities to companies: Employees are fired and security clearances are revoked, but no one is prosecuted.

David Petraeus

David Petraeus.

All individuals whom Hillary Clinton had intentionally communicated with were cleared to access the information. Is it possible that unauthorized and foreign entities accessed the server? Yes, but that does not go the issue of intent, which is lacking in this “crime.” But even if you were to ground an indictment on the basis of consequences, the FBI itself said that though Clinton’s server could have been hacked, there was no indication that it was.

As a matter of law, Comey’s recommendation was spot-on.


Anhvinh Doanvo is an MSPPM candidate at Carnegie Mellon University. He has written for numerous publications including The Hill, Georgetown Public Policy Review, and Baltimore Sun. He is one of forty 2016 finalists for the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which funds twenty US citizens' graduate education annually and places them in the American Foreign Service of the Department of State. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/anhvinhdoanvo or Facebook at Facebook.com/AnhvinhD.

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  • Dolores Garcia

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  • Nicholas A Kocal

    Republicans do NOT give a FUCK about National Security. No one has asked the question as to why Hillary Clinton used a personal server (more secure than AOL, or google mail) as opposed to a secure State Department Server (oh, that’s right, they don’t exist because the republicans in congress refuse to fund it, just like they severely cut funding State Department overseas facilities).

  • Pauline Power

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  • unclemike

    Isn’t “intent” the difference between manslaughter and murder? So, yes, driving recklessly and killing someone will probably get you a lesser sentence than if you chased and ran down someone intentionally.

  • zuhri

    This is a problem that can not be understood by most people. Umroh Desember 2016 I Umroh Desember I Umroh November I Umroh Desember

  • StevieRay

    They are different to the extent that they didn’t claim stupidity or incompetence basically to justify actions. Nor last I recall do they represent all that is wrong with DC…..money grubbing, lying, self serving beyond a fault official running for POTUS…

  • Deborah Bivens

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  • I know some transgender folks and it’s simple really: You call them what they ask to be called. Even when referring to stuff they did when they had a previous name.

    We’re not debating whether it’ll be President Rodham because Hillary Clinton assumed her husband’s surname. Cher will always be Cher, even though that monosyllable name isn’t the one she was born with, and same with Chaz Bono. Same deal with Prince.

  • Badgerite

    No according to Comey. He was asked point blank if he had any reason to believe Clinton had lied. He said no. Go read the hearing transcript.
    As to the server, you are aware that of the 30,000 emails examined, Comey found a problem with only three. And of those three, not one was properly labeled as classified. The top of any classified document is supposed to contain a header that clearly states the document is classified. Those three emails contained no such header. If you want to know just how misleading it could be to someone who was expecting to see that header on all classified material for the header to be left off, here is a link to a fine article in the Daily Banter
    thedailybanter.com/2016/07/fbi-director-admits-that-zero-hilary-clinton-emails-were-marked-classified/
    Look at the picture that Congressman Cartwright from PA is holding up,
    The brown band across the top half of the paper is how a classified document is to be labeled so that the person handling it knows it to be classified. Those three emails had nothing on them to indicate their classification.

  • nicho

    The others used private email accounts — not servers. There’s a difference. Hillary also lied about her email servers, how many emails she sent, and she and her staff tried to hide evidence.

  • nicho

    Well, I didn’t intend to kill that guy when I got drunk and got behind the wheel. So, I should get off with a slap on the wrist? Yeah — try that one in court.

  • She had asked for a secure hand-held on the order of a Blackberry and was turned down.

  • She said she wanted it set up because she wanted to avoid investigations….oh well!

  • Her behavior lacks intent to distribute secret info which is distinct from Patreus and Snowden as you say, but it could could still argued, and probably successfully, that it was gross negligence on her part – especially as she gave non-cleared people access to classified information.

  • emjayay

    But not then when he was a he and did that stuff (which by the way I think should be pardoned at some relatively soon point). It is all a bit tricky. When commenting on a picture of them at their first communion in their little white suit and tie do you say “Oh look how cute Chelsea was”? I have no idea.

  • emjayay

    In the olden days documents were on paper and had a big “Top Secret” or “Classified” stamp at the top and came in a special envelope. And they then required more special treatment and handling. A little different when it’s another email and there is a little “c” somewhere.

    I still don’t understand the private server thing. It’s not like saying “oh, just use my Yahoo email address.” Some expert must have advised that this was the way to go and the fifty thousand dollars or whatever for it plus thousands more to maintain it were what you should do. I don’t understand why explaining this has always been ignored. Has anyone ever seen an explanation or know of one?

  • Her name is now Chelsea Manning. Have a little respect, please.

  • Badgerite

    The most anyone has ever gotten for any issues surround the use of a private server at State is an administrative reprimand. Only one. Other the last 4 Secretaries of State, 3 have used private email servers. And there wasn’t even an investigation. Let alone a prosecution. And as it turns out, Comey, in his testimony today stated that there were only three emails that has anything indicating classified on them and those were improperly marked. And by improperly marked that is a small ‘c’ somewhere in the content of the email which is not a proper marking. Out of 30,000 emails. Three.
    And the three were not properly marked as they should have been. The GOP and the left in having a hissy fit about all of this because they want to. Not because it is justified. I found Comey’s testimony quite enlightening. Especially about the actions of David Patreaus. He not only shared code words with his mistress, he lied about it and tried to hide evidence in his house. Those are serious violatons of the law involving obstruction of justice and they went easy on him. He was charged with a misdemeanor. To compare what Snowden did with email gate, is utterly ridiculous.

  • devlzadvocate

    Yes, but you are laying out facts. The people of Divided States of America don’t want facts. They want all decisions to fall on their side (to hell with facts) and if they don’t – look out. On my Facebook feed, I’m seeing anti-Hillary posts by Bernie supporters who are using SarahPAC and Trump quotes and posts. My jaw hit the floor. I kind of expected a few Trump, but not Sarah. I can’t even wrap my head around that. Like I give a shit if Bernbot turned Palindolt like that is my friend. Fuck ’em. Bernie’s Kids have become self-destructive. They are threatening to put Trump in office to make a point and in the end, deprive themselves of exactly what they want to achieve — for years to come.

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