Editorial: There’s a difference

National guardsman Jack Teixeria is believed to be behind the leak of hundreds of classified U.S. Intelligence documents.

Column By Mike Bibb

I’ve been reminded there is a difference between President Biden willfully removing classified documents from various Washington agencies and depositing them in multiple locations – including, his home and private offices – and a 21-year-old U.S. Air Force airman revealing equally sensitive information on the Internet.

That’s correct, no doubt about it.  There is a big difference.

One man is the President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces; the other is a recently graduated high school computer geek working part-time as a USAF reservist.

One individual continues to remain on the job, while the other was arrested at gunpoint by multiple federal officers.

Other than that, not much difference.

Allegedly, both individuals unlawfully accessed, and removed, secretive government documents.  There doesn’t seem to be any dispute regarding this, as FBI evidence discloses.

The primary distinction appears to be how the two accomplished the transgressions, and law enforcement’s reaction. 

President Joe has been in Washington over twice as long as the airman’s been alive.  Joe’s had multiple taxpayer-funded government assignments; U.S. senator, vice president, and president, amounting to about half a century and two-thirds of his life.

The airman has lived his last couple of years as a lower-grade enlisted USAF employee.  Nowhere near the duties, responsibilities, experience, longevity, and pay of a United States senator or president.

A similar comparison might be between a mail clerk in a large corporation and the company CEO.  Both individuals may have availability to inter-office mail and communications, and both may have knowledge of how to use and manipulate computers in obtaining information.  But only the CEO — with the board of directors — has the authority to decide and direct company decisions and policies.

However, if they both engage in surreptitious behavior to unlawfully obtain, reveal or remove private company or government documents without prior authority or permission, then the CEO is just as culpable as the mail clerk.

In Joe’s case – as a longtime government employee serving in several high-ranking capacities – his close association with secretive and classified documents, papers, and other material, places him in a much more advantageous position to purloin this information than the average government worker or military reserve enlistee.

Not being a criminal defense attorney or prosecutor, I can only assume the laws prohibiting such behavior must equally apply to a U.S. president as well as a USAF airman.

Or, anyone else, for that matter.

The manner they used to remove the restricted information is only a part of the original crime.  Not the actual crime itself.  Theft of the documents preceded their removal from government offices.

Whether they were whisked away in a Corvette, U-Haul, or the Internet, the papers were first stolen before they were transported to different locations.

Sensitive documents have been located in numerous places, including Joe’s homes and private offices.  It doesn’t take Columbo to figure out they were probably carried there by someone very familiar with the residences and offices.

Maybe, the actual person who lived and had offices at these addresses.

Evidently, Joe’s peculiar activities have been going on for many years.

On the other hand, the airman only recently used a computer and the Internet as a means of transportation.  It’s not certain if the young man was fully aware of the seriousness of the crime he was involved in.

Nevertheless, the end results are the same; stuff was unlawfully taken and removed from its original location to places where, conceivably, others could benefit from the information. 

So, four questions immediately come to mind:  1.  Which individual supposedly committed the greater crime?  2.  Are both crimes equally punishable under the law?  3.  Are these crimes imprisonable offenses, regardless of who commits them?

Most importantly, 4:  Did President Joe, or the airman, receive financial compensation from these transactions?

Of course, it goes without saying a sitting president has infinitely more influence within his own Justice Department than a computer-savvy E-2 Airman.

Even a former U.S. president has discovered his alleged document transgressions have not been treated the same as the current president’s similar misdeeds.

Hullabaloo over an airman’s Internet document mischief is beginning to look eerily similar to a political diversion – encouraging the media to draw the public’s attention from the primary suspect by focusing on other suspicious targets.  Real or imagined. 

Frequently, the scheme works, depending upon the cleverness of the ruse and cooperation of the press.

Biden’s alleged capers may be overlooked as blameless blunders by a befuddled president, while Trump and the airman are portrayed as being extremely dangerous to government and society.

Except, Joe appears to have been involved in pirating classified documents much longer than Trump or the airman.

Yet, all three seem to be embroiled in nearly identical circumstances, but treated differently.

How come?

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.