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David Petraeus scandal , Morality, Ethics & Security

Gen David Petraeus, one of America's most prominent military officers, resigned after admitting he had had an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. Now the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, has been linked to another woman already tied to both Gen Petraeus and Mrs Broadwell.
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Petraeus: Victim of American infantilism

Robert Grenier
By: Robert Grenier
Former CIA station chief Robert Grenier heads ERG Partners, a financial consultancy firm.
A feckless violation of the General's personal life has cost the US one of its top public servants.

Bordel Militaire Controle: That was the rather bureaucratic term applied to official "supervised military bordellos" run by the French Army during much of the 20th century. Clear-eyed French defence officials of the First World War conceded that some proportion - and perhaps a large proportion - of the soldiers whom they deployed in expeditionary settings would seek to satisfy their carnal urges when and where they could, and that generally no good would come of it.
They considered that burgeoning prostitution, a hostile and alienated local populace, and rampant disease would undermine social support for the troops, and their fighting abilities. And so, exercising the rigorous logic characteristic of the culture which gave us Descartes, they reasoned that rather than wringing their hands, it would be better to set up medically-supervised institutions that would at least limit the negative results of behaviour which they could not otherwise hope to adequately control. 
Such an unsentimental application of moral reason is foreign to tender American sensibilities, but even puritanical US officials - after being forced during World War II to deal with the undisciplined appetites of conscript armies - eventually had to accommodate the fact that unless they took preventive measures, venereal disease would do to American armies what the Axis Powers could not.
Perhaps a bit closer to home, earnest American moralists of the current day who preach "abstinence-only" sex education in a sex-obsessed culture, and who have questionably passing acquaintance with relevant statistics concerning teen pregnancy, are being badly embarrassed by those more practical souls who supplement their preaching with ready access to contraceptives.
"In the absence of a crime and dereliction of professional responsibility, the matter should have ended there, with none of us the wiser, and a highly dedicated and competent public official still at work for his country."
I mention these as examples of the reasoned efforts of honest, clear-minded people to accommodate high-minded moral values to the practical realities of ordinary human behaviour. They stand in sharp contrast to the latest spate of puerile nonsense currently on such garish display in Washington.
One doubts that there is anywhere on the planet so remote as to have been spared the myriad details of the sex scandal that has claimed the career of General David Petraeus, most lately Director of the CIA. Still, it is worth briefly reviewing the core facts of the case, as they have been revealed to us: A woman in Tampa complains to the Federal Bureau of Investigation of threatening e-mails sent from an anonymous source. The FBI investigates, and finds them to have been sent by another woman residing in North Carolina. Scrutiny of this woman's e-mail reveals that she is involved in an illicit affair with General Petraeus. After a thorough investigation, including interviews with both Petraeus and the woman, it is determined that the offending e-mails neither meet the threshold for criminal harassment, nor has there been any security breach involving Director Petraeus's communications with his paramour.
CIA director Petraeus quits over extramarital affair 
That is where this investigation should have ended. It was appropriate that FBI officials, who might have been concerned about the future potential for blackmail of a senior US official with access to highly sensitive national security information (of whom, by the way, there are many thousands of others), should inform that person's superior (in Petraeus's case General James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence). In the natural course of these events, CIA security officials - whose duty it is to guard such confidential personal information zealously - would have insisted that General Petraeus make a clean breast of the matter to them in order to help ensure that he could not be suborned later by, say, a hostile intelligence service that might independently learn of his affair. In the absence of a crime and dereliction of professional responsibility, the matter should have ended there, with none of us the wiser and a highly dedicated and competent public official still at work for his country.
Yes, it would be better if all those many thousands of individuals entrusted with safekeeping of America's national security secrets - and the rest of us, as well - could be relied upon to lead unerringly virtuous lives, both public and private. It would be better if they never abused drink, felt financial difficulty, or succumbed to the lure of messy sexual dalliances. But the fact is that some of them will: It is an actuarial certainty. The US Intelligence Community has long understood this, and has mechanisms in place to deal with such peccadilloes privately, while limiting the scope for others to exploit the personal vulnerabilities thus revealed. This is only sensible.
But in the case of General Petraeus, none of what should have happened did happen. The FBI did not close down its investigation. Instead, it continued to search, we are told, "for some link between Petraeus and the harassing e-mails", the ones that they had already found not to be criminal. Why this degree of solicitousness on the part of these over-dedicated public servants? Well, let us not forget that a criminal case involving a high-profile figure is the sort of thing that gets faceless Justice Department bureaucrats noticed.
Such opportunities should not be passed up. Before long, FBI agents were sharing information concerning General Petraeus's private life quite liberally as their feckless "investigation" continued. By the time word reached General Clapper, one presumes that it was the certainty of imminent mass public mortification that induced him to suggest Petraeus resign. At that point the floodgates of salacious gossip, invariably sourced in a fully complicit media to "anonymous" government sources, opened wide - a perfect example of "your American tax dollars at work".
"The most celebrated military officer of his generation - a public servant of rare competence and dedication - has been unnecessarily hounded from public life."
The reader should not be fooled by the supposed trove of "classified documents" subsequently found in a raid of the former mistress' home. The FBI, stung by the nascent criticism of having thoroughly violated the privacy of two citizens who have committed no crimes and then driving a campaign of public opprobrium in the bargain, is hell-bent to find some wrongdoing to which it can point as justification.
The fact that a reserve Army officer who possesses security clearances and has spent years engaged in research in which she was being actively aided by many serving military personnel turns out to have official military documents in her possession should come as no great surprise. No one - even in the FBI - has had the temerity thus far to claim there is any substantive compromise of national security in any of this material. At the end of the day it is most likely that such violations of document protocol as may have been committed will merit only administrative sanction at best.
No one is coming out of this episode looking righteous: Not the protagonists, not the law enforcement community, not the pandering media, and not the scandal-obsessed public. But in the end, the most celebrated military officer of his generation - a public servant of rare competence and dedication - has been unnecessarily hounded from public life, and his continued service to the country has been lost. And his example will not be lost on the most senior public officials, who must know that, if ensnared in a compromising situation, any attempt to seek official help will very likely not protect them, but instead assure their public humiliation and private destruction.
Americans appear to be mightily enjoying this spectacle, whatever their protestations to the contrary. Theirs is a childish and hypocritical culture, as it has always been. But they should know: Infantilism comes at a price.
Former CIA station chief Robert Grenier heads ERG Partners, a financial consultancy firm.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


  • David Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA due to an extra-marital affair with Paula Broadwell
  • Broadwell met Petraeus in 2006 at Harvard University function
  • Petraeus' former spokesman said his affair began after he left military and ended four months ago 
  • President Obama gave Petraeus 24 hours to decide after hearing about the affair
  • Petraeus called his involvement in the affair "extremely poor judgement" 
  • Michael Morrell, who was Petraeus’ deputy, will be acting CIA chief 
  • Petraeus assumed command of US forces in Iraq in 2007
  • He then took command of US troops in Afghanistan in 2010 
  • Petraeus left the military to become CIA director in September 2011 
  • He oversaw the agency's use of drones for targeted killings 
  • His military career lasted for 37 years 
  • Petraeus has been married to his wife Holly since 1974

Petraeus scandal web graphic

David Petraeus' downfall is down to his liaison with Mrs Broadwell, a former military officer, academic researcher and fitness enthusiast. She graduated from the West Point military academy, then spent 15 years in the US Army as a defence policy analyst and intelligence officer in South Korea and Germany.
In 2000 at Heidelberg Castle in Germany, she married Scott Broadwell, a flight surgeon (now a radiologist). They live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and have two sons. After Mrs Broadwell left the army, the family moved to Boston, where she enrolled at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. There she began a career as an academic military researcher, a path that brought her into contact with Gen Petraeus.
Mrs Broadwell, now 40, met the then-lieutenant-general in 2006 when she approached him to write an academic project on his leadership style. Over the following years she went with him to Afghanistan as he took command of the Nato operation there and spent months working closely with him, before distilling her research into the glowing biography, All In: The Education of David Petraeus.
A friend of Gen Petraeus has said his affair with Mrs Broadwell only began in late 2011, after he had left the military to head the CIA. In the spring of 2012, Mrs Broadwell is said to have become jealous of another woman. She allegedly sent anonymous emails to the woman, Jill Kelley, apparently warning her to stay away from Gen Petraeus.

Jill Kelley

Jill Kelley is a Tampa, Florida socialite who reportedly hails from  Catholic Lebanese family that immigrated to Philadelphia in the 1970s.
Mrs Kelley, 37, and her husband Scott Kelley, a surgeon, describe themselves as having been friends with Gen Petraeus and his family for more than five years.
Jill Kelley photographer in Tampa on Monday
Now Gen John Allen is under investigation after being accused of sending "flirtatious" to Mrs Kelley beginning in 2010.
There is no suggestion that Mrs Kelley, a mother of three daughters, had an affair with either Gen Petraeus or Gen Allen.
Both men wrote letters in September 2011 on behalf of Mrs Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam, attesting to her good character in a messy custody dispute. A judge had earlier denied Ms Khawam custody of her young son, saying she appeared to lack honesty and integrity.
In May, Mrs Kelley received threatening emails accusing her of seeking an intimate relationship with the general. FBI officials say those emails were traced to Mrs Broadwell.
In Tampa, Mrs Kelley has served as an unpaid "social liaison", helping to organise gatherings at MacDill Air Force Base, which is the home of US Central Command.
Since the Kelleys moved to Tampa, they have been involved in at least nine legal actions, according to court records. Most involve real estate transactions, including a home repossession and an $11,000 (£6,930) judgment against them in a Pennsylvania case.
Gen Petraeus was stationed there before he moved to Afghanistan to run the Nato operation. Gen Allen was deputy commander there from July 2008 to June 2011.

Holly Petraeus

Holly and David Petraeus
Holly and David Petraeus met in the 1970s when he was a cadet at West Point and her father was superintendent
Holly Petraeus, Gen Petraeus' wife of 38 years, was the daughter of the general in charge of West Point when David Petraeus was a cadet there.
Mrs Petraeus, who has long been an advocate for soldiers' families, has been without her husband for long periods in recent years, even testifying before the Senate about the impact of extended deployments on military spouses.
In January 2011 she was hired to run a veterans' affairs office at the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In that position, which was created as part of the Democrats' overhaul of financial services industry regulation, Mrs Petraeus is tasked with protecting armed services members from predatory lending practices.
Mrs Petraeus' father, Gen William Knowlton, was the superintendent of West Point and Gen Petraeus was a cadet there in 1973 when the couple met.
The couple have two adult children, including an army officer deployed in Afghanistan.
"This unrelenting pace of deployments is a retention issue," Mrs Petraeus said in 2003 after testifying before a Senate committee.
"Families will not be willing to go it alone forever with little relief in sight."
David Petraeus' tough lesson
By Dan K. Thomasson
Probably the best advice my father ever gave me was never to write anything you wouldn't be comfortable seeing printed on the front page of your newspaper. It's not a complicated rule and should be followed by everyone with a long distance to fall. That is the classic definition of tragedy and Gen. David Petraeus fits it almost perfectly, having ended a glorious career in an inglorious fashion in the time it takes to read a few emails he never should have written in the first place. How incredible that the head of the CIA would trust his future to a device that is notoriously unsecure — the Internet? Forget about the morality or lack of it involved here. Adultery is never a justifiable act and this is not meant to do so. It is not surprising, however, that a man of his stature, under great pressure during long absences from home on the front lines of national defense, would look for creature pleasures with a smart, vital, engaging, type-A personality 20 years his junior. Dumb? Certainly. But not rare. Have you not heard of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby? That Petraeus' part-time companion turned out to be a jealous and indiscreet handful is not unusual in these situations. Ask Bill Clinton. What is shocking is that a normally cautious man who has spent a lifetime in sensitive positions would fail to recognize the danger of his actions or the pain it would cause others if discovered. It is amazing that the woman, Paula Broadwell, his devoted biographer and also schooled in intelligence matters, would recklessly challenge by email another woman she perceived as a rival for the good general's attention. The second woman read it as a threat and reported it. Hello, FBI; so long, general. The FBI discovered evidence of an affair in emails between Petraeus and Broadwell. Sexual chemistry tops caution almost every time, even among those who know what's at stake. Some reach heights that lead them to believe they are immune from the self-restraint any prudent person would follow. Others are just so caught up in the emotion that they become careless. Petraeus may have been a little of both. If those close to Petraeus noticed the electricity between the general and Broadwell, which they reportedly did, they apparently failed to warn him — not unusual for subordinates when dealing with superiors at that exalted level. In fact, the head of the FBI and the attorney general of the United States blinked several times before telling the national intelligence director and the president. Agents already had determined it was a matter not involving national security. As a news executive, I spent more than a year lecturing on libel, slander and other subjects, including Internet security. The message delivered repeatedly was don't trust emails. My father's advice came through loud and clear. What a hard lesson Petraeus has had to learn. Dan K. Thomasson’s column is distributed by the Scripps Howard News Service. From The Detroit News: People are now also asking, if Petraeus didn't share classified information with Broadwell, why did he have to resign? What's the big deal?
In the military, the strict rules against marital infidelity have been justified by the claim that affairs leave people vulnerable to blackmail. (It was the same claim used to justify the irritating 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy towards homosexuality, too.) Now this has never rung quite true to me. Even someone who isn't having an affair but has a spouse and children is vulnerable to blackmail simply to protect their family. By that logic, why not go one step further and just demand that none of our public figures have relationships at all? At least it would stop us having to mentally picture John Major and Edwina Currie in flagrante again.
We might even go so far as to take a leaf from our Continental cousins and stop thinking of extramarital dalliances as such a big deal. Affairs, acknowledged or not, are rarely a good indicator of how effective someone is at their job. We've long acknowledged that marriages for love followed by a lifetime of sexual fidelity is not the historical norm. As Catherine Hakim notes in her book The New Rules, "The time has come, alongside the technology, to redraw the rules of marriage for the 21st century."
There is one silver lining of this Petraeus mess for us culture vultures. I'd pretty much had it with Homeland - the unlikely plot twists, the ill-advised affairs, the thought that the CIA would use unsecured connections to transit classified information… until this affair broke. Now I see that the shoddy planning, bed swapping, and poor security measures are exactly how things really go down at Langley. But give me David Harewood over David Petraeus any day - now there's a man worth going 'All In' for.

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