RALEIGH, North Carolina ― Former CIA Director David Petraeus, whose once-bright political future was all but destroyed over an affair with his biographer, has agreed to plead guilty to charges he shared classified material with her for her book.
The plea agreement ― which carries a possible sentence of up to a year in prison ― represents another blow to the reputation of the retired four-star Army general who led American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was perhaps the most admired military leader of his generation.
Petraeus, 62, agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. The agreement was filed in federal court Tuesday in Charlotte, where Paula Broadwell, the general’s biographer and former mistress, lives with her husband and children.
In this June 23, 2011, file photo, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus gestures during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington. (Yonhap)
In court papers, prosecutors recommended two years of probation and no prison time. But the judge who hears the plea is not bound by that. No immediate date was set for a court hearing for Petraeus to enter the plea.
Prosecutors said that while Broadwell was writing her book in 2011, Petraeus gave her eight binders of classified material he had improperly kept from his time as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Days later, he took the binders back to his house.
Among the secret information contained in the “black books” were the names of covert operatives, the coalition war strategy and notes about Petraeus’ discussions with President Barack Obama and the National Security Council, prosecutors said.
Those binders were later seized by the FBI in a search of Petraeus’ Arlington, Virginia, home, where he had kept them in the unlocked drawer of a desk in a ground-floor study.
Prosecutors said that after resigning from the CIA, Petraeus signed a form falsely attesting he had no classified material. He also lied to FBI agents in denying he supplied the information to Broadwell, according to court documents.
Petraeus’ lawyers, David Kendall and Robert Barnett in Washington, declined to comment. A telephone message left for Broadwell was not immediately returned. Her lawyer, Robert Muse of Washington, said he had no comment.
Petraeus admitted having an affair with Broadwell when he resigned as CIA director in November 2012. Both have publicly apologized and said their romantic relationship began only after he had retired from the military.
Broadwell’s admiring biography of him, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” came out in 2012, before the affair was exposed.
He held the CIA post less than a year, not long enough to leave a significant mark on the spy agency. The core of his identity has been a military man.
A Ph.D. with a reputation as a thoughtful strategist, Petraeus was brought in by President George W. Bush to command multinational forces in Iraq in 2007, a period when the war began to turn in favor of the U.S., though recent events have proven how ephemeral that was.
Petraeus’ command coincided with the “surge” of American forces in Iraq and a plan to pay Sunni militias to fight al-Qaida in Iraq.
With American help, the Sunni tribes were able to push out insurgents and enable U.S. troops to withdraw in 2011. Those same Sunni areas are now controlled by the Islamic State group, which evolved from the remnants of al-Qaida after Iraqi’s Shiite-led government proved weak.
Petraeus was promoted to commander of U.S. Central Command, which has authority over the Middle East. When Gen. Stanley McCrystal was fired in 2010 by Obama as commander in Afghanistan after his staff made impolitic remarks to a Rolling Stone reporter, Petraeus was brought in to replace him.
He wrote the Army manual on counterinsurgency, a doctrine he embraced throughout his career but which has fallen out of favor in recent years amid the setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.