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“I was a spy for a long time,” said former CIA operations officer Robert Baer. “If I was trying to penetrate the U.S. military, I’d give my right arm for a source like that.”

He said that Mrs. Kelley probably had “better access than the president of the United States to all those senior military officials” at McDill, which is also the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command.

“The family is deep in debt, which you can easily discover” from public records, Mr. Baer added.

“She’s a classic agent of access,” he said, referring to people recruited because of their contacts.

“Who knows who she might have brought along to those parties?” he said of Mrs. Kelly’s social affairs.

Some observers have suggested that the Petraeus affair might have raised concern because of the danger of blackmail, but that is a rather old-fashioned view, according to a former senior intelligence official with counterintelligence experience.

“I do think the blackmail risk is overstated, especially in this day and age and with those people,” he said, referring to Mr. Petraeus and Gen. Allen.

Even if foreign agents hacked the email account Mrs. Broadwell and Mr. Petraeus were using and were able to access the CIA director’s personal computer, the risk would be low, according to the former senior intelligence official.

“On a personal computer, there shouldn’t be anything important there,” he said. “I had broad access [to classified information], and I can tell you, you wouldn’t have gotten anything from my personal computer.”

Even messages the CIA director was exchanging with his mistress that might contain scheduling information or personal reflections on how aspects of his work was going would be “really at the margins of usefulness” for a foreign spy service.

The affair was “more of a personal problem than a national one,” he added.