The bombshell resignation yesterday of David Petraeus--director of the CIA, one of the most decorated four-star generals, and one of our country's most prominent military strategists--is making headlines due to his affair (the reason he gave for his resignation) with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
But the real story is the FBI investigation that ensnared the two. The FBI does not investigate extramarital affairs, and the President does not normally express his disappointment over such things. The FBI investigation into a "potential criminal matter"--specifically, whether a computer Petraeus used had been compromised and other security concerns--lies at the heart of what is so insidious about this situation.
I represent a number of whistleblowers, including Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who have faced decades in jail under the Espionage Act for "leaking" supposedly-classified information. (Petraeus just praised Kiriakou's conviction because "secrecy oaths matter.") Now we have the CIA director apparently leaking classified information of the highest order to his biographer and mistress, who does not have a security clearance.
This is the icing on the cake of leak hypocrisy. President Obama has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers using the heavy-handed, antiquated, and out-of-scope Espionage Act to go after national security and intelligence whistleblowers alleged to have mishandled classified information. Yesterday, we learned of the Espionage Act indictment of a 7th person, whom the government concedes in not a spy and did not disclose or retain classified information at all.
Paula Broadwell spent extended periods of time with Petraeus in Afghanistan, and she calls him her mentor. Putting aside the myriad ethics concerns with a top general sleeping with a grad student writing her dissertation about him (and him apparently being on her dissertation committee), the legal issues are just as messy. There's the issue of a top intelligence offcial in the United States disclosing, in Espionage Act terms, "national defense information" and classified material. Moreover, it is being shared with someone who has no security clearance to receive such information. It adds insult to hypocrisy that Petraeus supplied this information for a fawning book about himself.
Additionally, the FBI informed neither the Congressional Intelligence Committees nor the White House, even though by law the intel committees are supposed to be apprised of significant developments in the intelligence arena, which would certainly include a potential compromise of the CIA director's personal Gmail.
These are matters that should be investigated, rather than spending millions of taxpayer dollars trying to destroy the men who helped expose two of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration, namely secret surveillance (Drake) and torture (Kiriakou).
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reports that Broadwell
or someone close to her had sought access to his e-mail
and that the e-mail account was apparently Petraeus' personal Gmail, not his official CIA e-mail. ABC's Martha Raddatz reported that Petraeus' associates had received "anonymous harassing emails" that were then traced to Broadwell, which suggests Broadwell may have found their names or addresses in his e-mail. I AM TRYING TO PUT IN LINKS, BUT AM HAVING TROUBLE DOING SO AS I AM IN BRASILIA. FOR TWEEPS, I HAVE BEEN PUTTING LINKS ON TWITTER.
UPDATE 2: The New York Times says the FBI investigation began several months ago with a complaint about "harassing" e-mails from Broadwell to another woman. When the FBI began to examine Broadwell's e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Petraeus that revealed the affair. The affair didn't set off alarm bells, but the possibility of security breaches stemming from his use of a personal e-mail account did because of vulnerabilities to hacking.