My Facebook feed is exploding with memes and articles implying that the government is applying a double-standard in its treatment of the Hillary Clinton email mess and the Edward Snowden case.
DISCLAIMER: The following is not a comment on the character of either individual nor a judgement of what either one of them has done. It is not my intention to defend Hillary Clinton nor condemn the actions of Edward Snowden.
My intent here is to point out why these are not similar cases, and why comparing the two is totally invalid.
Let’s consider the cases of Jack and Susan as an example.
If Jack drives a car into a crowd with the intent to kill or injure someone, he is committing a criminal act. Regardless of his justification for what he did, he’s going to end up in jail.
If Susan drives a car with worn out tires which may result in the car going out of control and injuring somebody she is being careless, especially if her mechanic says, “Susan, you really shouldn’t drive on those tires”. If she gets pulled over and a cop sees the tires she’s probably going to get a ticket for a motor vehicle infraction. If she does have an accident she may get sued, and her insurance company may end up paying out some bucks . . . but Susan is not committing a crime. She’s not doing the same thing Jack did.
Trying to equate these two situations is known as a “Faulty Comparison”. Attempting to use what Jack did as an argument to imply that Susan should be subject to the same consequences is illogical. The question of law in this case revolves around an intent to do injury. Jack intended to do injury. Susan did not.
The argument at hand It is a similar example of the same fallacy of logic. Whether you agree with the actions of Mr. Snowden or not, what he did was to intentionally and without authorization divulge thousands of classified documents directly to individuals who were not cleared to possess that information in direct violation of 18 U.S.C. 37. Again, you may feel that his motives were justified, or you may not . . . but what he did was a direct and (one more time) intentional violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.
What Mr. Snowden did was done with intent to divulge the information to someone other than ” . . . an officer of the United States entitled to receive it.” (18 U.S.C. 37 § 793.d). Not even her worst critics accuse Secretary Clinton of such intent.
What Hillary Clinton did was to use a non-government and non-secured messaging server (which may have been subject to compromise) to exchange sensitive State Department information, some of which was classified, with other individuals who had authorization to view that information. What she did violated State Department policy (but actually as it turns out, not common State Department practice.) What she did not do is violate the law as it existed at the time. She did not knowingly nor intentionally share that information with people who had no clearance to see it. What she did was careless – but totally different from what Mr. Snowden did.
It’s a faulty comparison.
How about changing the conversation to something that really matters?