Too Big to Jail? Why Kidnapping, Torture, Assassination, and Perjury Are No Longer Crimes in Washington

President Obama with, third from left, Gen. James E. Cartwright.

President Obama with, third from left, Gen. James E. Cartwright.

The ever-insightful Tom Engelhardt highlights the teflon status of White House cronies at

How the mighty have fallen.  Once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” James Cartwright will soon don a prison uniform and, thanks to a plea deal, spend 13 months behind bars.  Involved in setting up the earliest military cyberforce inside U.S. Strategic Command, which he led from 2004 to 2007, Cartwright also played a role in launching the first cyberwar in history — the release of the Stuxnet virus against Iran’s nuclear program.  A Justice Department investigation found that, in 2012, he leaked information on the development of that virus to David Sanger of the New York Times. The result: a front-page piece revealing its existence, and so the American cyber-campaign against Iran, to the American public.  It was considered a serious breach of national security.  On Thursday, the retired four-star general stood in front of a U.S. district judge who told him that his “criminal act” was “a very serious one” and had been “committed by a national security expert who lost his moral compass.” It was a remarkable ending for a man who nearly reached the heights of Pentagon power, was almost appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and had the president’s ear.

In fact, Gen. James Cartwright has not gone to jail and the above paragraph remains — as yet — a grim Washington fairy tale.  There is indeed a Justice Department investigation open against the president’s “favorite general” (as Washington scribe to the stars Bob Woodward once labeled him) for the possible leaking of information on that virus to the New York Times, but that’s all.  He remains quite active in private life, holding the Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as a consultant to ABC News, and on the board of Raytheon, among other things. He has suffered but a single penalty so far: he was stripped of his security clearance.

A different leaker actually agreed to that plea deal for the 13-month jail term.  Nearly three weeks ago, ex-State Department intelligence analyst Stephen E. Kim pled guilty to “an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information.”  He stood before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who offered those stern words of admonition, and took responsibility for passing classified information on the North Korean nuclear program to Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009.

Still, someday Cartwright might prove to be unique in the annals of Obama era jurisprudence — the only Washington figure of any significance in these years to be given a jail sentence for a crime of state.  Whatever happens to him, his ongoing case highlights a singular fact: that there is but one crime for which anyone in America’s national security state can be held accountable in a court of law, and that’s leaking information that might put those in it in a bad light or simply let the American public know something more about what its government is really doing.

If this weren’t Washington 2014, but rather George Orwell’s novel 1984, then the sign emblazoned on the front of the Ministry of Truth — “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” — would have to be amended to add a fourth slogan: Knowledge is Crime…

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Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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14 Comments on "Too Big to Jail? Why Kidnapping, Torture, Assassination, and Perjury Are No Longer Crimes in Washington"

  1. “Knowledge is a crime,” for sure.
    All these bastards, Barry, et al, are psychopathic, mass murdering, monsters. They are good little puppets of the even richer psychopaths who actually call the shots.

  2. marvin nubwaxer | Apr 21, 2014 at 4:23 pm |

    blame it obama. obama bad. thanks obama.

    • Obama is a front-man, an actor, a puppet. He is as Cornell West suggested, “the black face of empire.”

      • Didn’t stop the creep voting for him.

        • Shamefully, I voted for him the first time.
          Hey, I was so disgusted with the fucking shrub, I bought the rhetoric (lies).
          Enjoyed the schadenfreude watching the legions of rednecks shitting themselves over a black man in the White House for a few months before I realized I had been suckered, like Charlie Brown trying to kick that damn football. Shoulda known.
          Never again.

    • gustave courbet | Apr 21, 2014 at 7:26 pm |

      In my opinion, the ‘outing,’ or unashamed public display of lawless behavior that defined the post 911 Bush administration has become normalized under Obama. Blaming a particular administration for long running historic trends that span decades denotes an ignorance of how American oligarchy plies power in DC.

      • Agreed, the shrub, slick willy, shrub the elder, raygun were all horrible for the mass of humanity, but very good for big money.
        You could go back even further than that if you wanted to, but why bother?

        • gustave courbet | Apr 21, 2014 at 10:21 pm |

          Ha, Raygun….

        • InfvoCuernos | Apr 22, 2014 at 12:18 am |

          You could easily go back-in light of the corruption that “Raygun” brought to his campaign, it makes tricky Dick Nixon look positively honest. Hoover called shots for so long, he was almost a dictator, and he wasn’t even a president.

          • Fucking Hoover, what a piece of work he was. Your classic self-loathing, closet drag queen. Such a product of American morality of that period. He was a nasty little symptom of a much larger and deeper malaise.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Apr 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm |

    Too Pig to Jail?

  4. Echar Lailoken | Apr 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm |

  5. The government and CIA has been doing stuff like this since the at least the 1950s. It hasn’t been a crime for a long time for them, if ever.

  6. Thanks. Now I feel like less of a schmuck:)

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