Spyfall

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

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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

How did Petraeus stay on as top spy after case agents notified FBI Director Robert Mueller last summer that Petraeus was concealing an extramarital affair? And that his e-mail habits were hardly prudent? Vulnerability to blackmail or extortion is usually seen as the paradigmatic counterintelligence threat. After Mueller and Holder were notified, it was about two months ­before the two men dispatched FBI Deputy Director Sean M. Joyce to notify Clapper late on Election Day.

Adultery is prohibited under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And “depending on timing, it’s very significant for the head of the CIA,” argues Glenn Fine, the Justice Department’s former inspector general. The regulations left Mueller and Holder wide discretion. “We struggled with this,” said a participant in the internal debate, but they satisfied ­themselves early on that “there were no national-­security concerns. He hadn’t been hacked, hadn’t shared classified information, and [other than that] you don’t reveal ongoing criminal investigations, because people get tipped off or there may be investigative things you want to do that are then precluded.” Why, then, tell Clapper about the adultery at all, even when the case was ready to close? “We wrestled with that,” the official says. “Ultimately we made the determination that although we felt there was not a national-security threat, it was for Clapper to know this stuff or somebody to know this stuff and then decide what to do with it.”

(MORE: Petraeus Stumbles Off the Stage)

Agents confronted Broadwell with their findings on Friday, Nov. 2. The agent’s interview report, on form FD-302, did not reach headquarters until late afternoon on Monday, Nov. 5. Mueller and Holder reviewed it the morning of Election Day and decided that the time was ripe for informing Clapper of the case.

Pure coincidence? “The election played absolutely no role,” the official says.

Decline and Fall
There was plenty about the Petraeus affair that played more as farce than as tragedy. But virtually everyone involved exits the stage badly damaged. Jill Kelley’s days as a liaison to any government agency or official are over, a caution to every base commander in the military. Allen’s future is on ice; he may someday become the top U.S. general in Europe, but his nomination is frozen and his fate is now in the hands of a Pentagon investigation that is unlikely to give him an easy pass. The hard-­charging Broadwell denies having unauthorized access to secrets but could face new questions after an FBI search of her Charlotte house. And that discovery, in turn, could raise fresh questions. Did agents miss anything comparable in their parallel investigation into the Petraeus-Broadwell relationship or into the CIA chief’s exposure to hacking risks? The bureau, which for decades has done an excellent job protecting its interests on Capitol Hill, owes the nation accountability for its performance in this most delicate and unpleasant of ­investigations. Some of that should be in open hearings. But only a detailed chronology of the investigation, offered behind closed doors to the relevant committees, should satisfy Congress.

Most troubling is the judgment made at the highest levels of law enforcement not to inform the President. It’s hard to see why Obama wouldn’t expect his FBI director and the Attorney General to inform him when the country’s spy chief is recklessly exposing himself and his mistress to potential blackmail, whatever the special rules and protocols in the binders at Main Justice. That’s common sense in a democracy. The White House says such a call could have raised concerns about political interference, but given the national-security stakes, the absence of a call raises greater concerns about proper Executive oversight of national security.

With regard to Petraeus, who did such an amateurish job of hiding an affair while working as the nation’s top spy, the scandal stunned many in and out of uniform. But it was a measure of how out of touch Petraeus had become that he and apparently a number of other people thought he could stay at the agency after the affair had become known and partially exposed. That is misjudgment of the highest order and has generated considerable shock among former agents and officials, even among those who view Petraeus’ downfall as a personal tragedy. “A lot of power comes from moral authority,” says former CIA boss Michael Hayden, “because you are asking people to do stuff that is really on the edge legally and politically, and they have to sense that you’re the guy they can trust.”

David Petraeus has never been shy or retiring, particularly in a crisis, and it is unlikely that a man who takes his public image so seriously will remain silent for­ever. Friends say he is pondering how best to take responsibility in a fuller, more public way. Until then, the most celebrated general of his generation has just answered the question he famously asked in a very different context nearly a decade ago: “Tell me how this ends.”

with reporting by Massimo Calabresi, Jay Newton-Small, Alex Rogers, Michael Scherer and Mark Thompson / Washington

MORE: For Petraeus, the CIA Was an Uncomfortable Fit

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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.