The beginning of the affair

Time lines are useful, but only if they are accurate. Reuters’ time line claims that General Petraeus’ extra-marital affair began “after he left military service,” i.e., in August 2011 or later.

However, there are reports that suggest the affair may have commenced earlier. For example, according to this piece by leftist Spencer Ackerman:

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2010. Petraeus and his wife Holly attended the Washington, D.C., wedding of counterinsurgents David Kilcullen and Janine Davidson. So did Broadwell and her husband, Scott. Yet “Paula was on the arm of Petraeus throughout the whole reception,” says one attendee. “They were in each other’s personal space, with her husband and his wife right there.”

In July of that year [2010], Petraeus assumed command of the war effort in Afghanistan. Broadwell arrived in Kabul shortly thereafter. Her Facebook timeline quickly filled with accounts of her runs and her meals with the new commander. Attractive, athletic, and, above all, gung ho, rumors quickly flew — as they did when any woman beneath a certain age and below a certain body mass index score spent time in the largely male confines of a military headquarters.

Ackerman accepts the claim that the affair didn’t begin until after Petraeus left the Army in the summer of 2011. He notes that the Uniform Code of Military Justice expressly forbids adultery, whereas the CIA permits adultery as long as certain conditions, e.g., disclosure, are met. Yet, in some ways it is more reckless for the director of the CIA to commit adultery than for an Army general to do so. In any event, the Uniform Code’s prohibition has been violated more than once.

Why does it matter when Petreaus commenced the affair? From his point of view, adultery committed while he was in the Army would result in penalties. From our point of view, the timing matters because if Petraeus committed adultery before President Obama selected him to lead the CIA, the transgression likely would have come to light during the background investigation associated with the General’s appointment.

This is particularly likely if it is true that Petraeus and Paula Broadwell were spending considerable time together and/or were openly affectionate. Indeed, if the above reports are true, warning bells should have sounded during the background investigation even if the relationship had yet not become an outright affair. Did they? If so, how were they resolved? If not, why not?

It aleady seems clear, even using the Reuters time line, that Petraeus’ affair should have resulted in his removal from the CIA before the election. The open question is whether, given his relationship with Broadwell, he should have been permitted to assume the DCIA position in the first place.

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