On Friday August 20, 1999, then-director of the CIA George Tenet announced he had suspended the security clearance of previous director John M. Deutch for storing classified information on a private server at his home. On January 20, 2001, as one of his last acts as president, Bill Clinton granted Deutch a presidential pardon, sparing him the prospect of a criminal conviction.
“The pardon of Mr. Deutch spares the former spy director any criminal charges for mishandling secret information on his home computer. Mr. Deutch, who resigned in 1996, has already had his security clearance stripped,” The New York Times reported at the time. “He had been considering a deal with the Justice Department in which he would plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of keeping classified data on home computers.”
The Washington Post reported just days later that Deutch had actually agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, before he was saved by Clinton’s pardon.
“Former CIA Director John M. Deutch agreed last Friday to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for mishandling government secrets, but President Clinton pardoned him before the Justice Department could file the case against him, officials said Wednesday,” the Post reported at the time.
The next month, The New York Times reported that Clinton had not consulted his CIA director — Tenet — before pardoning Deutch. “George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, was not consulted by President Clinton on his decision to pardon the former director John M. Deutch on Mr. Clinton’s final day in office, a United States intelligence official said,” the Times reported.
“White House officials had not consulted any Central Intelligence Agency officials about whether to issue the pardon, and C.I.A. officials found out about it only after it was reported on television the morning of Jan. 20, just before President Bush’s inauguration, the official said,” the Times’ report continued.
FBI director James Comey announced on Tuesday that he would not recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton’s use of multiple private servers. Nevertheless, Comey said that Clinton was “extremely careless” in mishandling classified information.
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence they were extremely careless in their handling of highly classified information,” Comey said.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan criticized the decision not to recommend charges as doing damage to the rule of law. “While I respect the law enforcement professionals at the FBI, this announcement defies explanation. No one should be above the law,” Ryan said. “But based upon the director’s own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law.”
“Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent,” Ryan said.
Follow Peter Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson