By Joel Thurtell
They say the Obama administration has gotten really tough with federal officials who leak government secrets to journalists.
For proof, look at what happened to former CIA agent John Kiriakou.
He revealed names of government operatives to journalists.
For that, Kiriakou was sentenced January 25 to 30 months in prison.
That’ll teach would be government leakers Obama means business!
Well, except that I’m kind of I’m puzzled.
If the feds are so serious about nailing leakers, why don’t they go after the US Justice Department officials who in 2004 illegally leaked secret grand jury information — including the name of a confidential informant — to a Detroit Free Press reporter?
The Free Press ran a long story January 17, 2004 with illegally leaked information before the trial of former assistant US attorney Rick Convertino on charges of obstruction of justice. The idea, it appears, was to make Convertino look bad and make a conviction easier.
Uh-oh. Convertino was acquitted.
Before the feds went after him, Convertino had filed a whistle blower lawsuit against the federal government. After his acquittal, he revived his lawsuit. He’s still trying to identify the feds who illegally leaked information about his case.
The government has not identified the source or sources who talked to (now retired) Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter.
For a time, it looked like Ashenfelter might do jail time for refusing to give up his sources. He claimed a First Amendment right not to name them, but US District Judge Robert Cleland said there is no First Amendment right to withhold information about criminal activity such as illegal leaking. As John Kiriakou learned, leaking confidential information to the press can put you in the slammer.
The Free Press reporter also invoked his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself.
Convertino is still trying to find out who Ashenfelter’s government snitches were.
It seems really contradictory: Why won’t Obama go after the Ashenfelter leakers with the same ferocity his government invested in prosecuting John Kiriakou?
Oh, wait a minute — now I remember.
Convertino pissed off the Justice Department by going to Congress and criticizing its prosecution of terrorism cases. Justice didn’t like it. Convertino filed his whistle blower suit against the feds. The feds cooked up a criminal case in hopes of shutting his mouth in a prison cell. The jury took four hours to acquit Convertino, thus opening the way for him to revive his lawsuit.
Looks to me like the government leakers in Convertino’s case were carrying out their masters’ orders in what turned out to be a botched attempt at railroading the gadfly Convertino.
The irony of the case was that the Free Press was trumpeting its First Amendment case when the REAL First Amendment issue was Convertino’s right to criticize the government’s handling of 9/11 cases without being persecuted.
What is the lesson we learn from comparing the Kiriakou and Convertino cases?
Obama will punish those government leakers who were not doing government dirty work.