On Friday, a report in The New York Times indicated that the Department of Justice was preparing criminal charges against former CIA Director and General David Petraeus based on the claim that he leaked American intelligence secrets to his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Broadwell, who also served as a U.S. Army Reserve officer, was involved in an affair with Petraeus that was exposed in November of 2012 and for which the general apologized the following spring. “Americans tend to be a forgiving people — one of our best qualities — and a public act of contrition and responsibility goes a long way towards securing that forgiveness,” Ed wrote in the wake of this show of regret. As for the allegation that the architect of the 2007 surge in Iraq compromised U.S. intelligence, however, federal prosecutors do not seem to be in much of a forgiving mood.
According to the New York Times, Petraeus displayed “no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial.” Having apparently exhausted their options, the DOJ appears willing to recommend that the former spy chief face felony charges.
This is no way to treat an American hero, even one as flawed as Petraeus, said a bipartisan cast of senators on Sunday. Even the former Democratic Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), is recommending that the government pass on charging Petraeus with a crime.
“It’s done, it’s over,” Feinstein told CNN on Sunday. “He’s retired. He’s lost his job. How much does the government want?”
“This man has suffered enough in my view,” She added. “He lost his job as CIA director because of it. How much do we want to punish somebody?”
Via The Hill, a joint letter released by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) charges that the investigation into the allegations against Petraeus was bungled and tainted by politics.
The comment puts Feinstein in agreement with Republican Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who on Saturday blasted Petraeus’s “callous treatment” by the FBI and the Justice Department.
“While the facts of the case involving General David Petraeus remain unknown and are not suitable for comment, it is clear that this investigation has been grievously mishandled,” the two senators said in a statement Saturday.
“It is outrageous that the highly confidential and law enforcement-sensitive recommendation of prosecutors to bring charges against General Petraeus was leaked to the New York Times,” the letter continued. “It is a shameful continuation of a pattern in which leaks by unnamed sources have marred this investigation in contravention to fundamental fairness.”
“No American deserves such callous treatment, let alone one of America’s finest military leaders whose selfless service and sacrifice have inspired young Americans in uniform and likely saved many of their lives,” McCain and Graham concluded.
Indeed, if it were not for America’s determination to lose the Iraq War by electing politicians who pledged a premature withdrawal from that largely pacified battlefield, Petraeus might still be remembered as the American general who put down the insurgency for good. His indiscretions and poor judgment would have sullied his reputation, but even the criminal accusations against him would be qualified by the great debt his fellow countrymen owe him. Today, largely as a result of the West’s failure to contain the Syrian civil war in Syria, the country of Iraq is in shambles. As such, Petraeus does not command the respect he would have had he returned home utterly victorious.
The assertion that Petraeus released confidential information to an unauthorized source is, however, a serious matter. It would set a dangerous precedent to sweep that infraction under the rug merely because this man, who is an American hero, exiled himself from public life in search of penance. That’s not justice. If Petraeus is charged, as he probably should be if the allegations against him are based on compelling evidence, he should be eligible for a speedy presidential pardon. If the general wants to contest the charges, however, he should have every opportunity to do so.