Former CIA director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus will plead guilty to one charge of removing and retaining classified information, according to a deal announced by the Justice Department on Tuesday.
The deal will preclude a trial of — and likely prevent a jail sentence against — one of America’s foremost military officers in an incident involving an extramarital affair. Mr. Petraeus had been potentially facing felony charges growing out of an affair he had with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Though high-ranking government officials — including President Obama — have said they do not believe Mr. Petraeus revealed any information to Ms. Broadwell that could put the U.S. in danger, the FBI investigated the leaks as a security breach since they appeared to be coming from the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
According to documents filed in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mr. Petraeus gave Ms. Broadwell access to his “Black Books,” records from his time in Afghanistan and Iraq that include his schedule and activities. But the books also included Mr. Petraeus’ notes from high-level meetings that could have included troop movements and tactics as well as the overall U.S. strategy.
Though they should have been given to Pentagon officials at the conclusion of his tours of duty, officials said Mr. Petraeus kept the books in his Arlington, Virginia, home before loaning them to Ms. Broadwell.
“David Howell Petraeus left the Black Books at the D.C. Private Residence in order to facilitate his biographer’s access to the Black Books and the information contained therein to be used as source material for his biography, titled ‘All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,’” court documents said.
The fact that Mr. Petraeus provided the classified books to Ms. Broadwell came to light after the FBI uncovered that the two — both of whom were and are married to other people — were having an affair.
Mr. Petraeus had faced a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine when sentenced, but the court papers show that prosecutors instead recommended a $40,000 fine and two years probation. Federal judges aren’t bound by prosecutor recommendations, but rarely punish guilty pleas more harshly than the Justice Department seeks.
Tuesday’s papers did not schedule a sentencing date.
The Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group, called the announcement a “selective and vindictive enforcement of the law.”
The government slams most whistleblowers with harsh prison sentences, even when they are revealing information “in the public interest,” said Jesselyn Radack, GAP’s national security director.
But “well-connected, politically powerful leakers like Petraeus, whose leaks are of no benefit to the public, are given a slap on the wrist, or a promotion and a book deal,” she said.
The charges of revealing classified information and the affair marred an otherwise-stellar career. Mr. Petraeus rose to national prominence in 2006 in the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq. His leadership was credited with helping drive out Islamist extremists who had taken control of large majority-Sunni areas of the country.