After our names were linked to the Petraeus story, a horde of paparazzi stormed our front lawn. Our young daughters were terrified. We didn’t want our silence to validate false headlines, but we did what most people unaccustomed to such a blitzkrieg would do: walled it off in the hopes the storm would fade or pass.

But it didn’t go away. And the media filled our silence with innuendo and falsehoods. We were surprised to read that Jill had flown on private military jets (never); that she was a volunteer social planner (wrong); that we were suffering financially (false); and, most painful of all because of the innuendo surrounding the allegation, that some 30,000 e-mails were sent to a general from the e-mail address we share. This is untrue, and the insinuation that Jill was involved in an extramarital affair is as preposterous as it is hurtful to our family. This small sample of junk reporting was emotionally exhausting and damaging — as it would be to the strongest of families.

Our family committed no crime and sought no publicity. We simply appealed for help after receiving anonymous e-mails with threats of blackmail and extortion. When the harassment escalated to acts of cyberstalking in the early fall, we were, naturally, terrified for the safety of our daughters and ourselves. Consequently, we did what Americans are taught to do in dangerous situations: sought the help of law enforcement. …

The breach of civil liberties we experienced never needed to happen. That is why, as Congress considers the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, lawmakers should consider what access to and disclosure of private e-mails of law-abiding citizens will be allowed, and what safeguards should be in place.