Former Sheriff David Clarke Told To Revise Thesis After Plagiarism Investigation

Former Sheriff David Clarke is being told that he must revise his thesis or risk losing his degree:

Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke must revise his master’s thesis or risk losing his degree in security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School, according to documents CNN’s KFile obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The school arrived at its decision after a lengthy investigation triggered by a May CNN KFile report. The story revealed that Clarke’s 2013 thesis, entitled “Making U.S. security and privacy rights compatible,” contained language lifted from numerous sources, including multiple ACLU reports, the 9/11 Commission Report,

The Washington Post, former President George W. Bush’s book “Decision Points” and others. In all the instances KFile found, Clarke credited sources with a footnote but did not indicate with quotation marks that he was using the language verbatim.

Prior to the May story, Clarke said that he would be joining President Donald Trump’s administration as assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. In June, DHS announced that Clarke was no longer under consideration for the position. In August, he resigned his position as sheriff and announced the following week that he would join the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

The Naval Postgraduate School’s dean of students, Cdr. Paul Rasmussen, wrote in a July letter to Clarke obtained by KFile that he concurred with a finding of an

“Honor Code Board” that the thesis was “in violation” of the school’s honor code. The dean wrote that he further determined that Clarke’s “violation was not a result of any intentional deception or misappropriation efforts.” The letter informed Clarke that he had until October 23 — 100 days — to submit a revised thesis or NPS would “initiate degree revocation.”

Clarke did not respond to a request for comment on the school’s decision.

Clarke, who was a vocal supporter of President Trump’s during the 2016 campaign, recently resigned his position as Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s Sheriff and was reportedly in line for some kind of position inside the Trump White House. Chief of Staff John Kelly apparently objected to the idea and Clarke was not offered such a position. Instead, he now works for a pro-Trump SuperPAC in a role that is likely to make him a prominent Trump surrogate on cable news. Before that, there had been reports that Clarke was offered a position at the Department of Homeland Security, but that offer was withdrawn after the plagiarism charges came to light.

While Clarke has not responded to the latest news, his initial comments after the plagiarism allegations are about what you’d expect from a Trump supporter:

When KFile reached out to Clarke for comment on its initial report, Clarke took to Twitter, writing, “This @CNN hack @KFILE oppo research MO is to accuse plagiarism. I’m next. Did it to Rand Paul, Monica Crowley et al.” In an subsequent radio interview, Clarke said, “They’re saying certain words and phrases I should have put quotation marks around. OK, alright, fine. Maybe from a formatting standpoint the thesis isn’t perfect, but the content is there.”

Apparently, his school disagreed.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Indeed. The content is there…and over there…and right here…and just around the corner too. Yup, that content is all over the place, anywhere you look.

  2. James in Bremerton says:

    “Sheriff” Joe David Clarke The Plumber….

  3. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Gee, I’m sorry, but where I got my Master’s degree (Central Washington University), if the formatting wasn’t perfect (or at least pretty close), no one cared whether the content was there or not. Now I know that CWU is not anywhere near as prestigious as the Naval Postgraduate School, but that only makes me think the standards should be higher.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    I’m no fan of Clarke, but this seems a stretch. He cited the sources in footnotes, but didn’t put quotes on them when he used them in the text. The real plagiarism question is whether he was trying to take someone else’s writing and portray them as his own. This is hardly a slam dunk case.

  5. Mikey says:

    @MarkedMan: My issue with this isn’t whether or not he purposefully misrepresented others’ writing as his own, but that he didn’t seem to understand how he was supposed to identify quotes in his text. You’d think by the time someone gets to the postgraduate level, they’d understand the most basic requirements imposed on anyone taking English 101.

  6. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mikey: Well that, too.

  7. Lynn says:

    I remember how much my committee pored over my dissertation. They even caught a spelling error or two. I don’t think that I would ever have gotten to the final defense if I had been as sloppy as Clarke was. And I’m sure I wouldn’t have been allowed to correct it years later.

  8. Jonathan Smith says:

    “…[A]bout what you’d expect from a Trump supporter…”

    Bigot much, Sir?

    Do you have similar feelings about what all AA people/ Women/ Asians/ Whites do?