Spyfall

David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer ended his 37-year career. But the damage from this episode goes far wider

  • Share
  • Read Later
Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images

CIA Director David Petraeus testifies before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee during a full committee hearing on "World Wide Threats" in Washington, D.C. Jan. 31, 2012

Into the Woods
The voice on the phone was heavy and slow, with a sadness that retired General Jack Keane had not heard from Petraeus before.

“I really screwed up,” Petraeus told his old mentor over the weekend as the scandal swelled around him. That was something of an understatement, as his 37-year career, the future leadership of the CIA, the performance of the FBI and the Attorney General and the career of a top U.S. combatant commander were all suddenly thrown into jeopardy. “This is my fault, and I’m devastated by the pain and suffering that I’ve caused,” Petraeus told Peter Mansoor, one of his old brain-trust colonels. He said that “what he did was a morally reprehensible action,” Mansoor says.

Mistakes have not been a Petraeus hallmark. After graduating from West Point in 1974, Petraeus clambered up the Army’s greasy pole, moving from field assignments to graduate school—he earned a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1987—and serving as an aide to powerful generals, including an Army chief of staff, a NATO military chief and a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He began to lap his comrades in 2003, when he led the 101st Airborne into Iraq and north to Mosul. His star rose even higher in 2007–’08, when he returned to Iraq and shifted, midwar, to a counterinsurgency strategy based on protecting civilians with help from a 30,000-strong U.S. troop surge. His success in aborting an Iraqi civil war prompted President Bush to put him in charge of the entire U.S. Central Command in 2008, where he oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in military circles, Petraeus had always been a more controversial figure than his reputation suggested. He developed a cultlike staff, which isn’t unusual among generals, though Petraeus’ retinue seemed excessively devoted to their boss. He was as adept at cultivating politicians and reporters as he was at engaging the enemy. Neoconservatives saw him as their standard bearer as the Iraq conflict they had championed bogged down. “Petraeus is a remarkable piece of fiction created and promoted by neocons in government, the media and academia,” argues Douglas Macgregor, an outspoken retired Army colonel. “How does an officer with no personal experience of direct-fire combat in Panama or Desert Storm become a division commander?”

(MORE: The Rise and Fall of ‘General Peaches’)

Petraeus’ move from rock-star four-star to head of the CIA in 2011 came as a surprise in Washington. He had served only a year in Afghanistan and seemed destined to rise to the top of the military at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But former CIA director Bob Gates told him otherwise: Obama’s White House did not want him in that role. It was Petraeus’ idea, in response, to move to Langley, a close friend says. That solved a lot of problems for Obama, allowing him good use of the general’s talents and diverting him from a possible presidential bid. Cashing in the uniform he had worn since West Point to decamp to the wooded enclave of Ph.D. analysts and hardened spy runners at Langley was not just a dramatic career shift for Petraeus; it was also a move that had little precedent in recent agency history. Gates told Petraeus before he arrived to leave his boarding party behind: past directors who had arrived with an entourage, like Porter Goss and John Deutch, had not been well received. At his confirmation hearings, Petraeus said he’d use his star status to recruit the best agents and analysts available for the agency. He also suggested he would lose his posse: “If confirmed, I will, in short, get out of my vehicle alone on the day that I report to Langley.”

But many senior officers, even those who aren’t as accustomed to aides and horse holders as Petraeus was, can find leaving the Army a challenge, and Petraeus seems to have had some trouble adjusting to the CIA. The agency is strange, rigorous and demanding, as moody as it is secretive. “The agency is not a militaristic organization,” says a senior former intelligence official. “They don’t welcome people barking orders without debate.” Petraeus turned up at one event in a suit with his Army medals pinned to his jacket.

“The Election Played No Role”
By the time Petraeus got to the CIA, Broadwell had been working closely with him for years. Her sugary ­biography of him, titled All In, came out in January 2012. She allowed herself more freedom than most to use nicknames for Petraeus that others might not have chosen to write down: Dangerous Dave, even Peaches. But she was careful to position herself as a serious biographer, not a fan. In a February appearance with celebrity interviewer Arthur Kade, she volunteered, unprompted, “You know, it’s not a hagiography. I’m not in love with David Petraeus, but I think he does present a terrific role model for young people, for executives, for men and women.” Former Petraeus aide and Army Brigadier General Peter DeLuca thinks he understands what happened. “The guy is supergifted, superdetermined, supercommitted. He’s the closest thing most of us have ever met to a superman, but he’s still a man.”

Nor was Broadwell without a larger plan. After running with Lance Armstrong in July, she volunteered her secret purpose to at least six new acquaintances at the Aspen conference. That evening, over drinks, she told a small group that she had been arguing with her mentor about the direction of her career. Republican moneymen, she said, had approached her about a Senate run in North Carolina. She was tempted. Petraeus, she said in an irritated tone, rejected the idea out of hand. What was her position, he asked, on abortion? Climate change? Gun control? Gay marriage? Tax cuts? Social Security vouchers? Her answers, he told her, would not fit either party, and she should not sell herself out.

MORE: Exit Petraeus — and His Famous Military Doctrine

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
547 comments
Merlin1935
Merlin1935

I couldn't care less for the CIA Director's extra-marital affair but for two reasons:

1. Even if he cannot be reached directly for blackmail, the woman he cheated with can certainly be blackmailed and through her, the Director can unwittingly pass secrets to enemies.

2. Given that he decided to have an affair (which by the way is a male characteristic, like it or not), his methods of concealment were too clumsy for a top spy. He violated the most basic rules of a player: do not leave a trail, do not write anything, do not leave messages, do not involve third parties, do not have witnesses.

Beginning with Eve, in all of history women have always been the downfall of great men. This will not be the last. I am Obama fan, but I believe his own sex scandal will one day arrive. It is in the DNA of powerful men. Stay tuned.

ravin5555
ravin5555

sir,who authorized investigation against CIA director? the investigation into threatening e-mails ends with discovery of Broadwell. then who ordered further investigation? second point is when the CIA director has not violated any rule of secrecy or service than why he was forced to resign? the thousands of news stories about them do not enlighten about the preferences of much maligned lovers. the general behaved like Clinton or Kennedy?

DMark
DMark

It was reported that Ms. Broadwell had classified documents on her computer.  That would be a no. no and she should have to suffer the consequences of that!  Also as a reserve Officer, she should know that adultery is against the rules of the Military and she should also suffer the consequences of that.  We shall see if the rules are for everyone or just for the ones who do not have much pull!!!!!

BerreckObeme
BerreckObeme

AlJezra News: The arabian kings have so many wives for a slavery so all the arabian kings must lose their jobs too as the fallen arabian kings.

ironyman2
ironyman2

The problem with David Petraeus was never that he had an affair. Finally, media are coming around to the real issue: his performance as commander of two wars Or is it his non-performance. "A Phony Hero for a Phony War"  by Lucian Truscott IV is running in several major newspapers, as well as The Washington Post's take-down of the perks of generals - what these "heroes" cost the taxpayers.

PapaFoote
PapaFoote

HERE IS A "SENTENCE" THAT I NOTICED":

"..Thus far it is undisputed that word of the Petraeus affair first reached the White House on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the day after Obama’s re-election, in a telephone call from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. to National Security Adviser Tom Donilon..."Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/15/spyfall/#ixzz2CbyaElv1

WHICH SEEMS TO SHOW THAT "PRESIDENT OBAMA WAS NOT INVOLVED" - I HOPE!

The Old Mountain Goat 

Piacevole
Piacevole

Maybe it would help to consider this man as "General Portrayal."

He was very good at portraying a general officer: lots of medals, great resume, adroit at getting promotions, knew the right people, the right things to say.  But ultimately, this was a facade, and where we needed an actual edifice, we just got an erector set.

LesMoore
LesMoore

She's a 'national security analyst' - really?  How does one go about getting such a title - you just put it on your resume because it sounds good?

Nothing_To_Say
Nothing_To_Say

I really feel sorry for general Petraeus. He seems to be a man of honour and even though what he did is morally reprehensible his actions mab be the result of natural human behavior.

I would certainly put most of the blame of on that Kelley - lady - and the FBI guy who used the information they had on their hands as warfare against U.S. army generals. They went straight for the kill...

I wonder if there's a law to prevent the use of information as warfare against individuals...  

Other than that, excellent article, nice example of good journalistic work...

dayanithi190455
dayanithi190455

I turn to Times whenever you need to understand the background and truthful account of behind the scenes actions like these are revealed. Good job dear Reporters. 

MayraI.Leonard
MayraI.Leonard

This was a very entertaining article! I downloaded the current issue on my Kindle Fire, and I love the graphics on how everyone was entangled in this damn mess!

jhoughton1
jhoughton1

I have one question -- actually, many -- but one I can't get out of my mind: how does a general, running a theater of operations or whatever they call it, have time to engage in 20-30K pages of email?  With anyone?  In a lifetime?  And this guy Allen is supposed to be good at his job??

I think Obama should just rehire Petraeus.  Screw it, he doesn't have to run for re-election so what does it matter what people think?

charley
charley

Why wouldn't Petraeus and Broadwell get divorced first and then carry on with dating?? If there's a lack of integrity in one relationship the same will apply in others. I think the U.S. should definitely worry about security with Petraeus and are lucky to be rid of him. Of course he will  be a consultant now to the government and make even more money. Let's see how true the love is between Petraeus and Broadwell and see if they both divorce and marry. 

akpat
akpat

So how do these generals find time to soldier when in 3 years they can send 30,000 pages of e mails ?

no wonder it takes so long to get anything done.

z1000
z1000

The U.S is spending trillions of dollars waging two wars where the top generals spend their time hiring Broadwells to write books or spending countless hours flirting and writing 1000s of pages to Kelly type socialites. What a waste of tax money.

z1000
z1000

The U.S is spending trillions of dollars waging wars where the 

jalangaya
jalangaya

On the bright side, the Petraeus affair introduced us to vivacious, voluptuous Tampa temptress Jill Kelley, whose astonishing beauty makes it easy to understand why intelligent men at the highest levels of government & society found her enchanting & irresistible.

RonaldOstrowski
RonaldOstrowski

Mace needs remedial math. 20 trillion times 3% is NOT a Trillion dollars. From a CPA.

EvaGonzalez
EvaGonzalez

THE AFFAIR  that will unseat Obama ! 

Nixon succumbed to Watergate, Obama will to Benghazigate --ttps://www.facebook.hcom/photo.php?fbid=374339219308210&set=a.349349441807188.80610.339902456085220&type=1&theater

Obama will be impeached !    

(copied ) 

BRER_OrabbitObama on Impeachment: 'My fellow Amerikans -

 I lie for the demise of all those more fortunate; and I lie for the benefit of all those less fortunate. Therefore, I lie more or less, but the more I lie the less I perceive I'm lying. 

Thus, I lie for all equally; without regard to whether I know I'm lying, but with the crystal clear knowledge that when my lies change in the future my past lies will not catch up with me because by then my new lies will have belied my old lies and my present lies will engulf my past lies so that I can rightfully say today that I am not a liar because I lie for the respectability of all liars inside and outside the beltway, both foreign and domestic and without consideration of nationality, religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, or the sanctity of life.

But even more importantly, I lie for the benefit of all the children of the world who are unable to lie for themselves

ahranjha
ahranjha

A saying, "Behind Every successful Man is a Woman" is in great SUSPICION ! Half Jokingly jokes apart, Apparently the formidable, affluent people are unhappy in their own ways. And I strongly agree with the statement in the Article  "After all, Superman is also a Man!" 

ttaerum
ttaerum

The scandal about Petraeus and Obama's little fit about Rice are about the things of fairy tales - the knight, the dragon and the fair maiden. We have never seen Obama defend anyone else with such breathless conviction. One could feel his passion to calm the fluttering heartbeat of his fair maiden, to strike the sword into the dragon which wondered how it was she was so easily led astray. One knew that any moment he would reach out to her and protect her, their lips might accidently touch - cherry? His knees were feeling weak - kryptonite!!! clearly the dragon knew his weakness. What hope was there against such a villainous foe?But then there was Petraeus and in D.C. there are few friends and even fewer secrets. Hadn't he fought dragons? How often had he heard the rhyme - Obama has killed his thousands but Petraeus his tens of thousands. It was, well, biblical in proportion. How could Petraeus be greater than the President? Hadn't Obama killed the mightiest dragon of them all? It was true he had little to do about it except watch courageously in front of the thin-screen LCD monitor. And why did Petraeus go to Benghazi? Didn't he trust what the boys scouts told him?No doubt, it was time to slay dragons and show the American people just how might and strong he could be protecting his fair maiden.  Ride on mighty knight... ride on...

JohnWerneken
JohnWerneken

And Mr. Obama is not, should not, but being smart AND RE-ELECTED, he may well do something unexpected: something wise about our future. Take that, Mr. Mace and adversaries lol.

JohnWerneken
JohnWerneken

As to Mr Petraeus, though the apparent fact that folks can get excited about the sexual or marital activities of other people, and think all that chit matters, makes it matter politically and maybe even in espionage, the fact that all of you except me vote for some one thing gives that fact no where near as much real importance as the fact that I just don't give a damn about your opinions, on anything, nor your actions either. I think that shows you maximum respect: I recognize your right and tendency to do as you please.

Petraeus was doing a good job imho. So he should still have that job. Screw democracy.

JohnWerneken
JohnWerneken

At last, a reason for Moderators in a chat: Mr. Mace. grrr

ironyman2
ironyman2

@Merlin1935 This little dude did it to himself, woman or not. The Petraeus Tale is one of pure arrogance. Greed, too. He wanted it all. If you blame "the women," you are saying men are too weak to manage or run anything - their own personal lives or, for instance, a country. Wait ... I may agree with you.

Merlin1935
Merlin1935

After reading the entire report I am compelled to feel bad for General Petraeus. I wish him well. 

ironyman2
ironyman2

@AdamsHospLLC  It's not your Hollywood-style Angela-Jennifer-Brad situation. This is real-world serious - the director of the CIA getting caught with his pants down. And worse: not being smart enough to understand email. Petraeus was a senior government official paid by taxpayers for securing our country. His judgment was alarmingly poor. Maybe this will continue to call attention to his real failures: two wars that cost the U.S. in blood and money, not to speak of what it costs the innocent people of the countries he devastated.

ironyman2
ironyman2

@Nothing_To_Say  Petraeus was the senior government official, paid by us - taxpayers - to secure our country. The man showed poor judgment and a stunning lack of honor. There's plenty of blame to go around, but all the crap is rightfully running downhill to Mr. Big Man - Petraeus himself. No one deserves it more.

Basnig
Basnig

@Nothing_To_Say It is not Kelley's fault. To begin with, Broadwell was harassing her. Broadwell has most of the blame here. She already was having an affair with Petraeus. She crossed the line even further when she started sending harassing emails to Kelley and to Allen. Kelley was afraid -- she had no intention of bringing down a general. She was not even aware it was Broadwell was behind all this. Broadwell is arrogant and selfish and she deserves to be dishonorably discharged from the US Army and stripped permanently of her secret clearance.

Rachel421
Rachel421

@jhoughton1 I've been wondering about that as well.  Even if you  count my spam, I doubt I've had 20k-30K e-mails from anyone, ever - including regular clients I've had over the past several years and loved family members.  My day is spent on the computer, doing research and sending e-mails.  I sure as hell haven't sent out that many.

ironyman2
ironyman2

@jhoughton1 

Right. And how else can the President of the Free World humiliate himself? Little Man Petraeus has flawed judgment and character, plus his bloated self-image that took him of the rails. All this began forming when Mrs. Broadwell was a toddler..

outsider
outsider

@jhoughton1  

I think the point about the amount of emails is a very valid point. 

jhoughton1
jhoughton1

@d.grogan317 Oh, please, will you stop??  No amount of right-wing chanting is going to get this non-story, non-event, non-issue off the ground.  Save your breath.

jhoughton1
jhoughton1

@EvaGonzalez Ya know, it was okay to do your "hate" thing on Obama while he was running for office. But now he's our president.  How about showing a little respect?  We need him to do a good job and he'll do a better job with the American people behind him.

Nothing_To_Say
Nothing_To_Say

@Basnig @Nothing_To_Say  

There was not such a thing a harrasement - Kelley told authorities that she didn't feel comfortable with the emails and that she believed it was Broadwell who sent them....funny that she contacted the FBI guy who was sending her shirtless pcitures.....and by the way, I also think it is a extremely extrange coincidence that she is originally from Lebanon....maybe authorities need to keep digging into her life...I'm guessing there is more....

jhoughton1
jhoughton1

@Rachel421 @jhoughton1 In fairness, I believe it says their communication consisted of 20-30K PAGES of emails.  Still, that's pretty impressive for a guy who's being ferried around in private jets because he's so WONDERFUL at being a general in charge of an army.  

JohnWerneken
JohnWerneken

@Mace @JohnWerneken just did. Maybe Big Momma will boot ur dumb ass. btw I agree with your politics, it is you personally that I find useless and offensive. If I were a Nazi, you would be for the ovens.

Basnig
Basnig

@Nothing_To_Say @Basnig I don't know where you are getting your news. Obviously, you are entrenched in your personal attention and do not care about FACTS.

Rachel421
Rachel421

@jhoughton1 That's what I meant to type.  (I'm overly tired and have been working for more 14 hours straight.)  Still, I ghostwrite for a living and even then, it's not 20K or more pages even if I'm sending whole chapters or even eBooks to repeat clients.  ALL of my spam over the course of a year is about 15K pages and it's certainly not from the same spammer.  

How the hell did they have time to do anything else if they're sending so many pages?  Is this all they did?  I' get exhausted just thinking about  it.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@Mace With all due respect, you write about the President with such naked hostility that it is impossible to believe you have any strong connection ,to the pain and challenges, of being part of a minority group with a history of undeserved oppression. 

Mace
Mace

@JohnWerneken   Please post again when you have a rational thought. I have seen the death camps, my family did forced labor for the Nazis, etc. You are intentionally disgusting, which still makes you disgusting.

Mace
Mace

@JohnWerneken It is the reference to Nazis and ovens that is offensive. Anyone, regardless of their politics, who has seen any one of the concentration camps would find your small minded moronic posts offensive.