Despite pleading guilty to mishandling classified information, former CIA Director and Army General David Petraeus is back advising the White House and making serious money in the private sector trading off his public service.

Petraeus’ crimes were rather serious. While CIA Director he shared classified information with his mistress/biographer Paula Broadwell and then lied to federal investigators about it – an amazing betrayal of trust at the top of the intelligence community. The penalty for such high offenses was light due to Petraeus’ history of public service though Petraeus himself had taken a hard line previously on unauthorized leaks and had demanded prison time for CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou.

The guilty plea for mishandling classified information caused Petraeus to pay a $40,000 fine and face two years probation with no jail time. Should Edward Snowden get such a deal?

General David Petraeus has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified material and will serve no jail time for his actions. Let’s give the same deal to Edward Snowden.True, their crimes are different: Petraeus gave classified info to his biographer and girlfriend, Paula Broadwell. Snowden gave classified info to the American people.

There’s another difference: as The Washington Post reported, Petraeus “initially lied to FBI investigators”—he told them he “had never provided Broadwell with classified information.” That was in an interview at CIA headquarters. Snowden in contrast told the truth about what he did, and why he did it. That was in an interview in Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning film Citizenfour.

Sounds fair given the mix of motives and level of disclosures between the two cases.

Snowden has already said he would be interested in a deal that would allow him to come back to America, even one that involved serious criminal charges on the condition that he was charged with something outside the espionage act which does not allow a whistleblower defense. A plea of one count of mishandling classified information would certainly fit the bill.

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.