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Too Soon?

[ 116 ] November 9, 2012 |

…anyway, with my usual disclaimers about how as far as I can tell being a good spouse bears no relationship to being an effective public official, I assume that as head of the CIA this could be more problematic?

Liliana Segura: “I just hope whoever replaces Petraeus restores the CIA’s reputation as a beacon of moral rectitude.”


Comments (116)

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  1. catclub says:

    Isn’t the term for too soon – premature?

    Pointy end of the spear indeed.

  2. Just Dropping By says:

    I’ll be curious if the publisher changes the title for future printings.

  3. Paul Campos says:

    The book’s web page describes her as an embedded author.

  4. tonycpsu says:

    Cue the wingnuts Benghazi truthers.

  5. slybrarian says:

    While I normally agree that it’s not a big deal for elected officials (excepting the many cases of people who scream ‘family values’), in this case it’s different. An extramarital affair is grounds for loss of security clearance and, from what I’ve heard, a fireable offense at the CIA. While I don’t think that’s applicable to Petraeus as an appointed official, it’d be a serious blow to his ability to lead the organization.

    • STH says:

      I would think that just coming clean about it would be sufficient. I mean, isn’t the big deal that having a secret makes you blackmail-able?

      • Jeremy says:

        It might also have to do with betraying the trust of someone you’ve sworn to be faithful to. I can see how the CIA might get worked up about that.

        Not that I care one way or the other what people do, but that would be my guess as to what would cause them to continue having an issue with it even after disclosure.

        • cpinva says:


          It might also have to do with betraying the trust of someone you’ve sworn to be faithful to. I can see how the CIA might get worked up about that.

          um, betrayal is what they do, it’s part of the job description. if morals were an issue, the cia wouldn’t exist.

          • Julia Grey says:

            um, betrayal is what they do, it’s part of the job description. if morals were an issue, the cia wouldn’t exist.

            You are correct, sir.

            Hasn’t anybody here been watching Covert Affairs? Sheesh.

            But seriously, yes. One large part of the work of CIA agents IS to go out into the field to cultivate assets, which means “convince foreign nationals to commit treason.”

            • blow back says:

              by establishing an intimate and often sexual relationship with them.

              Petraeus should have assigned himself to run counterspionage on Broadwell before sexing her up.
              In all likelihood the affair started while he was still in the Army so he also violated UCMJ.

      • ema says:

        I think the problem was that Paula Broadwell 1) was sending threatening emails to another women, and 2) was in possession of classified docs.

        So maybe it’s not so much that he was having an affair but rather that he was having it with an unsuitable person.

    • dan says:

      Has there ever been a case in history when a person with access to confidential information was blackmailed into revealing it over an affair, or is this just another excuse for enforcing private morality on public officials?

      I mean, yes, if he had actually disclosed info he shouldn’t have, to her or anyone else, fire him. But if he hasn’t, why fire him over the remote possibility that he could have been blackmailed over the affair, if no one had ever been blackmailed over an affair before?

      • NonyNony says:

        Actually it appears that the affair was discovered by the FBI during an investigation into whether or not his computer had been compromised.

        So… it may well be that he resigned because this story is only going to make him and/or the CIA itself look more and more idiotic as it comes out. Director of the CIA having an affair with a journalist who had access to his computer and it comes to light when the FBI finds out about it? Embarrassing on soooo many levels.

      • slybrarian says:

        1) The CIA (and many others) have been burned by this sort of thing before. Usually it’s not so much blackmail as a honeypot to get information, but I’m sure blackmail has happened at times. The KGB in particular was renown for its ability to use female agents to get information.

        2) Even if no information was disclosed (and it’s looking like she may have been prying), there’s still the general principle to consider. If he breaks the rules, he’s setting a horrible example for everyone else, who will think, “Well, if its okay for the boss, why shouldn’t I?” Even if the agency decided that it didn’t care about affairs so long as they were properly disclosed, there’s still the entire process for security clearance to consider. Any normal girlfriend or wife would have gotten intense scrutiny as part of the process, and since he did not disclose his relationship with her that didn’t happen. Further, if he lied about that part of the clearance questioning, what else did he forget to mention?

        • Robert Farley says:

          This. It would be dreadful for morale at the CIA to keep Petraeus on after this.

          • dan says:

            So, basically, what you are all saying is yes, I’m right, there’s never been a specific instance to your knowledge of a person being blackmailed over an affair into revealing confidential information.

            Again, a person who reveals confidential information to a paramour or in exchange for sex, obviously that’s grounds for dismissal, because there’s been an actual breach of security. And if that was the case here, fine.

            But the claim made was that the affair, in itself, was grounds for separation from employment because he could have been blackmailed. And when the question was raised as to whether there really was a threat of blackmail or whether this was just an excuse, the rationale shifted to “oh, it would be bad for morale” or “well, if he had been offered sex for information that would have been grounds for termination”. Meh. I’m unimpressed. None of these things suggest that extramarital sex, by itself, without the disclosure of confidential information, is any concern of the government’s.

            • jon says:

              There have been many instances where people have been blackmailed over sexual indiscretions and made to provide classified and sensitive information. It was bread and butter to the Soviet espionage services. In many cases, it only served to move someone faster or further down the trail than they wanted. Exploiting homosexuals used to be quite popular.

              • dan says:

                Seems more like a “honeypot” situation than actual blackmail over an affair. Even so, it seems like the punishment could be, and was, adequately meted out by punishing the disclosure and not punishing the sex. (As usual).

                • Julia Grey says:

                  Seems more like a “honeypot” situation than actual blackmail over an affair.

                  No, I think you’re misreading what they’re saying. They might send in a honeypot, or they might just find out that a CIA operative has had an affair with a civilian.

                  THEN, the security service officer steps in to meet with our hapless person with the sexual secret and the SSO says, “we’ll tell [your boss/your wife/the newspapers/whoever] that you’ve been having this affair unless you do this One Tiny Little Thing for us.”

                  Now, if the honeypot has already asked for the first One Tiny Little Thing, this will just draw the target in further, because now they have the One Tiny Little Thing having been done to continue to blackmail him/her with.

                  Of course, there were also the bald money-seeking volunteer traitors like Hansen that the security services didn’t even have to try to trap into giving shit away.

                • dan says:

                  Julia —

                  And while in the “honeypot” situation there’s a danger of that, I’m still wondering (not saying there hasn’t, just still wondering) if there’s ever been a case where a foreign entity discovered that an extramarital affair was going on between a person with access to classified information and an uninvolved third party and used that knowledge to blackmail the person involved into divulging secrets.

          • LosGatosCA says:

            Of course, the CIA has been dreadful for the morale of the US public. At least the non-torturing, non-waterboarding, non-extraordinary renditioning, non-detaining without judicial review and supporters of minimal, even only minor, accountability.

            But I do hope the CIA folks take comfort from this tribute that vice paid to virtue.

          • cpinva says:

            how, exactly?

            It would be dreadful for morale at the CIA to keep Petraeus on after this.

            other than he was stupid enough to get caught? devious, sneaky and immoral is more or less the cia’s modus operandi’, so that can’t be it.

            • Julia Grey says:

              Oh, they like to pretend to themselves just like any other human.

              All their MAJOR immorality is for a good cause, but personal sexual gratification…that’s more iffy in their minds, because bureaucratic rectitude is a better measure of integrity in their minds than actually having ethics.

              Which is why the aforesaid Covert Affairs is such a hoot.

              (Okay, I admit it. It IS implausible — blind man going out on field ops! — but I can’t stop watching it. Started out as a cartoon but is now DRAH-MAH.)

      • blow back says:

        More than a few of the most damaging CIA traitors started breaking the rules by having undisclosed affairs with foreign nationals.

        The “rules” seem much more concerned about disclosure/secrecy than with affairs/sex.

  6. DrDick says:

    This was apparently all Petraeus’s decision from what is being reported on the news. Hard to say why he made that decision.

  7. Logistics says:

    General Betray-hiswife

    MoveOn had it kind of right.

  8. Erik Loomis says:

    I’ve always wanted to have sex with my biographer, but then I realized it’d probably be an autobiography and well….

  9. shah8 says:

    I’m inclined to look past the “I fired myself”. I think this was more of a reaction against the military’s tendency to think itself above the politicians.

    Remember when Obama couldn’t get the military to give him a roadmap out of Afghanistan? Or Billy McChrystal? Or that whole nasty story about that woman who got into a fight with Navy hierarchy over ship movement that might provoke Iran?

    Long list of shenanigans. I’d look see if anyone else is in trouble before I’m sure it’s about the sex.

  10. jon says:

    If Petraeus still holds his rank, he’s bound by the military’s code a gentleman in your private life.

    But maybe there’s different dirt, or a power struggle. An affair is such a tidy excuse. Two days after the election, it feels like cleaning house.

  11. tonycpsu says:

    OT: Scott, any thoughts on SCOTUS taking up Alabama’s Voting Rights Act challenge? Is the pre-clearance provision gone?

  12. Pete Mack says:

    While I agree that having an affair as head of the CIA is only moderately unprofessional, having an affair with your own biographer, a 20-something Harvard grad student, is definitely unprofesional.

  13. LosGatosCA says:

    “Deutch left the CIA on December 15, 1996[1] and later that year it was revealed that several of his laptop computers contained classified materials designated as unclassified. In January 1997, the CIA began a formal security investigation of the matter. Senior management at CIA declined to fully pursue the security breach. Over two years after his departure, the matter was referred to the Department of Justice, where Attorney General Janet Reno declined prosecution. She did, however, recommend an investigation to determine whether Deutch should retain his security clearance.[7] President Clinton pardoned Deutch on his last day in office.

  14. Was this outing a case of an outsider going into the CIA and getting eaten alive by the lifers?

    • NonyNony says:

      It seems more like a case of somebody who should have known better doing something stupid:

      Government officials said that the F.B.I. began an investigation into a “potential criminal matter” several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns. About two weeks ago, F.B.I. agents met with Mr. Petraeus to discuss the investigation.

      If this is indeed the case then Petraeus will be lucky if all that happens to him is a loss of security clearance and never being allowed to work anywhere that requires a clearance again.

    • Left_Wing_Fox says:

      Richard Engel on Maddow suggested that CIA resentment was likely the reason the investigation was done by the FBI, rather than internally.

  15. wengler says:

    Andrea Mitchell looked like she was about to cry today when she was talking about it with Rachel Maddow. One of the Village has been disgraced today.

    • tonycpsu says:

      I don’t know if this (second letter) is the thing that it seems like it might be given today’s events, but it is definitely a thing that exists.

      • Lee Rudolph says:

        Here are the last two paragraphs of “the second one”; my bold emphasis added.

        The fact that you’re willing to accept your wife’s infidelity for some greater political good is beyond honorable. In fact, it’s so over-the-top honorable that I’m not sure I believe your motives are real. Part of me wonders why you’re even posing this question, particularly in a column that is printed in The New York Times.

        Your dilemma is intriguing, but I don’t see how it’s ambiguous. Your wife is having an affair with a person you happen to respect. Why would that last detail change the way you respond to her cheating? Do you admire this man so much that you haven’t asked your wife why she keeps having sex with him? I halfway suspect you’re writing this letter because you want specific people to read this column and deduce who is involved and what’s really going on behind closed doors (without actually addressing the conflict in person). That’s not ethical, either.

        Of course, the author’s qualms about the letter-writer’s motivations haven’t prevented him from publishing the letter…

        • Bill Murray says:

          if you switch the sexes, isn’t this question applicable to Ayn Rand and Nathan Branden?

        • Julia Grey says:

          Of course, the author’s qualms about the letter-writer’s motivations haven’t prevented him from publishing the letter…

          It’s a public service to “out” Long-Suffering Martyrs who are sadly playing “nobler than thou” as an attempt to insert knives in the backs of others.

          The columnist is probably fairly sure who the players are, and does not sympathize with the wronged husband for some reason. What that reason is, we can only speculate, but personally I dislike the company of people who make an ostentatious habit of lifting their chins bravely and biting their trembling lower lips.

          Get on with it, man! Do something or don’t do something, but don’t make a public spectacle of yourself in a bid for sympathy or Righteousness Points. You’ll only end up looking pathetic in the end.

  16. Steve says:

    “Moral rectitude”?? The CIA?? Leaving aside that joke, what about the security risk that Petraeus obviously,ummm, courted?

  17. Jordan says:

    Here is a hmmmmm, again via slate.


    Read the second one. I mean, probably not. But Still!

  18. Lurker says:

    When reading the subtitle of the book, “The Education of David Petraeus”, at least I immediately recall a classic title: “Education of Cyrus”, i.e. Kyropedaeia by Xenophon.

    Considering that the biographer, General Petraeus and, likely, the editor, were all educated persons, I don’t think that the name of the book was a coincidence.

  19. Heron says:

    “I just hope whoever replaces Petraeus restores the CIA’s reputation as a beacon of moral rectitude.”

    As the nephew of a former CIA analyst I can only say this;


  20. Wido Incognitus says:

    I assume that as head of the CIA this could be more problematic?

    That (risks of blackmail and being spied on), and the possibly hacked emails (being spied on), and maybe he really did feel bad about his affair and wanted to take some time off. On the other hand, many people will be satisfied with conspiracies about Benghazi.

  21. jon says:

    When will the Blogger Ethics Panel be convening to address this shocking lapse of journalistic comportment?

  22. Eli Rabett says:

    Shorter Liliana: Gentlemen don’t read each other’s Email

  23. tonycpsu says:

    This is amusing as well:

    Paula Broadwell is an alumna of the University of Denver, where I work editing the alumni magazine. We had a profile of her scheduled to run in our winter issue, which went to the printer yesterday. When the news about Petraeus broke yesterday we considered editing or swapping out the story, but when we found out Broadwell was the other woman, we had to call the printer and explain the situation, and I had to drive a new page to them at 8:30 last night. The lede of the Broadwell story was “If you’re going to write a book about one of the most famous generals of the last 20 years, you might as well go all in.” Yikes.

  24. J R in WV says:

    I am officially speechless…

    well, not quite. Is he from down South?

  25. fd2 says:

    A clear breach of the CIA’s mandate.

    They’re supposed to stick to foreign affairs.

  26. CJColucci says:

    That this came out on the day the new James Bond movie opened is one of those things that got me out of the satire business — reality long ago outran my ability to satirize it. (By yet another coincidence, my first foray into satire involved investigations into illicit sex in the Nixon White House when henry Kissinger was squiring Jill St. John and other glamorous women around town.)

  27. cpinva says:

    if you’re going to schtup someone not-your-wife, and you’re married, it would probably be helpful if the person not-your-wife, that you’re schtupping, doesn’t get it into her head that she’s more than just a schtup buddy, and start calling other women, and chewing them out, because she thinks you’re schtupping them too.

    you’d think a guy, with that many stars on his shoulders, would have figured that out by now. or maybe he’s an amateur not-his-wife schtupper, and complete misread this woman. in which case, he shouldn’t have been the director of the cia to begin with.

  28. Jonas says:

    I know no one will read this, because this thread is already elderly in internet years, but I would like to compliment the deluded folks at ‘Petraeus for President’ for not jumping on conspiracy theories and noting that this was bad judgment.

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