Saturday, November 10, 2012


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 officials.
Jesselyn Radack, 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."
Update: 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 partisanship. 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 types.

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.

Update 2: 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.


Lea said...

Good article in the Washington Post about why Petraeus' personal Gmail account is a national security issue:

The Washington Post story above reports that "associates of Petraeus had received “anonymous harassing emails” that were then traced to Broadwell"... What is that about??

Boy, is this juicy. I agree that there's more to this story than just "old powerful man commits adultery with hot young worshipful woman" (the oldest story in the book)--but my guess is that it has more to do with the personal, intimate details of the affair than politics. Josh Marshall called it "very high risk play" and I think that's about right.

There is a question in my mind regarding the timing of this--wasn't the FBI obligated to tip off congressional intelligence committees earlier than this week? Did they withhold the info until after the election on purpose? Also: did the affair with Broadwell create such a distraction for Petraeus that it compromised his job performance?

Lea said...

Reuters is reporting that something in Petraeus' personal emails triggered the FBI to look more closely at his account. Apparently the FBI was performing an unrelated investigation of news leaks.

This jibes with something I heard last night on Piers Morgan. One of his commentators reported that his FBI source mentioned that what triggered the FBI investigation was a mention in a Petraeus email of something occurring "under the table"--which as we all know is a euphemism for corruption.

Of course, what Petraeus was referring to was having a sexual tryst with his mistress quite literally under the table.


Paul Rise said...

This my gut, first instinct reactions/questions -

1) Benghazi is a factor here, but that whole thing is a lot more complex than the Fox News fantasies, and I also believe a much greater disaster than Obama apologists make it out to be. My guess is Team Obama either blames Petraeus for the debacle or Petraeus blames them; this scenario might explain the "personal" nature of exposing this embarassing scene so publicly. (Obviously Petraeus got out in front of this because he knows someone was going public with it.)

2) The way this is being handled is likely some sort of positioning for 2016 - they are taking the good general off the board. Is it Hillary at work? Or is she next on the block - sources yesterday saying she is out in early 2013.

3) You can keep an affair from your wife and the agency doesn't care. You keep an affair from the agency on the other hand ...

4) What is this journalist's connection to the agency? Was she some sort of honeypot?

5) what's the deal with the sweetheart job Holly Petraeus has? She got it from Elizabeth warren. Hillary taking another piece off the board in 2016?

Michael said...

I think CIA careerists, fed up with Petraeus, did him in. They had long known he was having an affair. Normally that would be ignored. But the Agency insiders were fed up with him. So they sic'ed the FBI on Broadwell with a possibly trumped-up story of email-access, knowing that it would quickly expose Petraeus's affair and he would be forced to resign, quietly or not.

Why were they fed up? They hated him anyway. But the final straw might have been because the career CIA were taking so much heat for (alleged?) screwups in Benghazi. Perhaps Petraeus himself was the guy who deserved the blame, if only for not passing the warnings up to the president. So Petraeus had to go. They called in the FBI.

That's my theory. I don't have any special knowledge. I just think this theory fits what we already know about Petraeus and the CIA.

Anonymous said...

From a reader of Josh Marshall's TPM:

I’m a federal employment lawyer who has done a good amount of security clearance work. Petreaus simply could not continue as CIA Director. Even if they eventually found that he was not at risk for facing what is called “duress” in security clearance law, his security clearance would be immediately suspended pending investigation. Indeed, I have no doubt that his clearance has already been suspended and an investigation will happen to find out if any loss of information occurred. There is no way that he could continue.


prowlerzee said...

Did it say this woman was worshipful, Lea? It sounded as if he were pressuring/pursuing her. My very first thought was whether he'd pressured someone into the "affair." I out of 3 of our women soldiers are raped by their fellow soldiers and/or officers.

Mr. Mike said...

E-mail from Broadwell or from Broadwell's account?

A jealous third party making waves?

You're right about the republican douche-nozzles spinning conspiracies. One was at it last night on a local station. The broadcast "personailty", who looks like they never had a date while in college and was regularly beaten up by members of the chess club, was on about being a way for Obama to silence Petraeus.

Anonymous said...

Having just watched the movie Burn After Reading, I find this all to be quite hilarious.

Sharon said...

Robert Perry over at Consortium News has nailed it. It was a night of the long knives operation to castrate a powerful neocon. Read it:

Twilight said...

Thanks for your time, trouble and expertise in researching and writing this, Joseph.

There's sure to be more to this than we'll ever be told - always is, whatever the issue, but it's fun to surmise.

I find it surprising that someone with the experience and position of Petraeus would carry on e-mail correspondence with his amoureuse under such sensitive circumstances. Hadn't he read the effin' manual?

Joseph Cannon said...

Sharon: I'm reading Parry now. So far, he seems persuasive. Of course, to accept Parry's thinking, we must also discount several news stories which hold that Obama and Petraeus got along famously.

Hey, I can do that.

Anon: "Burn After Reading" has nothing to do with this case, although it is a great damn movie. Love that last line.

Lea: Thanks for the link if your first post.

As for the under-the-desk thing -- that isn't so very kinky. Of course, my idea of "kinky" may be different from yours.

zee: Right now, we can concoct several scenarios about who was pressuring whom. It may have been that her attitude was worshipful, but that she had moved on and he hadn't. But there are other possibilities.

Sharon said...

Well, think about it. If the POTUS has any power at all, he has the power set the terms of the resignation. If he and Petraeus were BFFs, POTUS would most certainly have allowed...maybe even insisted...that Petraeus resign to spend more time with his family. It was a political castration. How can the Republican support and defend Petraeus' behavior after impeaching Bill Clinton? Dayem, I have a lot more respect for Obama after this. Well played, Sir. Brilliant in fact.

Anonymous said...

Aw c'mon Joe, the "under the table" bit is straight out of Burn After Reading! But yes, there are obviously more serious ramification here.

Paul Rise said...

For whatever reason, reading these possibly spurious "Top 10 things about Paula Broadwell" made me think "spook" although of course no one else is saying this.

* She is a 1995 graduate of the West Point Military Academy with degrees in Political Geography and Systems Engineering, and she has earned a master's degree with honors from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and an MPA degree from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

* Broadwell has lived worked in or traveled in more than 60 countries during her 15 years of military service, including serving with the U.S. Intelligence community, U.S. Special Operations Command and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

*Broadwell is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, having graduated in 1995 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. While there, she graduated with academic and leadership honors, but most importantly for this point, she graduated at the top of her class for physical prowess. And she hasn't slacked much during the years since. She also reportedly enjoys running, skiing, cycling, triathlon, surfing, kayaking, weight lifting and kickboxing.

Oh, and she's also good at shooting things.

Again I ask - a honeypot? If so, whose?

Michael said...

I agree that Petraeus needed to go.

I would like to believe that Obama was sharp enough force P's ouster. But I still think this was an inside job, and it was serendipity that it helped Obama clear the decks for the next four years.

P was too well liked by the Washington media and politicos. He was god on a pedestal. I don't think Obama would have been able to get him to resign voluntarily, nor do I think the Washington establishment would have accepted "family reasons."

It is however believable that the insiders at the CIA knew all along about the affair. Whoever decided the time had come, the affair was a loaded weapon to use. It is believable that the CIA insiders - "career" people - hated him and they forced him ouyt by tipping the FBI - ginning up a phony "email-access" charge against her so that the FBI HAD to investigate and would discover the affair.

Yeah, it is possible (but not likely) IMO that Obama told someone at CIA he'd like to ease P out and they said, "Leave it to me, I know just how to do it." But I think it much more likely that the CIA crew went ahead and stuck the knife in P's back for their own reasons.

One reason might be: CIA has been getting a lot of flack for Benghazi. Perhaps they got tired of taking the plame for something that was really Petraeus's fault. Was it P's fault? It could be. Either (1) Petraeus was refusing to acknowledge the security risks or inform the president. OR (2) Petraeus wanted to engineer a blow-up before the election to help Romney win.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that senior intelligence officers were prohibited from running personal email accounts. Certainly it is a security risk.

I thought it was considered better to have no email accounts than public service email - for example gmail or hotmail.


Lea said...

Paula Broadwell is starting to look a little Fatal Attraction-y:

"The collapse of the impressive career of CIA Director David H. Petraeus was triggered when a woman with whom he was having an affair sent threatening e-mails to another woman close to him, according to three senior law enforcement officials with know­ledge of the episode.

The recipient of the e-mails was so frightened that she went to the FBI for protection and help tracking down the sender, according to the officials. The FBI investigation traced the threats to Paula Broadwell, a former military officer and a Petraeus biographer, and uncovered explicit e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus, the officials said."

I've seen first hand in my own family how long-married men who have passionate sexual extramarital affairs in their 60s can become extremely foolish. I guess even the Director of the CIA isn't immune from that.

Anonymous said...

Joseph et al,,,this comment was a response to the Robert Perry article. The first remark here is a rejoinder to the previous "gooffy" remark by anhother person, and it is hilariously right on.
Oh, right on "Sharon" they say "You go girl

remark as follows...

Jym Allyn on November 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm said:

You need to restart taking your meds. Fortunately your delusions ARE covered as a pre-existing condition under Obamacare.


As to Petraeus, the illusion of bringing “civilization” to Afghanistan was proven false by Alexander the Great and everyone else who has since tried it. Petraeus’ plan will not and cannot succeed.

There is no motivation for a geographically isolated tribal culture based upon crime (originally from robbing camel trains) to behave with the same sense of responsibility necessary for globalization.

The ONLY recorded success by an outside country in dealing with insurgencies was what Rome did to Carthage and Judea by salting the earth and killing or deporting the inhabitants, and what the US did to Native Americans by disease, killing them, and conning them into being obedient to treaties that they could not read or understand.

The Petraeus plan for creating a secular Afghan army and police to provide stability and an honest government would have made more sense if he had been smoking some of the native Afghan ganja (marijuana) as he was composing it.

The Petraeus Iraqi “surge” was a sham as eloquently explained by Bob Perry in his comments. (That is not just my and Bob’s opinion, but the “boots on the ground” information from my son who was there in Iraq at the time.)

As to Afghanistan, the “solution” (and perhaps the ONLY solution) to bringing about cultural change and globalization to Afghanistan is genocide of their criminal and tribal culture. As a country with the illusion of morality, and despite what we did to Native Americans and our lies that let us intrude into Iraq in 2003, that is something that the US is, and should not be, capable of.

Instead, Afghanistan has a next door neighbor called China with the logistical ability for its military vehicles to run on gas that costs less than $1000 per gallon, the engineering skills to develop the mines and oil fields in NE Afghanistan to replace the current major revenue source of heroin in SW Afghanistan, and the cultural skills akin to Rome in dealing with the Afghan insurgency.

Besides, China won the Vietnam War. Its time they won a war for us.

As to Petraeus, I strongly suspect that he had a bungled hand in the US deaths in Benghazi and that his resignation shields him from that blame.

cracker said...

I'm in the Robert Perry is getting close camp. If this is indeed a purge of neocon stooges in the upper ranks of the military, then perhaps the sudden arrest of the navy admiral in the Persian Gulf a few days before the election is related. The admiral, along with one of his subordinates, was relieved of duty for allegedly getting drunk and making asses of themselves while visiting in the Russian port of Vladivostok. Maybe.
Perhaps also related is the fact that the Veterans Today website had an article on this subject earlier this morning, but now they have been knocked off the internet. (On Veterans' Day!)
Obama's relationship with the bloodthirsty Netanyahu before the election made it quite clear he had no desire to start WWIII on the behalf of a crappy little country in the mideast or any cabal of treasonous creeps in the US government. If that's the way it is, then I'm proud of him, and that doesn't happen often.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, according to Mark Zaid, infidelity is not just a "long ago" thing, it's still common.

Several people familiar with the agency said affairs at the CIA are hardly rare, particularly among employees who travel regularly, are practiced in subterfuge, and commonly share little about their work life with their family.

"No offense to any of my CIA colleagues or friends, and this is a very generalized statement, but in my nearly 20 years of handling CIA cases, quite frankly, this is a way of life out there," Zaid said.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 'cracker' above. I've been reading some very, very disturbing articles that would make one think there's a lot of Ugly just beneath the surface of this story. But in a time of propaganda all day, all the time, the information is often confusing and contradictory--keep us all confused and we'll never know fact from fiction. The formula works like magic.

But if Obama managed to push back on a false flag event by those breathlessly awaiting war with Iran, I'd be the first to cheer. And he does appear to be 'cleaning the decks' as it were of military malcontents and neocon enthusiasts.

Will we ever know the truth? Probably not.


Anonymous said...

Ralating to anon 1:53 AM :
"The ONLY recorded success by an outside country in dealing with insurgencies was what Rome did to Carthage and Judea by salting the earth and killing or deporting the inhabitants, and what the US did to Native Americans by disease, killing them,
and conning them into being obedient to treaties that they could not read or understand."
-> What is wrong here ONLY, is the expression "ONLY", as there is ONE MORE recorded ->
"Caesar reports that
he burnt every village and building that he could find
in the territory of the Eburones,
drove off all the cattle,
and his men and beasts consumed all the corn
that the weather of the autumnal season did not destroy.
He left those who had hid themselves,
if there were any,
with the hope that they would all die of hunger in the winter.
Caesar says that he wanted to annihilate the Eburones
their name,
and indeed we hear no more of the Eburones.
Their country was soon occupied by a Germanic tribe with a different name ... the Tungri.
However, as discussed further below,
the report of Tacitus that the Tungri were the original "Germani" that came earliest over the Rhine,
and the way this matches the description by Caesar of the Eburones and their neighbours,
leads to the possibility that they survived under a new name.

Anonymous said...

Adultery is still a crime for active military; Petraeus is retired.

I'm curious as to his replacement. Any speculation?

--NW Luna

Dwight said...

One off the wall possibility for which I have zero evidence: The intelligence 'community' has been a mix of public and private assets for decades. The more extremist right-wing elements of the intelligence panorama would tend to be private or retired or otherwise out of the public eye. Perhaps Petraeus' organizational and leadership skills are needed elsewhere. Could this be a step towards coalescing a coup faction?

Anonymous said...

"what's the deal with the sweetheart job Holly Petraeus has"

Look into Holly's father and you'll find out how Patraeus launched his meteoric career.

Jay said...

This explains ALOT regarding this matter:

Alessandro Machi said...

Pure speculation on my part. Having an affair with a media savvy lover is probably the one type of affair that means ouster for anyone in military management.

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