The dramatic downfall of then CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus following the revelation of an extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell has spurred discussions of accountability and national security. To his credit, Petraeus immediately resigned his position with the CIA and took personal responsibility for his actions.
Along with Petraeus and Broadwell, the scandal has ensnared Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, FBI agent Frederick W. Humphries II and socialite Jill Kelley and her family in Tampa, Fla.
Reactions to the scandal have ranged from shock and disbelief from family and friends to resigned amusement from the public who have witnessed the career implosion of many powerful men due to marital transgressions. The latter viewpoint is more pronounced in cosmopolitan areas like Miami where the attitude tends to be laid back and accepting of scandalous relationships.
Even so, it is becoming apparent that Petraeus will need some legal heavy lifters down the road. Two of the central players in this evolving plotline, Broadwell and Kelley, have engaged the services of Washington D.C. heavyweights Robert Muse and Abbe Lowell, respectively. Petraeus has not engaged legal help as yet while the investigation continues.
The type of legal assistance that will most benefit Petraeus makes for interesting conjecture. The Killino Firm Miami office and other similar firms specialize in areas that are outside the purview of national security, but the diverse litigation experience of these companies on the national stage may help with the crisis management aspect of Petraeus’ bizarre case.
To be sure, Petraeus should consider the services of a family law practitioner, in case Holly Petraeus, his wife of 38 years, gets over the shock and decides to file for divorce. Marital concerns aside, Petraeus needs the services of a legal eagle well versed in the aspects of military law, criminal and civil litigation.
The timing of the affair is in question as adultery is a prosecutable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. With Broadwell being a commissioned officer as well, the Judge Advocate General can decide to summon them both back to active service to face prosecution.
Perjury is another concern, as Petraeus had to undergo national security vetting a few years ago for the CIA directorship. Misleading and disingenuous statements intended to cover up the affair could lead to perjury charges.
Additionally, the intelligence community’s disapproval of situations that may compromise national security is implicit. Presumably, an extramarital affair exposes officers to blackmail and increases the possibility of security leaks, a major concern in the Petraeus drama.
One thing is certain: David Petraeus will need the services of the best minds to dig him out of his current state of legal limbo.