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Experts: One Law for Politicians, Another Law for People

Hillary Clinton is exploiting a giant loophole in federal data classification laws, according to lawyers who defend Americans in national-security hearings.

“If she was a normal everyday person, a non-Clinton so to speak, and the FBI has made a finding of reckless irresponsibility, and she came to me to represent her … I would have probably assessed the chance of [success] between zero and 5 percent,” said one lawyer who helps government employees keep the data security clearances that are vital to their careers. “I have represented numerous individuals who … emailed things to themselves at home [for evening work], who have lost jobs and careers over things half as egregious” as Clinton did, he added.

Government employees lose their security clearance, jobs and careers for apparently minor violations of security procedures, even when they don’t intend to release information to foreign countries, said Bill Cowden, a lawyer at the D.C. office of the Federal Practice Group. For example, he defended a federal employee who allowed coworkers — with the same security clearance as him — to use his computer, and then lost his security clearance. Like many others, the man lost his job and his career once he lost his security clearance, Cowdon said. 

In Clinton’s case, “there really isn’t an administrative [punishment] option because Hillary Clinton is no longer working for the government,” Cowdon said. In addition, Clinton benefits from a loophole that exempts politicians from the normal process of career-killing administrative punishments for mishandling classified data.

And if she gets the job she wants — President of the United States — she’ll bypass the normal security review because of her status as an elected politician, the lawyers said. “If she gets elected, all of these [classification] issues go away because there is an elected officials exemption to all these things,” said one lawyer. 

“She will have access to all levels of classified information regardless of the eligibility issues raised by the FBI’s determination,” because she would be an elected official, said William Savarino, a D.C.-based lawyer who represents individuals and companies in national security matters. 

“FBI Director Comey recommended against charging Hillary Clinton for crimes pertaining to her handling of classified information, [but] he nonetheless characterized her handling of such information as ‘extremely careless,'” Savarino said. “This would present an interesting situation where an incoming president’s ability and willingness to safeguard classified information has been seriously called into question by the FBI,” he said, carefully.

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