CIA and DOJ want David Petraeus to stand trial

Back in March of 2013, Ed covered a very public appearance and apology by General David Patraeus in the wake of revelations that he had engaged in an extramarital affair and possibly released sensitive, classified material to his partner. It was clear that the General was in trouble, but was trying to do some fence mending and prepare to get on with his life. At the time, Ed wrote:

I’d guess that Petraeus may have damaged his value in politics somewhat, but I was never convinced that he wanted to pursue public office anyway. Petraeus’ scandal was more personal than professional, and his value in the private sector or at think tanks should still be high. Besides, 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.

Americans in general may be a forgiving people, but the folks at the CIA and the Department of Justice clearly share no such sentiments. An investigation has been ongoing for more than two years and, as Business Insider reports, it seems that General Petraeus may still have to answer for his actions in court.

Former General David Petraeus’s 2012 adultery scandal may end up costing him more than just his job as CIA director.

Citing anonymous government officials, the New York Times is reporting that federal prosecutors with the FBI and the Department of Justice have recommended that Petraeus be charged with a felony for providing classified information to his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell, who was also an Army Reserve officer.

Petraeus has been under investigation for unauthorized leaks related to the affair and Broadwell’s book since the scandal broke. Holder was supposed to decide on charging Petraeus by the end of last year. But the legal process has unfolded slowly, with the retired general showing “no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial,” according to the Times.

Despite any personal failings in his marriage, Petraeus still holds a historical place as one of the most respected military figures of his generation before these troubles began. This makes him an obvious target for liberal outlets who were quickly lining up to crow about how the mighty have fallen and warn against putting such warriors on a pedestal. But that does nothing to change the important – and sometimes controversial – role he played in modern American military history.

By the same token, we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this entirely. I watched a military analyst speaking to Victor Blackwell on CNN this morning who was saying that this case is essentially small potatoes compared to the other challenges we face on the international stage today and that he felt the proposed charges were “political” in nature. There was a time when the rumor mill was making noises about a possible Patraeus presidential run, but the expiration date on that idea has long since passed. It’s conceivable that there may be some who feel that an attack on the General’s credibility somehow undermines his military strategies, but that would be a foolish approach.

What Patraeus does in response to this will prove telling. His acts of contrition following the scandal spoke very well of him, but now he may be facing yet another challenge. The General obviously places great importance on personal responsibility and he may be forced to take further responsibility for potential intelligence failures resulting from the Broadwell affair. The coverage hints that he had been offered some sort of a plea deal to avoid a trial, but demurred. This could mean that the deal was simply not advantageous to him or that he feels the charges are unjust and he could beat them in court.

In the end, even if this goes poorly for him, I fully expect that David Petraeus will face this with dignity and maturity. And while he needs to be held accountable if he truly did compromise American security, we should not forget the career that led him to those positions of trust and authority in the first place.

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