Last week, U.S. media seized on the June 21 sentencing of former FBI analyst Kendra Kingsbury to 46 months in prison – for storing stolen classified documents in her Kansas City home bathroom – as a foretelling parallel to the prosecution of Donald Trump on similar Espionage Act violation charges.
“Major Blow for Trump as Judge Sends Ex-FBI Analyst…to Four Years in Prison,” trilled a Radar Online headline carried by NBC news online. “FBI Analyst Who Hoarded Classified Docs Like Trump Gets Four years,” went a Daily Beast headline.
The lead paragraph in a New York Times story characterized the Kingsbury conviction on two Espionage Act violations as “a case that bears parallels to that of former President Donald J. Trump, including the same charge of willful retention of national security secrets,” before going on to note that Kingsbury’s punishment reflects “how seriously the government takes such charges and…how aggressively the Justice Department might pursue its case against Trump.”
But the surgically omitted public facts of the Kingsbury case expose this treatment as biased journalistic malfeasance and far worse. The coverage hurt America by blanketing over the fact that Kingsbury, who never worked in counterterrorism, stole documents related to FBI counterterrorism investigations of violent jihadists, communicated by phone with active terrorism investigation targets, and ran database searches on counterterrorism cases to which she was not assigned.
With her document thefts, self-initiated database searches, and secret telephone communications with FBI-targeted jihadists, Kingsbury exposed the nation to real-harm Islamic terror attack – for years.
Why the 50-year-old divorced mother of two stole Top Secret and Secret counterterrorism documents and what she did with them bears no resemblance whatsoever to any allegation pending against Trump. Trump’s reportedly accidental initial retention of classified documents and later refusal to turn them over falls under very different legal rubrics where no such intentional theft and national security harm is alleged.
But U.S. media should not get away with this misdirection. Kingsbury’s crimes and punishments demand the full telling, decoupled from Trump, to remind Americans that a jihadist threat inside America persists unabated, to deter others from doing what she did, to raise questions about FBI employee vetting, and to demand fuller investigation of background and motives for “see-something-say-something” purposes.
Perhaps, as a cherry on top, the fuller telling will reveal that liberal journalists seemed only too politically happy to cash in on a bogus two-fer: not reporting on the tenacious jihadist threat to America and at the same time getting to flash sharpened knives at Trump while accomplishing that.
Exposing America to violent Islamist terrorism
According to court records accessible to all journalists who reported about Kingsbury’s sentencing, investigative FBI analysis of her home and cell phones showed she began communicating with bureau “counterterrorism subjects” in 2000, four years before she actually hired on with the bureau as an analyst, and went on communicating with them through at least 2018 in Missouri and throughout the United States.
The FBI’s investigator “was able to identify other suspicious calls to and from the defendant’s phone numbers dating back to 2000 and prior to her employment with the FBI, including one call that lasted over 38 minutes,” the government’s June 12, 2023 sentencing memorandum notes.
Neither court records nor media reporting offer any information about Kingsbury’s religion or other possible motivation for maintaining these obviously inappropriate relationships both before and long after she joined the FBI, although a line in the memorandum notes that at one point she sought to help a “family member” by searching FBI databases.
What the court record does say is that, after joining the FBI’s Kansas City field office as an analyst from 2004 through 2017, Kingsbury’s communications with FBI counterterrorism targets continued while she was stealing the first of what would become a trove of 20,000 pilfered classified investigative documents related to such targets on thumb drives and CDs. She destroyed old ones as she added new ones to the collection over the years. No one could construe this as an unrelated coincidence.
Here’s a troubling sampling of what the phone analysis showed was happening while she pilfered classified records, as provided in the June sentencing memo, where those with whom Kingsbury communicated were either under active investigation and even after cases wrapped up with convictions:
On January 15, 16, and 17 of 2007, the “subject of a counterterrorism investigation” in a different FBI division than the one where Kingsbury worked called her home phone, after which she conducted four searches in FBI databases for the subject’s name and telephone number.
In 2008, another “subject of a counterterrorism investigation” called Kingsbury’s home phone for 42 seconds.
In 2011, an individual who was “part of a counterterrorism investigation” called Kingsbury’s home six times. Flurries of phone calls went on that year and into the next between Kingsbury and other counterterrorism investigation “subjects” of an open case. The calls went on even after that case concluded in November 2012.
In 2012, one subject in an active counterterrorism case but who not been under active investigation “since a 2006 sentencing hearing” called Kingsbury’s cell phone two times. She called the subject back on another of that subject’s phones. “All these calls were one or two minutes in duration,” the FBI investigator noted.
From December 20, 2016 through January 19, 2017, another “subject of a counterterror investigation” repeatedly called Kingsbury’s cell phone.
In 2018, a counterterrorism “suspect” called Kingsbury for 20 seconds.
What was in the stolen documents that Kingsbury could have passed along to such people entrusted with personal home and cell phone numbers?
““The documents included information about al-Qaeda members on the African continent, including a suspected associate of Oama bin Laden,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Edwards told the court during a November 2022 plea agreement hearing. That, along with information about “sensitive human source operations and national security investigations, intelligence gaps regarding hostile foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations, and the technical capabilities of the FBI against …counterterrorism targets.”
Unlike anything alleged in the Trump case, Kingsbury knew that the information in these documents would be used to the injure the United States and “intentionally” acted to do so, prosecutors noted in their memorandum.
Was Kingsbury a troubled Islamist convert turncoat? She was certainly troubled by years of family deaths, health problems and a divorce, her own attorney claimed in her sentencing memorandum as an excuse for all this, asking the judge for leniency.
But no one seems to want to know too badly if she was an extreme radical Islamist before ever joining the FBI, as the pre-bureau phone calls to terrorism suspects show dating to 2000, including that 38-minute one. That is important to know on two counts. One, could the FBI of the heated post-911 period in 2004 have vetted a potential analyst who had terrorists on her phone’s rapid dial?
Did Biden DOJ prosecutors take a pass on charging Kingsbury with terrorism, which would act as a deterrent? Was this a terrorism case misdiagnosed as an anything-but case that could be easily cast as a Trump-like prosecution?
In what sounds disingenuous on its face, Biden DOJ prosecutors insist in court papers they don’t know “and may never know” what any of this was about simply because Kingsbury, when confronted by investigators, clammed up and there’s no transcripts of conversations.
“Investigators have not been able to determine why the defendant contacted these individuals, or why these individuals contacted the defendant,” the government sentencing memorandum concludes.
Also quite unlike anything alleged in the Trump indictment, she admitted to deleting the contents of one of her four email accounts as she became suspicious that she was under FBI surveillance and also of using a hammer to destroy a laptop computer.
Still, how hard would it have been for investigators to knock a few doors and talk to neighbors or a divorced husband about Kingsbury’s religious or political affiliations – or any potential criminal activity they might have noticed?
Knocking doors and doing a story about the latest terrorism-related case in America apparently was too much work for the Kansas City Star, which like all the others, penned a story under the familiar headline: “Ex-FBI analyst who kept classified info in bathroom like Trump going to prison in KC case.”
Supporting court documents below:
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