PD Editorial: The unraveling of Petraeus and a scandal

Human nature being what it is, David Petraeus won't be the last prominent national political figure to resign in disgrace.

But before the county can hope to add this scandal to the history books and move on, a thorough public accounting is needed, one that separates the details of a man's salacious exploits with his biographer from more pressing questions related to national security.

It also mandates an investigation into whether information concerning this now-widening scandal was withheld from the public until after Election Day. While the public has little reason to believe information about the former CIA director's extramarital affairs would have changed the outcome of the presidential election, the timing of when this story broke has contributed to conspiracy theories and suspicions.

Petraeus Sex Scandal


President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he hopes this was "a single side note on what otherwise has been an extraordinary career." And he said he had no evidence that the scandal that forced Petraeus to step down had a negative impact on national security.

We hope that's the case. But the public has little reason to share the president's confidence at this point. The Wall Street Journal has reported that investigators discovered classified documents on the computer of Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer. Broadwell, who was stripped of her military security clearance Wednesday, and Petraeus both deny that he was the source of this information.

Meanwhile, a video has surfaced of Broadwell speaking at the University of Denver on Oct. 26 in which she seemed to offer more details about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi than were known publicly at the time. "Now I don't know if a lot of you heard this," she said, "but the CIA annex had actually — had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner, and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back."

This raises questions about what Petraeus may have shared with Broadwell about what happened in Benghazi, information that the American public is waiting to hear.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has been critical of FBI investigators for not letting congressional leaders in on the investigation of Petraeus, says that Petraeus has agreed to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee about what occurred in Benghazi. But given that this testimony will be given behind closed doors and will only address the Benghazi attacks, it's unlikely to provide much light for the general public.

Meanwhile, the scandal has expanded with questions concerning "inappropriate communications" between a Tampa socialite and Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Allen has denied having an affair with Tampa resident Jill Kelley, the woman whose complaints about harassing emails from Broadwell reportedly triggered the initial FBI investigation that resulted in Petraeus' resignation.

<NO1>What remains unclear is the extent of Allen's relationship with Kelley and why Broadwell apparently viewed her as a rival for the former general's affection.

<NO>Peeling back this onion is bound to be an pungent affair. But the public deserves a thorough accounting. The lapses of judgment is this scandal are already evident. So is the damage this has done to the reputation and morale of the military and intelligence communities. What's not as clear are the lapses in security, and what damages came from them. That's a story that no doubt will unravel more slowly then the career of this once-respected military commander.

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