The NY Times report on the latest in the Petraeus case raised my eyebrows quite a bit. This is the most strikingly political aspect of this scandal:
Meanwhile, the F.B.I. agent who had helped get a preliminary inquiry started, and learned of Mr. Petraeus’s affair and the initial concerns about security breaches, became frustrated. Apparently unaware that those concerns were largely resolved, the agent alerted the office of Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the House majority leader, about the inquiry in late October. Mr. Cantor passed on the agent’s concerns to Mr. Mueller.
Other news reports (this one published in the Times as well) portrayed this part of the story slightly differently. They say that the FBI agent contacted Rep. Dave Reichert (not Cantor) and that Reichert in turn contacted Cantor. For those who may not know, Reichert is a law-and-order Christian conservative House member representing a suburban Seattle district. His entre to victory in his first House race was that he’d been King County Sheriff when the Green River killings were solved. Reichert is generally an ineffective, do-nothing GOP House member who’s made no mark during his service.
A number of questions arise about this part of the story: why would the FBI agent go outside the chain of command when he was dissatisfied with the progress in the case? Why did he tell Reichert and Cantor that his was a “national security concern?” Why did he contact Dave Reichert specifically? My guess is that the FBI agent may’ve known Reichert through law enforcement circles (perhaps he served in the FBI’s Seattle office?).
The claim that knowledge of the affair by Republicans played no role in the decision to let Petraeus go seems weak to me. Once the FBI agent got word to Reichert it became a huge partisan political football. For that reason, the agent should be fired. I want to know everything that Reichert and Cantor did, who they called, what they said, etc. They were sniffing for a political advantage. Did they overstep in their partisan zeal to dig up dirt on a senior Obama appointee?
Further, it appears this FBI agent began an investigation of the threatening e-mails sent to Jill Kelley because of a personal friendship between the victim and the agent. Again, suspicious. I’ve reported numerous e-mailed death threats sent to me and would love to know who sent them. The FBI has done nothing about them. Curious that they’d take this one so seriously except for that personal connection. I guess I need to make personal friends with some FBI agents.
Once they discovered that Paula Broadwell was author of the threatening e mails how and why did Petraeus become involved? Since when does having e mails from a former mistress in your Inbox constitute a federal crime?
I’m having a lot of trouble seeing what specifically Petraeus did that should’ve demanded his resignation. Throughout the investigation, the FBI attempted to uncover evidence that took this case outside the realm of an affair and that would make it a national security case. They couldn’t find any. Petraeus didn’t compromise national security, didn’t share classified documents. He simply had an affair. It appears he chose the wrong woman with which to do so as she caused the unraveling of his career. But why did the FBI take this outside the agency? What crime were they investigating? What evidence of a crime did they have?
We’re still a nation of laws. What laws were broken? Would the affair be embarrassing to the president and all involved? Sure. But to give a distinguished general the ax because he’d engaged in a sexual indiscretion seems an impossibly high bar. In some senses, we’re returning to those prurient days of the Clinton impeachment when Republicans wanted us to judge a President’s ability to govern based on whether or not he could keep his pants zipped. I thought we, and Congress, said No to that by refusing to convict Clinton. Apparently not when it comes to this president.
This article appeared at Tikun Olam.
About the author: Richard Silverstein
Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.