Media Calls on Court to Release Petraeus Sentencing Materials

David PetraeusBack when Scooter Libby was getting sentenced for lying about whether and what classified information Vice President Dick Cheney ordered him to leak to Judy Miller, at least three of the people who submitted letters in favor of leniency were people who were implicated in the investigation.

Equally remarkable is the way others implicated in these events celebrate Libby’s loyalty in letters written in support of leniency for Libby. Take Eric Edelman, Libby’s former deputy. According to the indictment, Edelman suggested leaking information about the fact-finding trip to Africa undertaken by Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, to rebut Wilson’s allegations just days before Libby first leaked Plame’s identity to Judith Miller. In his letter, Edelman spoke of Libby’s “loyalty to individuals.”

And then there’s Libby’s mentor, Paul Wolfowitz, who just got forced to resign from the World Bank for his own ethical issues. Wolfowitz, at Libby’s direction, leaked previously classified intelligence information to the Wall Street Journal as part of the response to Wilson’s allegations. Wolfowitz celebrated Libby for his noble “spirit of selfless service” and “sense of duty.”

And finally, there is Libby’s former assistant, Jenny Mayfield. According to the trial testimony of Cheney aide David Addington, Mayfield stamped many incriminating documents turned over by the office of the vice president to the investigators with the words, “Treated as Top Secret/SCI,” an improper classification. In her letter, Mayfield described how Libby has “stood by me.”

On top of those three, almost half the letters calling for a lenient sentence either had ties to the Vice President’s office or were identifiable NeoCons who, like Libby, were implicated in the politicized case for the Iraq War the Wilsons had stood against.

That is, Libby benefitted not just his prominence and status, but also from the interest he shared with many in squelching any further investigations into the circumstances surrounding the Iraq War.

Which is why it was so important that, after some pressure from news outlets, the judge in the case released the letters, so the public could see the networks of influence lobbying to protect Libby and, by association, Cheney.

Thus far, the same hasn’t happened with the 30-some letters submitted in favor of leniency for David Petraeus, to say nothing of his sentencing report.

Which is why a coalition of news outlets have filed to convince the judge to release those materials.

Of particular importance, they note that other people sentenced for similar crimes had their sentencing reports released.

Because Petraeus served as a high-ranking government official, and pleaded guilty to a charge involving the mishandling of classified information, the public has an especially strong interest in obtaining a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding his prosecution, guilty plea, and sentence. Indeed, the prosecution and outcome of Petraeus’ s case has garnered significant attention from the press and the puhlic.2 Moreover, in other, similar prosecutions of defendants who have pleaded guilty to charges relating to alleged lea.ks of classified information, the sentencing memoranda are public. See, e.g., United States v. Kim, No. 1:10-cr-00225 (D.D.C. filed Mar. 24, 2014), ECF Nos. 285 and 286; United States v. Kiriakou, No. l:12-cr-127 (E.D. Va. filed Jan. 18, 2013), ECF Nos. 124 and 126. And access to those documents, which reflect the parties’ arguments for and against leniency in sentencing, have enabled the public to evaluate prosecutors’ and the courts’ handling of those cases that implicate national security concerns, a matter of the utmost public interest. Petraeus’s Sentencing Memorandum and the letters submitted to the Court in connection with his sentencing should, likewise, be public.

The secrecy of Petraeus’ sentencing report was part of his plea deal. Surely, that aspect of this two-tier standard of justice is something both DOJ and Petraeus would like to hide. So it is likely his lawyers will fight that.

But it’s hard to argue Senators and the like should be able to weigh in to support a criminal — as some apparently did — without that being made public.

David Petraeus leaked some of this country’s most sensitive secrets so his mistress could use them to write a fawning biography that portrayed Petraeus’ wars as a success, rather than the disasters they are. How many of those who argued Petraeus’ crimes should get no more than probation have an investment in that myth of success?

About Marcy Wheeler

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler writes the "Right to Know" column for ExposeFacts. She is best known for providing in-depth analysis of legal documents related to "war on terrorism" programs and civil liberties. Wheeler blogs at emptywheel.net and publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon and the Progressive. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. Wheeler won the 2009 Hillman Award for blog journalism.