The Other Reason Petraeus Had To Resign
Marc Ambinder introduces another factor that made resignation inevitable for David Petraeus once his extra-marital affair was revealed:
When he admitted having an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, CIA Director David Petraeus, as a senior civilian in the presidential chain of command should something go catastrophically wrong in Washington, violated special behavior codes for officials who might one day be forced to execute nuclear strikes.
In classified presidential emergency action documents, the CIA director is among the dozens, if not hundreds, of officials who are listed as National Command Authority successors in the event that higher-ranking officials are no longer able to do their jobs.
Because under certain circumstances he’d have ready access to the nuclear satchel, Petraeus was indoctrinated into the Personnel Reliability Program, which evaluates and monitors the lifestyle and behavior of Americans with access to nuclear command and control mechanisms. Adultery is not a minor sin under the PRP rules.
After retiring as a general, Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate as a civilian, and was probably given emergency action training by the White House Military Office, which runs the Continuity of Government program. In that role, he could serve as one of the two people needed to confirm codes that would key Permissive Action Links (PALs) and activate launch sequences, adhering to the U.S. Strategic Command’s two-person rule for nuclear weapons. Precisely what would need to happen for an official like Petraeus to be in the catbird seat is classified, the result of decades of highly secret rules and provisions that are kept locked in safes.
When Petraeus conceded having an affair to DNI James Clapper, Clapper had several reasons to insist on his resignation, one of which was the director’s exalted position in COG programs. Another was simply that the CIA director is held to a higher standard of trust and rectitude by foreign officials, who might take strategic advantage of his public embarrassment.
Interesting. And, quite honestly, I had no idea that there would be circumstances under which the CIA Director would have the authority to launch nuclear weapons. One wonders who else might be on that list.