Does it surprise anyone that former CIA Director David Petraeus pleaded guilty to providing classified information to his mistress and appears headed for a sentence of 2 years' probation and a $40,000 fine ["Petraeus to plead guilty," News, March 4]?

It's always the people at the top of the chain who seem to walk away with a pat on the head for a job well done. We know that John Deutch, also a former CIA director, lost his security clearances but did not get charged with taking home government secrets. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was admonished but not charged for keeping National Security Agency wiretapping information at his house. Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a $50,000 fine for removing classified documents from the National Archives.

Meanwhile, lower-level people such as Stephen Kim, a State Department contractor, received a 13-month prison term for discussing classified information with a Fox News reporter. And Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, was convicted of nine felony counts -- and presumably faces a long prison term -- for giving a New York Times reporter details of a classified operation to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

The whistleblower Edward Snowden is vilified for telling Americans that the NSA is illegally monitoring their calls and has conducted warrantless searches of Americans' communications. No vital information was given to the public that caused harm -- except the knowledge that the government is intruding in every aspect of your life.

Sheldon Wald, Oceanside