Petraeus and the US obsession with sex scandals

Let’s talk about Mr. Petraeus.

Having an affair certainly can make someone a security risk (and a laughing stock). But that does not explain why the US media is still yammering on about former general, and now former CIA director, David Petraeus being an adulterer, or why the bizarre conspiracies on the matter from the conservative entertainment industry are considered newsworthy.

The warriors of the Roman Republic were scarcely known for their puritanical sexual mores, but they nevertheless managed to conquer most of the known world. One minute the patriotic press are wrapping themselves in the flag and telling people to Support Our Troops! The next they are hounding (recently-former) senior officers from their jobs over ‘inappropriate’ emails.

“Honey traps,” using sex for blackmail, are real. After a recent professional event I attended, one of my colleagues recounted the story of his last trip to China when he was approached by two very charming and exceptionally pretty young ladies in the lobby of his hotel. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine in the diplomatic service, he told me of one of his bosses whose career (and marriage) came to a sudden end after a similar encounter in a well known hotel in China.

David Petraeus

It does not take a scandal chart to describe the known facts about the affair. Petraeus and Broadwell had an affair that allegedly began after Petraeus retired from the military in 2011, and thus was no longer bound by military law under which adultery is a criminal offense.

Four months ago, around the time that the affair ended, Broadwell wrote anonymous emails to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley telling her to stop making moves on ‘her’ man. Kelly then forwarded the emails to Humphries, an FBI agent who had been trying to get off with her by sending her shirtless emails. The FBI agent informed his office who opened a case. Dissatisfied by the apparent progress on the case, Humphries then contacted a member of Congress who referred the matter to GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Much is being made of the apparent delay in reporting the result of the investigation to the Director of National Intelligence, and that the President was only notified after the election. Perhaps Romney might have been elected if only the FBI had told us that the Director of the CIA can’t keep his pants zipped! As if.  I don’t doubt that the DNI delayed informing the President until after the election, but only because the President was busy with rather more important matters, and no decision could be taken until after the election in any case.

Adultery might expose an individual to threat of extortion. Under standing policy, Petraeus would have likely lost his security clearance immediately pending the outcome of an investigation. That would have made it all but impossible for Petraeus to remain as Director of the CIA for any length of time. But removing a security clearance merely prevents a person from accessing additional information that they might compromise. People cannot be forced to forget secrets they have already learned. Absent any proof that Petraeus had broken any law, there was a national security interest in not disclosing the affair unless doing so was necessary.

As a political appointee, Petraeus would lose his job automatically if Romney had won the election. It would not therefore be at all unusual for Petraeus to resign to pursue a career in the private sector shortly after the election. If Obama had lost, the faux Benghazi scandal would have been immediately forgotten and Petraeus could have resigned without attracting attention. But for the GOP faux scandal mongering, Petraeus could have resigned without the need to give a reason in any case. The only reason that it was necessary to provide explanation was that the GOP ‘Support Our Troops!’ brigade were engaged in their dishonest attempt to turn the Benghazi attack to their political advantage.

There having been no laws broken and no evidence of Petraeus having been targeted for extortion, the investigation could have been completed shortly after interviewing Petraeus, which might have allowed him to keep the job. But the fact that Humphries had alerted Cantor made that impossible.  And now, here we are, treating a simple affair between consenting adults as if it were the greatest national security breach since the Rosenbergs (which was its own controversy).


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35 Responses to “Petraeus and the US obsession with sex scandals”

  1. dorothycharlesbanks says:

    The so-called legitimate media have long since been a National Enquirer style gossip and scandal rag. Scandals get more print space than real news stories. This is true for the morning and evening news. News people give 10 minutes to news and 15 minutes to gossip and scandal and and one-on-one interviews with the people involved. The media and TV viewers want every news situation to have a reality show texture and taste to it.

    An example is the media insisting there is a battle between President Obama and John McCain regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack. McCain has been having conniption fits ever since he lost the presidency to Obama in 2008. There is no Obama vs McCain. The media and pundits know it, but lies, scandals and controversy fit snugly into the reality show mode. The media knows President Obama is an American citizen, but it didn’t stop the media temptation to go with the flow of lies. The “story” kept lazy pundits and media busy, and away from committing to real investigative work, the first major step to writing a solid news story.

    Whereas reality shows are popular with a segment of Americans, if the media conducted a poll I believe it would learn that not many of them are concerned about who Petraus slept with. Speaking for myself, my only concern is if this woman got her hands on classified information, endangering America’s safety. On the other hand, because this scandal has the attention of the media world wide, Petraus, had he not resigned, would be subjected to female temptations initiated by the enemy. They would study the kind of woman Petraus is attracted to, and use her as bait to exact classified information from him. Republicans, upset that President Obama won re-election, will not stop exploiting the deaths of four Americans to further their cause to bring down this president. And McCain will not stop exploiting the deaths to make himself relevant in this tragedy.

  2. hollywoodstein says:

    War is good for ratings so media feeds couch potato Sparta a war hero. Sex is good for ratings so media takes down war hero, but is sad about it.
    BTW, anybody know what the good General’s pension is, and does he get to double dip one from the CIA, and is he able to work for a private company while on pension?

  3. hollywoodstein says:


  4. HelenRainier says:

    Becca, there’s no doubt that there can be very lax security. When I was with an MI Group I particpated as a member of an AR 15-6 investigative team proving the loss of over 200 classified documents at what was a security group of a major command. Fortunately as we traced and tracked down the questioned documents it was learned that most had already been destroyed but the paperwork was improperly filled out. I also agree that there was clearly egg on the faces of DA and the unit to which Manning was assigned/attached. It would make a lot of sense that this was a very embarassing situation that security procedures and protocol were so blatantly ignored. Thanks for the info regarding the laxity of security procedures. I had not heard that.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Hi Helen–

    Most of my experience with security at these levels is through the DoE, and the term ‘anal retentive’ doesn’t begin to describe how they could be a times. But as for Manning? Apparently a major aspect of that whole debacle was that in fact over where he was working, they’d become ridiculously lax in their security procedures and access capabilities. I mean, that was mentioned at the very beginning and raised as an issue, “Hey, the security sucks. Look how I, a low-level clerk, have access to EVERYTHING.” The content of those leaked cables was secondary, yet soon those became the overriding narrative.

    I’d still contend the prime motivation behind the prosecution wasn’t the secret cables themselves, but that he’d exposed just how badly wide-open the systems were. I mean, it’s one thing to embarrass diplomats and gov’t officials, but another thing entirely to threaten the careers of those who were entrusted to keep this information secure — and they are so not the forgiving type.

    I truly do believe that this part they’re not talking about — the exposure of lax security, and the retributive reactions of those who should’ve been doing their jobs — is the ‘squaring’ factor in explaining the case.

  6. Buford says:

    Pretty simple to me… I have no issue with them getting some on the side, but they need to use some common sense. It shows an appalling lack of judgment if that affair is with co-workers or creates a conflict of interest or security breach scenario.

    Clinton and Jennifer Flowers in a hotel room? Sweet! Clinton and Lewinski in the Oval Office? Stupid and disappointing.

  7. DonS says:

    Puleeze, rant about sex scandals being a media magnet somewhere else. It’s only the tip of the icberg in this still unfolding revelation about how our noble warriors do business. Perhaps you’ll rethink your “move along, nothing to see here” slant as the dirt keeps coming out. And, bY the way. Petraeus needs to be ridiculed, vilified, and tarred and featherd if that were possible for being the egomaniac hypocrite he is. Perhaps you don’t hold him responsible for the hundreds of US and thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who are dead because St. Petraeus had a pet theory of assymetrical war that he was going to roll over anyone, including the president, to test out. And, also BTW, it didn’t work, after how long and how many billions?

    Why you would use this scum of a human being to flaunt your own ideas about sexual morality in this case I can’t even guess. Neither Petraeus nor apparently any of the other sick puppies in this debacle deserve defending in any way.

  8. Houndentenor says:

    Where’s the story? Someone had an affair and resigned? If that’s grounds for resigning then I’m waiting for 2/3 of Congress to turn in their letters by end of business today. I keep waiting for the smoking gun. It seems like there’s nothing to this except the affair in which case I don’t understand why the general through he needed to quit his job.

  9. MyrddinWilt says:

    Classified means rather less than you might imagine. ‘TOP SECRET’ is in practice pretty much the lowest classification that gets used for anything that is at all interesting. And the really good stuff is compartmentalized security.

  10. HelenRainier says:

    So the Reps are willing to sacrific Petraeus? He is a registered Republican who is very high profile and influential.

  11. HelenRainier says:

    Becca the breach of security aspect is a very important issue. I was in Military Intelligence in the Army so I have an idea how this works. For the life of me, I still can’t figure out Bradley Manning as a low-ranking enlisted could have or would have had access to State Department classified materials. It does not make sense. If he did not have the need to know he shouldn’t have had the access to begin with. I have heard nothing implying that he “hacked” his computer system to gain access. There are just too many things that don’t square on his situation.

  12. HelenRainier says:

    Myrddin, I don’t care about the extra marital affair. My concern off the top was the potential for such an influential person both in the military and as the Director of CIA was compromises of security. Sure as hell it appears that happened. Also, anyone who believes this affair didn’t start during the year she was embedded with his unit in Afghanistan is awfully naive. It may not have come to full fruition until he retired but it started then.

  13. Indigo says:

    I have no particular concern about whom General Petraeus boinks. Honestly, I don’t care. I do, however, care very much that our military is to all appearances being supervised and administered by a cabal of society generals for whom the social whirl is their purpose in life. Our nation needs professional military in positions of command, not society generals who command the positions of the Kama Sutra.

  14. FunMe says:

    That’s not true. The reason McCain is so cranky is because he no longer is involved in something sexual like he was when he was going after Clinton during the Monica affair while cheating on his wife, getting BFs from total strangers and having an affair with a Stepford future blonde bimbo wife. :-)

  15. FunMe says:

    OMG I just read this “Broadwell wrote anonymous emails to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley telling her to stop making moves on ‘her’ man. Kelly then forwarded the emails to Humphries, an FBI agent who had been trying to get off with her by sending her shirtless emails.”

    They’re all dirty birdys! LOL

  16. FunMe says:

    They’re sex obsessed because they can’t get it or simply have really BORING sex lives. Or maybe they’re obsessed with sex because they are ugly creatures inside and out.

    Ugh! Just to think of them doing it. TMI!

  17. hauksdottir says:

    Excuse me, but classified documents were in the possession of Mrs Broadwell. If they weren’t important, or secret, why were they classified?

    Mrs Broadwell was also revealing information about the conditions at Benghazi during the televised speech she made in Denver. She ONLY had access to this secret information because of her access to Petraeus. By sharing access to his computer via passwords, Petraeus granted her access to whatever else she may have wanted to snoop through.

    People forget that she was an Intelligence Officer during her decade of military service. Surely an Intelligence Officer knows how to ferret her way through a computer’s files and folders… especially that used by another Intelligence Officer with similar mindset… but having passwords makes it possible to delve more thoroughly. Even a single password offers clues to the construction of other passwords.

    Even if she wasn’t an operative for a foreign government, or an internal entity hostile to the current administration, she still possessed sensitive information to which she wasn’t entitled… BECAUSE PETRAEUS SCREWED UP.

    The Director of the CIA is supposed to be able to keep a secret. Far too much is at risk. If he can’t keep a secret, then he can’t keep his job. Period.

    And as for the physical aspects of the affair beginning only after Petraeus hung up his stars? Give me a break. His military buddies will try to protect him, but intimacy began while they were both in Afghanistan. An affair isn’t just sticking your penis where it doesn’t belong. He exposed military secrets and spy secrets to his lover as she bolstered his vanity.

    I could care less about his sex life (that is for his wife to handle). I do care about what he revealed to an unstable, ambitious woman who will blab whatever in order to sell a book she contributed information to.

  18. hollywoodstein says:

    Argle bargle. time for a Guigal Cote Rotie or
    two La Landonne or the others, does anyone have a fve year., plz advz…

  19. hollywoodstein says:

    Gigondas, les dentils, but no w we’re heavy into Cornas, it won’t be long…

  20. hollywoodstein says:

    I haven’t said enough.

  21. hollywoodstein says:

    Losing my religion. oh no. I’ve said too much.

  22. hollywoodstein says:

    Chritian Amanpour used to have her trysts with sources there.

  23. hollywoodstein says:

    The Inn at Little Washington, how delicious, how cliche.

  24. hollywoodstein says:

    But when you pass yourself off, and hector subordinates from a position of moral rectitude…and then…

  25. hollywoodstein says:

    actually the Prez doesn’t have access to as many critical secrets as the Director. And even if he did his post is a political decision. The economy was booming, and nobody cared. I agree. I want the man who has his hand on the button to be getting as many bjs as he wants. It should be everyones patriotic duty. It makes us safer.

  26. theophrastvs says:

    Chatting during a fire-drill today and overheard: “y’know this whole Patreaus debacle is the result of having too many straights in the military.” (hah!)

  27. hollywoodstein says:

    I was scolded incorrectly about Occam’s razor on another thread. If you are in a house of mirrors, and you think what you see is what you get you would be wrong. If there is a setup, and you stick to occams razor you would never develop the evidence to realize someone was framed. Most times the world is what it is. Sometimes it is a house of mirrors.

  28. hollywoodstein says:

    Nicho is right. There is more to this than meets the eye. I thought it was going to bubble up because of all the competing interests. But what is happening now is the realization by all parties that they stand to discredit themselves so they are now in lockdown mode doing damage control. Perhaps the republican house will inadvertantly do some good when they investigate this if they can pry something loose.

  29. hollywoodstein says:

    Uniform Military Code Manual for Court Martial, Article 134, paragraph 62
    “…under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
    “The misuse, if any, of government time and resources to facilitate the commission of the conduct.”
    First, the affair began while DP was in the armed forces and it disrupted order and morale in the field and undermined his authority. Also, Broadwell was favored with air travel, and vip accommodations at a large cost to the US taxpayers. By virtue of her relationship she has been given access to classified documents she had no need to know, and other favors and considerations in order to further her career. The fact that he chose a rookie to be his biographer instead of the many qualified historians and academics available, is his perogative, but shows the erosion of his judgment. The men under his command and the public at large needs to be able to trust his judgment and word, but how can they when he breaks his sacred vows to his wife.
    Paramount is the security risk. The affair gave her access to documents she should not have had which were kept on an unsecured home computer and other media. Aside from being a lying liar and a cheating cheat, that alone made it untenable for him to continue as a credible guardian of the nation’s secrets.

  30. AcquiredExpertise says:

    Extramarital affairs are a violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice, the foundation of military law in the United States. The UCMJ has jurisdiction over all members of the uniformed services of the U.S., and also applies to those of its retirees who are entitled to retirement pay, such as General Petraeus, for life.

  31. GoBlue says:

    OT, but I had to share this:

    The reason McCain is so cranky these days? He’s heartbroken over Romney’s loss, because he thinks Romney promised to appoint him the next Secretary of Defense.

    Unfortunately, he misheard. What Mitt actually said was, “John, I want you to be the Secretary of DEPENDS.”

  32. BeccaM says:

    I honestly don’t give a damn about the sex part or the sordid affair.

    What I care about is the security breaches, and the fact that high ranking military and national security officials could very well have been open to blackmail. Now it does look like there was no actual blackmail, which is to the good, but clearly the FBI thinks there remains a strong possibility or likelihood that Petraeus allowed Broadwell to have access to confidential information for which she was not cleared.

    Heck, I’ve been involved in such matters to know that they get all freaky if you allow an unauthorized person physical access to computers or laptops that have classified info on them.

    So anyway — an investigation is absolutely warranted and it sounds like the FBI is doing its job. The rest of it? Tabloid BS.

    Nicho has a point though: Nothing is ever entirely as it seems.

    (Esp. not the owls. The owls are not what they seem, Cooper.)

  33. nicho says:

    Nothing in politics is as it seems. Don’t assume that this is about what you’re being told it’s about.

  34. 2patricius2 says:

    I’m sure Bill Clinton had access to a lot more secrets than Petraeus, and he wan’t forced to resign, even after impeachment. Now he is more popular than ever. I think lots of ordinary people aren’t too concerned about the sex lives of others.

    But Bill Clinton wasn’t the only person I was thinking of. Remember why gay people were thrown out of the military and government service? They were thought to be security risks. Happily we are beyond those days.

  35. UncleBucky says:

    Why? The GOP is still annoyed at Democrats because of Watergate. Also, they are still miffed that Reagan almost got the same treatment because of the Iran-Contra Affair. Not to mention Clinton beating Papa Smurf Bush/Potatoe in 1992 and also beating Dole/Kemp. Not to mention Palin/McCain AND rAYN/rMoney being beaten both rather soundly.

    The GOP is gonna make all they can of this Petraeus Affair. They’re gonna dig dig dig the Benghazi thing. They’re gonna bend over backwards to mess up any Rice appointment.

    Liberal media? HAH. After wiping their noses, the GOP/TPers are going full steam ahead to obstructionize the entire Nation for the next 2 years so they can take revenge for all the above.

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