David Petraeus: MoveOn.Org Was Right

MoveOn.org Advertisement from New York Times

MoveOn.org Advertisement from New York Times

Remember the furor when MoveOn.org ran this full-page advertisement in the New York Times back in September 2007?

The ad triggered a firestorm of criticism.

The Senate passed an amendment to “strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus”. All 49 Republican Senators and 22 Democratic Senators voted in support. Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd voted against the amendment while Barack Obama and Joseph Biden did not vote. Then-Senator Obama issued a statement calling the resolution, put forward by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, “A stunt. By not casting a vote, I registered my protest against these empty politics.” The U.S. House passed an amendment to a continuing budget resolution which condemned the ad “in the strongest terms” by a 341-79 vote.

President George W. Bush called the ad “disgusting.”

House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying “The despicable attack ad run by MoveOn.org in the New York Times against General Petraeus deserves to be condemned by all members of this House.”

As it turned out, the advertisement was an understatement. Not long after the advertisement, Mr. Petraeus not only betrayed his country; he also betrayed his spouse, Holly Petraeus. And now he’s going to cop a plea to it. Let’s be clear about this, the lead in the New York Times reads:

David H. Petraeus, the best-known military commander of his generation, has reached a plea deal with the Justice Department and admitted providing his highly classified journals to a mistress when he was the director of the C.I.A.

Petraeus was indicted for leaking classified military information to his mistress and biographer, Pamela Broadwell. Let’s be clear about this, too: General Petraeus, then the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, leaked classified information to the woman he was sleeping with, as a part of a vanity project disguised as a biography. Petraeus broke the law again when he told the F.B.I. that he hadn’t given secret information to his mistress. That charge seems to have been dropped; others have served hard time for less.

Petraeus has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. He is eligible for up to one year in prison but under the terms of the plea agreement prosecutors will recommend a sentence of probation for two years and a $40,000 fine. The Department of Justice hasn’t explained why Petraeus received a light penalty compared to others caught up in Attorney General Eric Holder’s crackdown on leakers and whistleblowers.

Stephen J. Kim, a defense contractor, received a yearlong prison sentence for disclosing classified information to a reporter for Fox News. A former F.B.I. bomb technician, Donald Sachtleben, received nearly four years in prison for discussing classified information with the Associated Press. Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term for talking about classified information with a reporter for the New York Times.

Kim, Sachtleben and Sterling were at least arguably whistleblowers. They went to the media to protest illegal activities by a government agency, or misconduct, or overreaching. General Petraeus had nothing remotely resembling a proper motive; he was the stinking Director of the C.I.A. and he gave secret information to his lover to juice his biography. The guy with arguably the worst conduct gets the lightest treatment.

It stinks.

But the indisputable fact is that David Petraeus betrayed us. MoveOn.Org was right. WC looks forward to apologies from all those who accused MoveOn.Org of being the bad guy.

PS. If you think WC is upset, read Jim Wright’s post.