Hillary Clinton has never adequately explained her decision to use an alternate and insecure email system. Her initial excuse (wanting to use one device) turned out to be untrue, and people have speculated ever since on the real reasons. But no one—not even Hillary herself—has ever offered a possible reason that was altruistic.

Unlike the case of Jason Brezler, in which his motive was decidedly selfless.

Brezler’s actions and the possible consequences for those actions as a member of the military are subject to the rules and laws of that institution; Clinton’s are not. And like Clinton, Brezler has never been indicted for a crime, although like her he sent classified information through a regular email account. But his motives, the extent of his offense, his behavior after the offense, and official reaction to that offense have been markedly different from what Clinton did and what happened to her afterward.

Brezler had served as a Marine in Afghanistan, and in 2012 (two years after returning home; he was now a reservist), Brezler received an urgent email from a fellow officer warning him about the reappearance of an Afghan named Jan with whom Brezler had previously had extensive dealings:

[While in Afghanistan] Brezler had come to the conclusion that Jan was involved in narcotics and arms trafficking as well as facilitating attacks by the Taliban, even selling Afghan police uniforms to the enemy. Jan also was alleged to be what Brezler’s lawyer would call “a systematic child rapist” who allegedly ran a child kidnapping ring and acquired “tea boys” with the help of U.S. taxpayer job development money.

…Brezler kept pushing and was finally able to pressure the provincial governor into removing Jan from his post, a rare and notable bright spot in the bloodiest province in the bloodiest year of the war.

That’s the background. Here’s what the 2012 email was about, and what happened next [emphasis mine]:

…[H]ere was this email from a fellow Marine officer in Afghanistan saying Jan was back as police chief and had allegedly been raping as many as nine boys at Forward Operating Base Delhi. The email asked Brezler for any information he might be able to provide.

The Marines had not issued laptops during Brezler’s deployment, and he had used his own to send and receive reports while in the war zone…it seemed like a stroke of great luck that the lone report he inadvertently still had on hand summarized the allegations against Jan.

Brezler attached the report to his reply and emailed it with…urgency…

The fellow officer who had made the inquiry and received the response, identified by one source as Marine Maj. Brian Donlon, noted that in his haste Brezler had sent what was technically a classified document via an insecure mode of communication. Brezler acknowledged the error and duly reported himself, in keeping with a code of honor befitting a graduate of the Naval Academy.

The aftermath? Nothing was done about Jan, he and his “tea boys” continued to come and go on the base, and seventeen days later one of those boys entered the base gym and murdered three unarmed Marines, wounding a fourth. The murders occurred in August of 2012, and in December of 2013 a panel recommended that Brezler be “tossed from the military but given an honorable discharge.”

Brezler’s case has not gone unnoticed by certain members of Congress, among them Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who have tried to clear his record:

“The one person who did the right thing is the person who’s being penalized,” King said.

King made that statement in late 2013, and in November of 2015 Brezler lost and the military’s decision was upheld:

A senior Navy Department official decided Monday to force a Marine Corps officer out of the service for his handling of classified information, three years after he was first investigated after sending a warning to deployed colleagues about an Afghan police chief whose servant later killed three Marines.

Maj. Jason Brezler will be separated from the Marine Corps following a decision by acting Assistant Navy Secretary Scott Lutterloh, said Michael Bowe, Brezler’s attorney.

That was the military’s decision. After that, the case went to the civilian courts for further appeal:

“We will now proceed to a real court and prove that Commandant Amos and his generals illegally retaliated against Major Brezler because they were more concerned with politics and their careers than the lives of their Marines and the service of a good Marine who did the right thing,” [Brezler’s attorney] Bowe said in an e-mailed statement. “I look forward to their cross-examination.”

There are other legal elements involved in the military’s handling of Brezler and of the murders, including a civil lawsuit:

…filed by the family of one of the Marines killed [which] remains pending against the service in federal court. It alleges that the service ignored Brezler’s warning that the police chief, Sarwar Jan, was corrupt and sexually abusing children, allowing for the Aug. 10, 2012, ambush in which Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, 21; Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, 29; and Cpl. Richard Rivera Jr., 20; were killed at Forward Operating Delhi, a Marine Corps outpost in Helmand province’s Garmsir district. A fourth Marine sustained five gunshot wounds but survived.

The suit was filed…by the Buckley family, which also is represented by Bowe. In court filings, they have repeatedly expressed frustration with the amount of information the Marine Corps has provided them about the case.

As of now, Brezler’s case is still proceeding through the court system, and his defense plans to make use of the decisions made in the case of Hillary Clinton’s classified emails:

An attorney for Brezler, Michael J. Bowe, said that he intends to cite the treatment of Clinton “as one of the many, and most egregious examples” of how severely Brezler was punished…

Bowe said it is impossible to reconcile President Obama’s statement that Clinton’s intentional act of setting up a secret, unsecured email server did not detract “from her excellent ability to carry out her duties” while Brezler received a “completely opposite finding… involving infinitely less sensitive and limited information.”

If Hillary Clinton were to become president, those duties would include being Commander in Chief of the armed forces. As such, of course, she would nevertheless still be a civilian and not subject to the military justice system nor to military rules.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]