Petraeus gets probation, $100K fine, says he's 'ready to move on'
(Tribune Content Agency) — In a humbling chapter of an exemplary career, David Petraeus — a dynamic West Point graduate who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming the nation’s top spy — pleaded guilty Thursday to sharing classified information with his biographer.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler sentenced Petraeus to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine, throwing out a recommended $40,000 fine because of the seriousness of the charges and to deter others. He called Petraeus’ actions a “serious lapse of judgment” that stood “in stark contrast to 37 years of achievement.”
As Keesler moved through the proceedings, Petraeus answered questions in strong voice, one accustomed to addressing troops and congressmen.
“I want to apologize for the pain my actions caused,” Petraeus said.
Although none of the sensitive material got into the public domain, Acting U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said that Petraeus committed a serious offense. “He was entrusted with the nation’s most sensitive security,” she said. “The defendant betrayed that trust.”
During sentencing, Petraeus was told he could travel internationally with the approval of his probation officer. As he has emerged from the early days of the scandal, Petraeus has become a popular speaker on global security topics.
When he was done, Keesler wished Petraeus well. “Mr. Petraeus, I want to wish you good luck.”
Petraeus: “Thank you, your honor.”
Outside afterward, Petraeus thanked his supporters and said, “I now look forward to moving on with the next phase of my life and to continuing to serve our great nation as a private citizen.”
Patraeus was sentenced in Charlotte, N.C., the city where the security breach was oddly discovered as part of an unrelated 2012 investigation into anonymous and disparaging emails sent to Jill Kelley of Tampa, Fla. She was friends with Petraeus and a socialite connected to other top military brass stationed at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base on Florida’s west coast.
Within weeks, the FBI traced the emails to Paula Broadwell of Charlotte, another West Point graduate and an Army Reserve officer who had recently written the biography “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.” Broadwell, investigators concluded, considered Kelley a romantic rival to Petraeus’ affections.
When advised of the situation, the CIA director acknowledged an improper personal relationship with Broadwell that had developed during her research for the biography. Both were married, and Petraeus resigned as CIA director.
Using “Tampa Angel” and at least one other pseudonym, Broadwell sent some of her emails from the old Dilworth Coffee shop on East Boulevard in Charlotte, investigators found.
In June 2012, agents searched Broadwell’s Dilworth home and found classified information and other data on her computers that went beyond her security clearance as a major in the Army Reserve.
Court documents say Petraeus shared eight notebooks with Broadwell that he compiled in Afghanistan.
Prosecutors say the books held everything from secret codes and the identities of covert officers, to war strategy and notes from National Security Council meetings. Broadwell kept the books for at least four days beginning in August 2011, prosecutors say. FBI agents seized the books during an April 2013 raid on Petraeus’ home.
Petraeus lied to FBI and CIA investigators about both having classified information and sharing it with Broadwell, according to court documents. Prosecutors say none of the classified material appeared in Broadwell’s book.
Debate on sentence
Critics say the retired general got off light, given how zealously the Obama administration has pursued government leaks. By comparison, CIA analyst and case officer John Kiriakou, the whistleblower who revealed the secret CIA torture program, is serving a 30-month sentence.
Open-government groups say President Barack Obama’s lieutenants have prosecuted more leakers than the rest of U.S. administrations combined.
“It’s hard to reconcile cases like that, and it leads to the conclusion that senior officials are held to a different and more forgiving standard than others,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C.
Petraeus resigned three days after Obama’s 2012 re-election. Up to then, the retired four-star general was among the most respected military leaders of modern times. He was sometimes mentioned as a future presidential or vice presidential candidate.
No charges against Broadwell
Broadwell did not attend the sentencing, nor did she respond to a Charlotte Observer request for comment. But she did post an image on her Twitter feed Thursday that needed no elaboration: a picture of a tunnel with light visible at the end.
Broadwell was not charged in connection with the emails she sent to Kelley and others. In theory, she still could be accused by a civilian or military court for possessing classified information. But given the light sentence proposed for Petraeus, legal experts have said it’s unlikely that the Justice Department or the Pentagon will push for her prosecution.
That Broadwell was working as a writer when she received the classified material further complicates any possible case. Media and law experts say the government has not mounted a successful prosecution against a journalist possessing classified information in decades.
Broadwell, who met Petraeus as a Harvard University graduate student in 2006, is now writing about such topics as personal fitness and human trafficking for the online newsletter Charlotte Agenda. Since arriving in Charlotte, she has also publicly championed returning veterans and Wounded Warriors.
In May 2013, she apologized for the affair during a brief TV interview.
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