Love and the CIA
By Philippe Coste
Translated By Lindsey Cambridge
12 November 2012
Edited by Jane Lee
France - L'Express - Original Article (French)
I suspected that people were going to criticize “American Puritanism,” but the new affair that is shaking up the direction of the CIA rather demonstrates, to my mind, maturity and a sense of the measure of public opinion. David Petraeus, chief of the agency for 18 months, resigned after revealing an affair with his (sumptuous) biographer, Paula Broadwell, a former student from the West Point military academy and the Kennedy School at Harvard, as well as a specialist of counterterrorism, a writer and a journalist.
At first look, nobody officially asked Petraeus, one of the best leaders in the army and the brain of the American counterinsurgency strategy before his recruitment to Langley, to put in his notice because of his infidelity. The media as well as some official observers admit that in any other position in the government, a story like this would not cost someone his or her job.
Judging by Internet forums and reader mail, the majority of the public is appalled by the loss of a leader of his status, unanimously appreciated by the political class, for a personal misdemeanor. Barack Obama even waited 24 hours before deciding to accept the resignation of one his most competent collaborators.
It is subtle, nevertheless, for a boss of an intelligence agency. In the same situation, his subordinates at the CIA would have gotten serious penalties or even an immediate dismissal for being exposed to potential blackmail.
Above all, the potential outpouring of vaudevillian details, already the case in one of the New York tabloids, would have quickly rendered his work impossible and would have made the intelligence agency look ridiculous.
The affair exploded when Paula Broadwell, who seemed to have been dumped this summer by Petraeus, suspected her former lover of having begun an affair with one of his colleagues from the U.S. Central Command, and a longtime friend. The furious and anonymous emails from Broadwell to Jill Kelley were forwarded by Kelley to a friend working in the FBI.
The federal police easily found the origin, discovering that the numerous explicit messages came from a computer belonging to David Petraeus. Questioned at the end of October, the pretty biographer, married and a mother of two children, confirmed the affair and authorized the police to search her computer.
Her computer contained “classified” documents. But to what level of secrecy? Had they been provided by Petraeus? Or did they constitute the normal, necessary documentation for her work as a research student? Let’s not forget that Broadwell had worked for several years in the army intelligence services and served as a consultant for the anti-terrorism department. Her status undoubtedly authorized her to access some documents of an average confidentiality level, inaccessible to the media and the general public.
At first look, the FBI concluded that this personal affair had not led to a security breach and closed the case.
There are still unanswered questions. Why did Petraeus himself put in his resignation? The FBI, having nothing to feel guilty about concerning the CIA boss, intended to keep the secret about his personal life and they weren’t required to inform Congress, but they must have referred to the Department of Justice. Were they prepared, nevertheless, to pursue Paula Broadwell for harassment and threats contained in anonymous letters, at the risk of alerting the media?
Another complication: The FBI agent initially leading the investigation, Jill Kelley’s friend, believed that her superiors closed the case hastily and put in a complaint herself on Oct. 31 to Eric Cantor, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, who referred it to his superiors. Were political leaks imminent?
The timing of the affair also sparks questions. The Republicans complained of manipulation by insinuating that Petraeus’ ousting prevents him from answering questions from Congress on the possibility of flawed intelligence before the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, which caused the death of an American ambassador and three security agents. These accusations were reassessed in vain during the last weeks of the presidential election. We will soon see if those elected to Congress will seize the scandal or if they will show as much decency as the American public.
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