David Petraeus Pleads Guilty To Sharing Classified Information

The most widely honored General from the Iraq and Afghanistan War has plead guilty to sharing classified information with his mistress.

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Retired General, and former CIA Director, David Petraeus has entered a guilty plea in connection with charges that he shared classified information with the woman he was having an affair with while serving at the Central Intelligence Agency:

WASHINGTON — David H. Petraeus, the best-known military commander of his generation, has reached a plea deal with the Justice Department and admitted providing his highly classified journals to a mistress when he was the director of the C.I.A.

Mr. Petraeus has agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, a misdemeanor. He is eligible for up to one year in prison but prosecutors will recommend two years of probation and a $40,000 fine.

The plea deal completes a spectacular fall for Mr. Petraeus, a retired four-star general who was once discussed as a possible candidate for vice president or even president. He led the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the architect of a counterinsurgency strategy that at one time seemed a model for future warfare.

But the deal also ends two years of uncertainty and allows Mr. Petraeus to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues. Even while under investigation, he has advised the White House on Iraq and terrorism issues.

The mistress, Paula Broadwell, is a former Army Reserve officer who had an affair with Mr. Petraeus in 2011, when she was interviewing him for a biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”

During one of the interviews for that book, Ms. Broadwell asked about his “black books,” the notebooks that contained handwritten classified notes about official meetings, war strategy, intelligence capabilities, and the names of cover officers.

“They are highly classified, some of them,” Mr. Petraeus replied, according to an excerpt from the taped interview included in court documents. Three weeks later, Mr. Petraeus emailed Ms. Broadwell and agreed to share the black books. He gave them to her the next day.

When questioned by the F.B.I., Mr. Petraeus denied providing Ms. Broadwell with classified information. “These statements were false,” federal prosecutors wrote. “Defendant David Howell Petraeus then and there knew that he previously shared the black books with his biographer.” A lawyer for Mr. Petraeus did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Mr. Petraeus resigned as the director of the C.I.A. in 2012, three days after President Obama was re-elected. At the time, Mr. Petraeus acknowledged the affair, but denied any criminal wrongdoing.

The plea deal spares Mr. Petraeus a high-profile trial where embarrassing details about the affair would have been presented to the jury and made public. Mr. Petraeus is still married to Holly Petraeus.

Ken White, an attorney in California with extensive experience in Federal criminal practice, comments on the plea deal over at Popehat:

If Petraeus were some no-name sad-sack with an underwater mortgage and no connections and no assets to hire lawyers pre-indictment, he’d almost certainly get charged a lot more aggressively than he has been. This administration has been extremely vigorous in prosecuting leakers and threatening the press.

So why is Petraeus getting off with a misdemeanor and a probable probationary sentence? Two reasons: money and power. Money lets you hire attorneys to negotiate with the feds pre-charge, to get the optimal result. Power — whether in the form of actual authority or connections to people with authority — gets you special consideration and the soft, furry side of prosecutorial discretion.

Ken’s points are well-taken, of course, and it is certainly true that if the facts alleged against Petraeus, which he has now admitted to, were alleged against your average government worker or reporter then it’s unlikely that they would get so generous a plea deal out of Federal prosecutors. At the very least, one presumes that they would end up serving at least some jail time for what they did. The fact that Petraeus is who is, has political and personal connections with people in power and, most importantly, has the assets needed to hire top-notch criminal defense attorneys means that he got a much better deal than if his name were David Smith. At the same time, though, I’m not  sure that this means that the former General should have gotten a harsher sentence. His offense, while exceedingly stupid, did not lead to classified information ending up in the hands of a foreign nation or other potential adversaries of the United States. The fact that he would have gotten a harsher sentence were he an ordinary person, then, strikes me as being an indictment of federal sentencing procedures generally.

In any case, while Petraeus seems to be well-settled in the private sector, it’s quite clear that his career in the public sector is effectively over. Considering the fact that this is a person that some people were openly talking about as a potential Presidential candidate only a few years ago, that’s quite a fall from grace.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Intelligence, Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, National Security,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I agree that the solution is not draconian punishment of Mr. Petraeus but a more rational approach to all sentencing.

    I believe we should draw a sharp line between all things violent and all thing non. Take a life, that’s worth a life sentence. Rape? Child molestation? They can do 20 without me having an issue. But I have a hard time thinking of a non-violent offense that I think should result in more than five years, and most non-violent offenders shouldn’t do prison at all.

    We are unnecessarily and very expensively harsh. It’s also often counterproductive, turning young criminals into lifelong offenders with gang ties.

    Pretty sure Petraeus wasn’t going to end up joining a prison gang, but I don’t think more than a year should even have been on the table for this crime. Maybe do some weekends in the local lock-up just to make a point, then probation, community service, a fine.

  2. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree with you, in most contexts. But you must understand the compromise of classified information, while itself a non-violent crime, can lead to much violence indeed. Aldrich Ames’ crimes led directly to the executions of several Russian CIA sources. And of course there’s the old adage, “loose lips sink ships.”

    There’s no indication Petraeus’ disclosures resulted in any transfer of information outside his mistress’ office, thankfully. Still, as Doug wrote, you or I would almost certainly be put behind bars for doing what Petraeus did, and even if not, we wouldn’t be offered the kind of plea deal he got.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    Yeah, but the fact that X is wrongfully crapped on by the system doesn’t argue that we should crap on Y. And I don’t believe in punishing people for harm that might have been done. Take an hour’s drive down the 101 with me and I’ll show you five people who could have caused a deadly accident. You write those people a ticket, you don’t charge them with manslaughter.

  4. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Take an hour’s drive down the 101 with me and I’ll show you five people who could have caused a deadly accident.

    I’ve driven plenty on the 101…only five in an hour? I’ve seen that in ten minutes! (haha)

    The issue with compromise of classified information and “harm that might have been done” is many times it’s impossible to know, because the recipients are going to be protective of their source. So we write very stiff penalties into law to discourage people engaging in compromise to begin with.

    My view on this is informed greatly by the fact I’ve been working with classified information in some capacity for nearly 30 years and take the responsibility very seriously indeed. So I’m probably going to come down on the side of strict enforcement every time.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    Fair enough. And I should note that I do not have access to classified information. Nor should I be given such access. To abuse poor old Groucho, I wouldn’t want to belong to any nation that would trust me with its secrets.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Take an hour’s drive down the 101

    A drive down Highway 1 sounds a lot nicer. I could go for dinner at Moonshadows or maybe some jazz at Vibrato Grill. More than an hours drive would be required though.

  7. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug:

    … were alleged against your average government worker or reporter then it’s unlikely that they would get so generous a plea deal out of Federal prosecutors

    Is that “or reporter” a reference to anyone in particular? Greenwald & Poitras have been in and out of the country unmolested, even as they continue to act as stolen/classified trove global publishing house. The DOJ hasn’t gone after Assange. Off the top of my head, the only person who was prosecuted and jailed who tries to claim the mantle of a journalist is self-labeled “spokesperson for Anonymous” Barret Brown who was indicted for threats against an FBI agent & his family and was prosecuted for interfering with a search warrant and participating in the targeting and hacking of private computer systems.

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    “Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.” — excerpt from a memo from then CIA Director David Petraeus, sent out to CIA personnel after CIA agentJohn Kiriakou pled guilty on October 23, 2012 to disclosing a covert officer’s identity.

  9. JohnMcC says:

    Had two quick thoughts. First, that my daddy told me when I was just a horny little teenager to be very damn careful because “a man don’t know real trouble ’til his dick leads him into trouble.”

    And that HRC’s indiscretion with email that apparently broke no laws other than what should be common sense for a politician will be a much bigger story by the end of the week.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    His offense, while exceedingly stupid, did not lead to classified information ending up in the hands of a foreign nation or other potential adversaries of the United States.

    You know this… how, exactly?

  11. JBryan says:

    Sorry, because you got caught, POS! Typical Republican! Wake up America!

  12. ernieyeball says:

    When questioned by the F.B.I., Mr. Petraeus denied providing Ms. Broadwell with classified information. “These statements were false,” federal prosecutors wrote. “Defendant David Howell Petraeus then and there knew that he previously shared the black books with his biographer.”

    All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.*
    ———–

    But the deal also ends two years of uncertainty and allows Mr. Petraeus to focus on his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm and a worldwide speaker on national security issues.

    Rich people march on Washington every day.*

    *Thank you Isador Feinstein Stone. RIP

  13. DrDaveT says:

    BTW, did Petraeus testify to the FBI under oath? It’s baked into the rules (and penalties) for mishandling classified information that anyone can screw up — but lying about it is a major no-holds-barred no-no. I’d rather see him go down for perjury than for pillow talk.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Ken’s points are well-taken, of course, and it is certainly true that if the facts alleged against Petraeus, which he has now admitted to, were alleged against your average government worker or reporter then it’s unlikely that they would get so generous a plea deal out of Federal prosecutors.

    Then again, I find it highly unlikely that some hot young babe would want to write my biography AND jump my bones thereby tempting me to show her what a stud I was by sharing my little black books…

    I find myself only saddened by all this. David Petraeus seems to be human after all and as subject to the same foibles and weaknesses as every other human being. Not sure that justice was served in all this, in truth I doubt justice can be served here.

  15. Slugger says:

    I believe in the traditional values: a man should have one wife and one mistress. Now if word gets out, a little white lie is the grease that keeps the gears of society going. Sometimes the mistress wants a bit more than the excitement of your presence, and that is what diamond earrings, a weekend in Miami, or a NYC shopping spree are for. Never let the outside woman into the business, never. If your business is national security then you surely don’t let her into the business.
    Why didn’t Gen. Petraeus’ father explain this to him?

  16. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: “I agree that the solution is not draconian punishment of Mr. Petraeus but a more rational approach to all sentencing.”

    I believe that a start would be the threat of harshness to the elites. Right now, they know that the peasants are hanged, drawn and quartered, while the nobles are exiled to their country estate for a year or two. Given that, the nobles are just fine with harsh laws.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    Disclosing classified information. Turns out MoveOn was right, Petraeus did Betray Us. How ironic.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    Would love to see how the justice system is going to work for Patreus…and compare that to justice Eric Garner got for selling single cigarettes on the street.

  19. Gustopher says:

    I’m disappointed he didn’t have to plead guilty to a felony. Suspended sentence would have been fine, but leaking confidential information and then lying about it is extremely serious, and should be treated that way.

    He should be Gen. Patreus, felon.

  20. John D'Geek says:

    There is still some information missing, such as “What was her Clearance Level?” She probably had one, given that she is/was an Army Officer (Dr. Joyner can say more about that). Providing classified information to someone with a clearance but no need to know is a different offense than providing one to someone with a lesser clearance, etc.

    That said, his Clearance is history. And among the military that he would like to hob-nob with, his name will not be whispered with respect any longer.

  21. Barry says:

    @John D’Geek: “There is still some information missing, such as “What was her Clearance Level?” She probably had one, given that she is/was an Army Officer (Dr. Joyner can say more about that). Providing classified information to someone with a clearance but no need to know is a different offense than providing one to someone with a lesser clearance, etc.”

    Given the description of the information, she’d have to have had a large box of clearances, for many different compartmentalized things.

  22. John D'Geek says:

    According to my information, TS/SCI (Top Secret/Secure Compartmentalized Information) is the highest clearance available*. IF she had TS/SCI then she would have had clearance — but not a need to know, thus violating the compartmentalization part. Which is still wrong, but not “as wrong”.

    Really, if the head of the CIA can’t figure out why “compartmentalized” information was, errr, compartmentalized then that person is/was in the wrong job.

    * — Or so I’ve been told. This, too, may be misinformation designed to protect secrets but I doubt it.

  23. Mikey says:

    @John D’Geek: TS is the clearance level, SCI is a grant of eligibility for access to sensitive compartmented information. SCI isn’t a “higher” clearance, it’s like an optional add-on. There is some additional investigative work done, Q-and-A of the applicant and their co-workers and neighbors.

    Once the SCI eligibility is granted, a determination is made which particular “compartments” the individual is allowed to access, and they are briefed on the specifics and requirements pertaining thereto. An individual gaining access to a compartment they are not briefed on is a security violation the same as an uncleared person gaining access to classified information.

    In Petraeus’ mistress’ case, this was bad enough, but we also don’t know what was done with the information after she got it. Unless she had a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) in her home or office, the information was by definition improperly stored. If she put it on her personal laptop, there’s a huge violation. And of course such information is subject to an unbroken chain of custody–it is numbered and controlled, and every time it changes hands is logged. I highly doubt there was any log kept of Petraeus’ disclosures to his mistress.

    If you want to learn more about SCI access, here’s DCID 6/4, Personnel Security Standards and Procedures Governing Eligibility for Access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI).