Former General David Petraeus’s 2012 adultery scandal may end up costing him more than just his job as CIA director.
Citing anonymous government officials, the New York Times is reporting that federal prosecutors with the FBI and the Department of Justice have recommended that Petraeus be charged with a felony for providing classified information to his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell, who was also an Army Reserve officer.
Petraeus has been under investigation for unauthorised leaks related to the affair and Broadwell’s book since the scandal broke. Holder was supposed to decide on charging Petraeus by the end of last year. But the legal process has unfolded slowly, with the retired general showing “no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial,” according to the Times.
The charges would represent a stunning turnabout for the celebrated former US commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and one of the military’s major proponents of counter-insurgency doctrine. As the Times puts it, Attorney General Eric Holder now has to decide “whether to seek an indictment that could send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison.”
Petraeus abruptly resigned as CIA director on Nov. 10, 2012 after admitting that he had carried on an extra-marital affair with Broadwell the year before. For someone in a less sensitive position in government, such marital indiscretions aren’t necessarily a career-ender.
But for the director of the US’s top intelligence agency it’s nothing less than a national security risk. The affair could have provided potential blackmail fodder to foreign intelligence agencies while raising the possibility of just the kind of security breach Petraeus may now be charged with. After all, once classified information is in the hands of a single unauthorised individual, it can leak even further, the people beyond the intended recipient. And as CIA director, Petraeus security clearance was virtually limitless.
The Petraeus scandal quickly took on a tawdry aspect as news of the affair broke in the days after President Barack Obama’s re-election. It turns out the adultery was exposed because Jill Kelley, a friend of Petraeus who lived near US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida and was active in local military support circles, had allegedly received threatening emails from a jealous Broadwell that she later reported to the FBI. The resulting investigation uncovered Petraeus’s affair with Broadwell and ended the retired general’s career in government.
But the possible charges shows that there’s a deeply serious side to this soap opera, with a sitting CIA director possibly violating his security clearance, thus proving that the affair had the potential to endanger US national security.
Business Insider reached out to Robert Barnett, the lawyer Petraeus hired in the aftermath of his resignation, for comment. He declined to comment.
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