My experience as a presidential appointee in service to the United States leaves me perplexed and bewildered again at what is happening.
A violation of federal rules and laws governing the handling of email communication and government documents by employees in high office is supposed to be a serious matter.
A great many of us are not “sick and tired” of hearing about it. We just want the truth, with the appropriate steps taken to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
When the Obama Justice Department decided last month to end its investigation of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials for their targeting of conservative organizations for increased scrutiny, it set a troubling precedent.
Losing or destroying government records is apparently no longer illegal. It’s now referred to as “mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia.”
The circumstances amount to a “get out of jail free” card for Hillary Clinton.
When I was a federal official, had I departed from the clear instructions of the law on matters such as those now acknowledged as having occurred, nobody would have excused me for some kind of forgivable negligence.
I would have been fired, then subjected to criminal prosecution, facing the prospect of incarceration and mega fines.
At least that was how it was explained to me in regular briefings from officials of the Department of Homeland Security and agency lawyers, using terms so clear as to compel my full attention and compliance.
I also had to complete and pass annual written examinations that included questions about my knowledge of the federal statutes designed to protect all government documents, with special emphasis on those that contained, or could have contained, any classified material.
There were no gray areas. If I wrote an email using my “epa.gov” address, regardless of how mundane, it became a protected federal record.
A note to my wife telling her that my plane had landed and I was on the way home was not to be erased, lost or modified.
If I used my personal email for any communication involving government business, I would have been in violation of the rules. It would have rendered the entirety of my personal communications and the devices used to transmit them subject to discovery, the same as federal property.
There were no deviations from the express use of only the agency’s systems and devices. I never met anybody in the government who even thought about any arrangement of his or her own making.
When leaving federal service at the conclusion of my appointment, I had to sign a form that confirmed I had not removed any federal document from the agency’s files.
There was a warning on that form that I could be indicted if I had taken anything, and I could suffer further consequences for lying about it.
It didn’t say anything about what I had stored on a secret server, because there was no contemplation of any such thing.
So I watch with amazement recent events with outcomes contrary to law.
The big McClatchy media company that owns this newspaper reported last week that Clinton isn’t likely to face charges related to blatant violations of all the above. The story quoted Edward MacMahon Jr., an attorney experienced in national security matters, as saying she is “too big to jail.”
I remember a president of the United States who learned that even he could not escape the long arm of the law. Hopefully, it can still extend its full reach.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.