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.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, Quick Takes,
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. legion says:

    One wonders who else might be on that list.

    I hadn’t thought about it before this, but it makes sense – a surprise attack on a scale that could warrant a nuclear response would very likely take out the top several dozen, if not several hundred, people in the chain of command. The list of “eligible receivers” would have to be very long indeed, and explicitly contain people who don’t spend the majority of their time in DC, in order to assure continuity in a worst-case scenario.

  2. Anderson says:

    In the office today, we reached bipartisan agreement that a CIA director who can’t conceal his own affair, is a crappy choice to head a spy agency.

  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Makes you wonder where the Secretary of Education fits into the plan. Laura Roslin sure was able to get up and running quickly.

  4. Bill says:

    One wonders who else might be on that list.

    In Tom Clancy’s novel Sum of All Fears, The President orders a strike on a city in Iran. For such an order, there is a two-man rule and Jack Ryan was asked to be the 2nd man and he was supposed to be the second man. The novel says the 2nd man was an elected official or someone approved by Congress. Ryan was Deputy Director of the CIA.

    Whether the Deputy CIA director is on the list, I don’t know. Clancy gets most of his military facts right. In other areas, he has gotten out of his depths occasionally. Like when he had a woman have a amniocentesis at 6 weeks pregnant and then get the results back in a matter of minutes. As a former x-ray technician I wanted to pound my head against the wall after reading that.

  5. James H says:

    Makes you wonder where the Secretary of Education fits into the plan. Laura Roslin sure was able to get up and running quickly.

    at that level, they get access to airlocks.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Looking at the linked DOD document, it applies to DOD personnel. Two questions immediately come to mind:
    – This document would not seem to apply to Petraeus. Is there a comparable policy for intelligence agencies and other civilian departments?
    – Is there a comparable program for elected officials? I’m thinking about a Sarah Palin scenario.

  7. Gustopher says:

    So, you can either screw around, or nuke people, but not both.

  8. Kit says:

    This puts me in mind of Arlo Guthrie’s classic Alice’s Restaurant:

    I went over to the sargent, said, “Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself… you want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.” He looked at me and said, “Kid, we don’t like your kind.”

  9. Jen says:

    That’s fascinating. It makes sense, but certainly not something I’d ever spent a minute thinking about.

  10. OldSouth says:

    I have memories of the mid-to-late 1990’s in which members of Congress and pundits in the press derided any suggestion that a Commander-in-Chief embroiled in an affair with a 19-year-old young lady might possibly be compromised, and not be an appropriate person to have in charge in the event of some major crisis.

    The suggestion was just laughable, we were assured. Clinton’s dalliances with interns were simply his business, in no way impacted the performance of his duties.

    Hmmm….

  11. Franklin says:

    Not to bring Clinton’s indiscretions up now, but …

  12. Budgie93 says:

    I’d imagine most people in the line of succession and most of their deputies have the clearance to fire the nukes.

  13. CSK says:

    @Bill:

    A good friend of mine who works in fiber optics said Clancy screwed that up, too. He wanted to throw the book out the window, but unfortunately he was 37,500 feet over the Pacific at the time.

    I would imagine the secretary of state and the speaker of the house are on the push-button list as well, given that the speaker is third in the line of succession.

  14. sam says:

    God forgive me, but I read this

    Because under certain circumstances he’d have ready access to the nuclear satchel

    as

    Because under certain circumstances he’d have ready access to the nuclear snatch

  15. OldSouth says:

    @sam:

    Completely understandable…and funny!

  16. Andre Kenji says:

    @Anderson:

    In the office today, we reached bipartisan agreement that a CIA director who can’t conceal his own affair, is a crappy choice to head a spy agency.

    That´s the problem. The CIA is no longer a spy agency, but a branch of the Military, that has it ´s own weapons(Drones).

  17. CSK says:

    @sam:

    Well, I suppose you could argue that the snatch he DID have access to DID go nuclear. Metaphorically speaking.

  18. Jib says:

    @OldSouth: Only 1 small difference between the 2, Clinto was elected by the American people where as Petraeus was appointed.

    Funny thing about the American people, they take that whole ‘elected by the people’ thing pretty seriously. To the point that duly elected representatives who have been sentenced to prison have keep their seat even while serving their sentence. Some thing about powerful people using the judiciary to subvert democracy. Not that it has happened and not that anyone convicted did not deserve it but once you let a judge overturn an election, well, lets just say more judges have been bought than politicians have been caught with interns,

    …and yes I know there have been a lot of pols caught with interns, I’m just saying…

  19. Dazedandconfused says:

    It’s good to know. Can’t have somebody with questionable morals destroying whole cities, and cheating on ones wife clearly indicates an unbalanced mind in appointees, although not in elected officials….

  20. C. Clavin says:

    I’m on that list.
    I’m also on the PPACA Death Panel.
    This is not a coincedence.