A few people have asked for my take on the David Petraeus resignation, which he offered after the revelation of his affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Although my ideas remain ill-formed, my first reaction was: "Infidelity? That's it
? A CIA director is resigning over infidelity
Long ago, bed-hopping was almost a CIA trademark -- a signature sin, if you will. The company culture was set by legendary CIA head Allen Dulles, who remained married to his wife Clover despite a series of flagrant affairs. David Wise (who knew Dulles) offered these words
in a review of a Dulles bio by author Peter Grose:
His marriage to Clover Todd was not a happy one, although they remained together, with affection, to the end of his life. He had a wandering eye, and there was an astonishing succession of Other Women. Once, Mr. Grose implies, Dulles enjoyed the charms of Queen Frederika of Greece in the dressing room next to his C.I.A. office. When the door accidentally locked behind them, the embarrassed spymaster and Her Royal Highness had to be let out by a C.I.A. aide. Besides the Queen, there was Mary Bancroft, one of his early agents in wartime Switzerland (Clover knew, but became her close friend anyhow); Toscanini's daughter, and even, apparently, Clare Boothe Luce. His covert operations were not confined to the C.I.A.
Allen Dulles' children knew all about their father's "girlfriends." Everyone seems to have accepted his philandering.
That was then; Petraeus is now. I'm astounded that the FBI found out about the affair by examining his emails. A CIA Director knows most or all of the nation's most important secrets, and one would hope that gaining access to such a person's email account is no easy thing.
Previously, I was under the impression that such an investigation would be under the aegis of the CIA Inspector General. On the Rachel Maddow show, Robert Engel -- who fidgeted like a man who knew more than he could say -- said that the CIA brought in
the FBI. That's unusual.
Besides, since when does the FBI make infidelity public? Their business is to investigate breeches of the law, not offenses against morality.
The NYT writes:
Government officials said that the F.B.I. began an investigation into a “potential criminal matter” several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns.
The FBI made its inquiry around October 25 or 26, says Marcy Wheeler
. That puts us right in the middle of the brouhaha over Benghazi. As you will recall, the CIA issued statements around that time which challenged the emerging right-wing narrative, which itself seems to have derived from sources within the intelligence community.
(Personally, I think that whole Libyan controversy had its origins in a classic dispute between analysts who offered competing interpretations of a complex event. Those disputes usually occur behind closed doors. But sometimes a row can spill out into public view -- especially when there's partisan advantage to be gained by exposure.)
It's tempting to come up with a scenario which links the Petraeus resignation to Benghazi, and I'm sure that right-wingers will compile a fetching little melodrama along those lines. (If you want to catch the overture, go here
.) But Marcy says that reporters she trusts have assured her that this ain't about Benghazi. Instead...
The NYT says the investigation started only several months ago.
While that suggests the investigation may have been a counter-cyber
investigation rather than a counter-intelligence investigation–an
investigation into whether the Chinese had hacked his computer rather
than an investigation targeting Broadwell from the start–the timing
would coincide with the leak witch hunts launched by Congress. I would
laugh my ass off if the same members of Congress who are bemoaning the
loss of Petraeus now somehow led to this investigation with their
earlier demands for leak investigations targeted at top Administration
, who writes about the rights of whistleblowers, emphasizes that this controversy is not about an ill-considered love affair but, rather, the disclosure of classified information:
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, 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.
Right now, I just can't formulate a narrative that covers all of the facts. What prompted the FBI inquiry? Were the FBI investigators searching for evidence of Chinese hacking, or were they looking for evidence that Petraeus had leaked classified info to his girlfriend?
In the end, the FBI has said that they found no evidence of criminal activity. That's a broad statement -- and it covers both hacking and leaking. But if no crime was committed, why would we even know
about the affair? Again: The FBI is not the Morality Police.
I simply can't think of a post-Hoover precedent in which the Bureau revealed a personal sin that had nothing to do with lawbreaking. Hell, even J. Edgar (who collected that kind of information zealously) tended to keep the dirty laundry out of the public eye, even when the laundry belonged to an enemy.
This CNN piece
includes an important passage:
CNN Contributor and former CIA officer Robert Baer said the public announcement of the affair was uncharacteristic and implies more may have happened than has been revealed.
"Something like this doesn't come out and blow his career up unless something else is going on," Baer said. "Normally, when a CIA director resigns under this sort of pressure, he'd do it quietly. He'd say he was doing it for family reasons. He'd go off, we'd never hear any more about it. Somebody would write a book 10 years later, but to use it in his resignation letter is extraordinary."
While researching the first version of this story, I somehow missed this key WP article
The beginning of the end came for CIA Director David Petraeus when Paula Broadwell, a younger married woman with whom he was having an affair, “or someone close to her had sought access to his email,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s description of an FBI probe. Associates of Petraeus had received “anonymous harassing emails” that were then traced to Broadwell, ABC’s Martha Raddatz reported, suggesting she may have found their names or addresses in his e-mail.
The e-mail account was apparently Petraeus’s personal Gmail, not his official CIA e-mail, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s a big deal: Some of the most powerful foreign spy agencies in the world would love to have an opening, however small, into the personal e-mail account of the man who runs the United States’ spy service. The information could have proved of enormous value to foreign hackers, who already maintain a near-constant effort to access sensitive U.S. data.
This is odd. Other accounts have indicated that Petraeus had sent her
many emails trying to re-ignite the affair. Why, then would she
be trying to hack into his
account? Isn't that the behavior of the spurn-ee, not the spurn-er? And even if emotions ran high, wouldn't she know better than to try to pry into a CIA Director's Gmail account?
"Associates of Petraeus had received “anonymous harassing emails” that were then traced to Broadwell..." Forgive a foray into conspiracism, but wouldn't it be possible for some James O'Keefe type within the intel community to stage
a thing like that? Just sayin'....
At this very preliminary stage of the game, my instinct tells me that this controversy stinks of p
artisanship. According to a number of published reports (which may or may not be accurate), Obama liked and trusted David Petraeus, while a lot of people at CIA hated
their boss. Some of that distaste has to do with what we might call cultural differences: Petraeus is a military guy who likes things done in a military way -- yes sir, no sir, if you say so sir
-- while the CIA is a civilian institution which employs a number of prima donna
Of course, we may fairly presume that there are lots of Fox-addicted Obama-haters at both FBI and CIA. We may have just witnessed something akin to a mutiny.
Or maybe not. Maybe Obama-loyal forces forced this resignation to get rid of someone who has displayed disturbing neo-con tendencies and a willingness to gin up a war with Iran. Robert Parry has an interesting theory
, which may well be more than a theory.
If you accept Parry, you have to toss out any news stories you've read about Petraeus and Obama getting along famously. Hey, I can do that. No prob.
Petraeus is buds with Max Boot, a neo-con who stumped for the Iraq war back in the day. I never liked Boot.