Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Would you quit a high profile job if the FBI notified you they knew you were cheating on your spouse?

Asked by wundayatta (58599points) November 10th, 2012

David Petraeus was notified by the FBI that they knew he had been cheating on his wife. They had been investigating the woman he was having an affair with.

Ok, he’s a military man and all, and the military has strange notions of honor, but still what does his sex life have to do with his job? The FBI knows, so it’s hard to imagine he can be blackmailed.

Still, he is the head of the CIA. Does this put him at risk, even if everyone knows? Could he be compromised? Is that why he quit? Or did he quit because of this strange notion that breaking a private vow somehow means he is unfit for public office? I don’t get it. How would something he does in his private life that is between him and his family affect his ability to do his work? Is he going to be spending all his time in therapy or something?

What do you think of all this?

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47 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

I think it is odd that the FBI thought that perhaps he had compromised this country’s intelligence and the entire thing is kept under wraps until after the election.

Mariah's avatar

I think it’s bullshit if his employer thinks they can have any say over his personal life.

Having an affair isn’t illegal, so I don’t understand how it could be anybody’s business.

bkcunningham's avatar

His girlfriend allegedly had access to CIA email accounts and Petraeus’ email account. Isn’t that correct, @wundayatta?

glacial's avatar

@bkcunningham The FBI is not under any responsibility to expose his affair to the public… it’s not illegal to cheat on your wife. It’s not clear to me what the legality is of being lax on access to his classified emails, but it would still be inappropriate for the FBI to say anything to the press until they’re ready to bring charges. Petraeus made the story public – probably guessing correctly that it was just a matter of time before it leaked anyway. If anyone should be blamed for “keeping the secret until after the election”, it should be him. And frankly, I’m not sure there is anything wrong in that. What happened is not anyone’s fault but his.

bkcunningham's avatar

The point is, @glacial, he was setting himself up for potential blackmail or bribes or who knows what and it would compromise the country’s security. You aren’t sure on the legality of being lax on your classified emails. Alrighty then.

glacial's avatar

@bkcunningham No, sorry, I didn’t look that up. What would be the charge?

My point about the timing is that if the FBI evidently did not have enough knowledge to remove him from his job or file charges, so why would they be running to the press – or do you know something about the evidence that I don’t?

bkcunningham's avatar

I think you are missing the point, @glacial. The head of the CIA is being investigated for possibly jeopardizing the US’s security and the entire story doesn’t break until the day after the election. Who knew what and when did they know it, is part of my point?

wildpotato's avatar

An extramarital affair is grounds for a court marshal in the military. Also, I believe the reasoning goes that to not resign would set an example for enlisted that this sort of behavior is acceptable. My source is AP (on iPhone app; sorry I can’t link). So yeah, weird sense of honor, I guess. But the blackmail thing wouldn’t have to be just for the FBI – maybe they’re worried about threats to expose the affair to his wife, or something.

Anyway, Petraeus had to offer his resignation, I think, just from the situation – the question is more whether Obama ha to accept it.

bkcunningham's avatar

Will he voluntarily testify about Benghazi or will he have to be subpoenaed?

wundayatta's avatar

But once he announces the affair, no one can blackmail him, can they? It’s public knowledge. They can’t get him to do anything to try to protect his secrets since he doesn’t have secrets.

I have to wonder if there is more to this. If there is something else going on. I feel like there is another shoe yet to fall. But maybe not. Maybe this really is this notion of military honor. I didn’t know you could get court martialled in the military for an extramarital affair. But that’s military law. He works for the civilians at the CIA, doesn’t he?

I’m not clear on why they were investigating his girl friend. There was something about security on his computer, but I don’t know anything more than that. I’m sure more details will come out.

I’m really curious about the logic in his mind. I figure maybe some of you with military experience might be able to explain it. My sense of honor is different. I believe in real gestures of honor, rather than symbolic ones. This feels very symbolic to me, but I think it is wrong. He shouldn’t have to resign. Not for this. Maybe for something else, but on the face of it, this seems like too little.

So either there is more to it, or I simply don’t understand military notions of honor, and this can’t make sense to me.

As to Benghazi, my understanding is that his deputy will be testifying. He is no longer the head of the CIA. Perhaps that means it is no longer appropriate for him to testify. I don’t know.

Shippy's avatar

Perhaps they think that if he can lie and deceive those closest to him, he could of course do it to random people. Like in the course of his job.

glacial's avatar

@bkcunningham Ok, then my question to you is, at what point during the investigation would you like for the FBI have gone to the press? Because as far as I’m concerned, unless they have enough evidence to press charges, they have no business whatsoever talking to the press. It is still “innocent until proven guilty” in your country, isn’t it?

@Shippy Isn’t lying and deceiving people close to him kind of part of his job? It’s the CIA. ~

bkcunningham's avatar

He was head of the CIA when it went down, @wundayatta. He should and most likely will testify.

@glacial, isn’t it sad that the FBI has to “go to the press” instead of the press knowing these things already? The job of the press isn’t to wait on press releases. Anyway, the point isn’t when the FBI goes to the press, but when the shit hit the fan and the FBI knew that that something was going on that could hurt our security. I don’t care when or if they bring something to the press.

The point is when they knew and for how long they knew and kept it under wraps. Do you think they alerted him to the fact that he was under investigation and they discovered he was having an affair the day he resigned? How long did the White House know?

I am just asking. I have no idea. It is questions the press should do their jobs and find out instead of sitting waiting on a press release. That isn’t journalism.

glacial's avatar

@bkcunningham Your response is very muddled. You seem to want very badly for there to be a conspiracy, and I don’t know why you jump to that conclusion.

My understanding of the events is this:

1. Petraeus has an affair. Obviously, he is not going to run and tell the press – so yeah, it’s going to be some action by the FBI that initiates press involvement.

2. FBI finds out about affair. They want to know whether it affects national security, so the begin an investigatoin.

3. FBI tells Petraeus that he is under investigation. This allows Petraeus to have his “holy shit, what have I done” moment, and stop any activity that might cause a security breach.

4. Petraeus, realizing that once anyone has the story, soon everyone will have the story, decides to resign and tell the press.

The point we seem to be arguing, @bkcunningham, is whether the FBI knew enough to inform anyone other than Petraeus about the investigation. My point is, we don’t know if they know enough even now to bring charges. Maybe they don’t. But you seem to be saying that they must have known everything somewhere between event 2 and event 3, and are pretending that they didn’t so that the election would be unaffected. I don’t understand why you would just leap to the conclusion that they are hiding something.

bkcunningham's avatar

It isn’t muddled, @glacial. I’m asking who knew and when did they know?

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @Shippy

While, personally I lean towards officials private lives remaining private,OTOH there is much truth in that there is little separation in matters of integrity. If one can cheat on a spouse without conscience they can also make other decisions based on shady character.
It’s sort of like splitting hairs when it comes to lying. Sure there are degrees of lying, some more damaging than others, but a lie is a lie is a lie.

If someone can lie and conceal an extra marital affair I wouldn’t bet my life that this is the ONLY area of compromised character to be concerned with.
My answer would be yes, I would step down, the humiliation and shame alone would send me packing without any need to be demoted.

bkcunningham's avatar

Another thing I’m curious about is exactly who in the FBI is investigating the head of the CIA and why? Is that how they found out about the affair? How did this all come about? What was the FBI investigating about the CIA and/or Petraeus? Isn’t anyone else curious?

dabbler's avatar

The only way it is a security risk is in the situation that someone could blackmail him for it.
I agree that since the affair is now public knowledge that risk is gone.

I don’t particularly like Petraeus, but his integrity in his personal relationships is distinct from his workplace integrity. Personally I don’t care what he does in his personal life, it’s none of my business. And we do NOT know what understanding he and his wife have about this sort of thing, it’s their business.

whitenoise's avatar

@bkcunningham do you think it would have been relevant to the elections?

If so, then isn’t it a good thing they waited until after the elections?
If not… Then what’s your point?

bkcunningham's avatar

My point, @whitenoise, is that there are many unanswered questions. Aren’t you the least bit curious?

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham Read the NY Times story about it.

They were not investigating Petraeus. They were investigating his girl friend. In the course of that investigation, they discovered who she was seeing. They told him they knew. He was the one who decided to tell the President. The President, so they say, didn’t know until Petraeus told him. I don’t think the FBI made him do anything. He wasn’t under investigation. But he knew that at some point, the facts would get out to the press, and he wanted to be out in front of it.

He’s not under investigation. He didn’t do anything illegal. He may not have been blackmailed at all by anyone. Once he comes out with the story, he can’t be blackmailed. National security was not jeopardized, although I suppose he did open the door for a problem. That could be considered bad judgment. But bad judgment is not necessarily grounds for dismissal. Everyone makes mistakes.

Once he comes clean, he is no longer a security threat. Therefore, there is no reason for him not to be able to do his job.

Normally, I might agree with @Coloma about issues of character, but in this case, we are talking about the CIA. It is his job to be able to hold secrets. He holds thousands of secrets, I’m sure. It must be part of his character. The fact that he was unable to keep one private secret does not necessarily mean anything about job performance.

I think there is more to this than meets the eye.

dabbler's avatar

I think the FBI routinely investigate people in high security positions to detect vulnerabilities to being compromised, and this seems appropriate to me. Historically people who are compromised are often muddled up in some problem, gambling debts, drug addiction, and sexual dalliances.

bkcunningham's avatar

Why were they investigating his girlfriend, @wundayatta?

Actually, the NY Times piece says, “Government officials said that the F.B.I. began an investigation into a ‘potential criminal matter’ several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns. About two weeks ago, F.B.I. agents met with Mr. Petraeus to discuss the investigation.”

And did you notice the names of the sources in the piece?

wundayatta's avatar

There were a lot of sources, but none of them stuck out at me. I don’t know why they were investigating Paula Broadwell. But I guess they thought she might have access to his computer. This may have been a concern. I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know. I gather they didn’t find anything relevant to law breaking, but they did find out about the affair, and as a courtesy, I guess, they told Petraeus. This is how the FBI can ruin your life without actually finding any real evidence of wrongdoing. It is weird and unsettling that an investigation that goes nowhere can have such a huge impact.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta There always is more to the story than we will ever be privy too. This is why, while fun to hypothesize, really, we’re just entertaining ourselves from a speculative POV.
Spectator hypothesizing, a new Olympic sport. lol

bkcunningham's avatar

I didn’t see where it said in your link that the FBI was investigating, Broadwell, @wundayatta. Can you show me? Also, would you please name even three of the named sources you see in the story?

mazingerz88's avatar

I would not quit the Presidency of the United States if I cheated on my wife. That would not make me unstable. Despicable, yes, but not unstable. Lol. And unfortunately, they will try to impeach me.

If Paula Broadwell turns out to be a non-malicious criminal case ( is there such a thing? ) and she was just being a nosy lover who checks her lover’s computer out of curiosity or maybe just wants to find out if he has another lover on the side…then that by itself should be non-consequential. The difference is…her lover this time is the CIA Director.

Petraus catching her using his computer.

Petraus : Hey, don’t put your finger where it does not belong-!
Paula : Well, get yours out first, sweetie…

And the CIA Director is no James Bond, who can sleep with women and kill them if he catches them reading his Tweets.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I dont know a whole lot about this, but from what I’ve heard I think its pretty stupid. I mean ok the guy was having an affair, he’s a shitty husband but how that makes him unfit for a job is beyond me.

Then again this thing seems to be the way to go when you’re involved with politics, caught cheating, you step down from office. Honestly I can give two shits who you’re fucking as long as you’re doing your job.

mazingerz88's avatar

@uberbatman He may not be doing his job, unintentionally giving a civilian access to his files-?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@mazingerz88 like I said, I dont know a whole lot about this case, if that was indeed happening, I believe he should step down, but all I keep hearing is he had an affair so he’s stepping down.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham Here is the section about the subject of the investigation:

Government officials said that the F.B.I. began an investigation into a “potential criminal matter” several months ago that was not focused on Mr. Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Mr. Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns. About two weeks ago, F.B.I. agents met with Mr. Petraeus to discuss the investigation.

Administration and Congressional officials identified the woman as Paula Broadwell, the co-author of a biography of Mr. Petraeus. Her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” was published this year. Ms. Broadwell could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Broadwell, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, spent 15 years in the military, according to a biography that had appeared on her Web site. She spent extended periods of time with Mr. Petraeus in Afghanistan, interviewing him for her book, which grew out of a two-year research project for her doctoral dissertation and which she promoted on a high-profile tour that included an appearance on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

Married with two children, she has described Mr. Petraeus as her mentor.

Government officials
Administration and Congressional Officials
One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter
More congressional officials
White House officials
David Patraeus
Stephen Biddle, a military scholar at George Washington University who advised Mr. Petraeus at times
administration official
Jay Carney, the press secretary
the president
David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager
Col. Michael J. Meese, a professor at West Point who has known Mr. Petraeus for a decade and served as one of his top aides in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence

Is there some problem with your version of the Times?

Coloma's avatar

Well ya know, those “mentoring” situations…lol

augustlan's avatar

I’ve always been under the impression that affairs are grounds for firing in the security branches. They’re considered a huge security risk. Even when my ex-husband was getting secret clearance to work a computer job in the Pentagon, they did a background investigation and they were definitely on the lookout for affairs. Once you’re caught having one, I’d think the normal course of events would result in your getting fired, even if it’s not longer a security threat. I think he stepped down to avoid that outcome.

bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta, those aren’t sources. White House officials, government officials, administration and congressional officials…these aren’t named sources who gave the pertinent information in the article. Do you realize the difference? I’m not being a smart alec, I’m being totally serious. Do you realize the difference in a named source and the sources you listed? Maybe not everyone does.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes, these are sources talking to a NYT reporter on condition that their names not be mentioned. In addition, there are named sources. Is it problematic that they didn’t name sources? Absolutely. Is it common these days? Yes. Does it mean we should ask questions? Yes. Does it mean that the story is misleading? Possibly, but unlikely.

This is the NYT. They have a reputation. They don’t do this kind of thing lightly, although they have gotten caught in the past with fake reporting. But an event of this magnitude—there will be holy hell to pay if they turn out to be wrong, and there is no need to make up a story like this.

And look at how many different sources there were? The administration. Congress. Other government officials. Plus others in the administration and Congress.

It’s up to you to decide whether you trust it or not. I do. If you don’t, please just say so, instead of playing teacher. And tell me why. I’ll listen.

bkcunningham's avatar

Well, the first thing you need to learn is that a named source isn’t a government official or a White House official without a name. That is journalism 101. “They don’t do anything lightly, although they have gotten caught in the past with fake reporting.” ROFLMAO

Anyway, I simply asked if you noticed there weren’t any sources and you said there were a lot of sources which isn’t true. I“m not saying they are wrong. I’m just saying that there is a possibility that they aren’t right either. It astounds me that people aren’t more curious and I can’t help but wonder why people just take things at face value without questioning especially when we know people can write fake stories.

zenvelo's avatar

For those considering possible military discipline, Petraeus retired from the military when he took on the job at CIA. He will always be called General, it’s an honorific.

It’s not his sex life that is a concern, it’s his poor judgment in having an affair while head of the CIA. And the investigation started with an inquiry to see if his computer had been compromised.

flutherother's avatar

Someone in a position of such responsibility has to be seen to be squeaky clean. If having an affair was acceptable for him it would have to be acceptable to everyone in the organisation and this would lead to a collapse in morale and the ability of the organisation to function. (I’m not saying that would be a bad thing.)

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham I understand what you are saying. I’m not concerned in this case. I’d heard the same information from other sources, as well.

@flutherother It is acceptable to have an affair and to keep your job, in my opinion. It wouldn’t make the organization fall apart. In fact, if would probably make it stronger if people didn’t have to hide their human natures all the time and constantly be looking over their shoulders. I find it very sad that these are the rules, official or unofficial, that public service requires of its employees. We probably lose some very good people as a result, and that is something we can’t afford.

Coloma's avatar

IMO this is such a stupid thing to get involved in when one is in a position of scrutiny.
I mean really, out of all the gazillions of possibilities to wrangle up some extra curricular sexual release is it really necessary to have an affair with a consort and risk public exposure if one is REALLY serious about their job.
I just cry ” fool”.

wundayatta's avatar

Here’s some information about his relationship with his Mistress. She was a cadet at West Point in the “Sosh” program that trains military folks to be politicians. She was very big into physical fitness, and she wrote a biography of him. She was also beautiful. Apparently having a beautiful, smart, strong, young woman admire him so much was too much to resist.

If she’d been his student at West Point, he probably would have been able to say no to her. But they were both adults in the real world, out there in the wars of Afghanistan, and she was there all the time. He was probably lonely without his wife, and here was a woman who made him feel like a God. Too much to resist, I guess.

And then they were back in the States, and they couldn’t break it off.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta Sounds like a romance biography, maybe you should go for the authorship.

Judi's avatar

In the CIA it is important that you don’t put yourself in a position where you can be blackmailed. They have a higher level of accountability. If the leader does the thing that others are fired for, he really has no choice but to tender his resignation. I’m sure more will come out. I think I heard something about someone trying to hack his email. This could be related.

wundayatta's avatar

Could this letter; (scroll down to “My Wife’s Lover”) be by Paula Broadwell’s husband? It’s to an ethicist who says the letter writer should just separate from his wife, instead of putting up with her affair in order to support a “project” that he thinks is important for the United States.

Fly's avatar

I don’t see how the affair in any way affects Petraeus’ ability to perform his job. It’s always a bit upsetting for me to see people resign from jobs over a personal relationship that in no way interferes with their professional life. I imagine that public figures, particularly those involved in politics, are often pressured to resign when such scandals come out so as to avoid controversy. People in other lines of work have affairs all the time, and you rarely see any of them resign from their jobs or lose their jobs over it. Petraeus did the professional thing by announcing the affair himself- he avoided the possibility of blackmail, and since he came out about the affair himself, the hype likely would have died down in a matter of weeks. To me, that is enough, and his resignation was unnecessary.

For those who were curious, this is how the affair was discovered. It doesn’t change my opinion about his resignation, but it sheds some more light on the situation.

chyna's avatar

@Fly Thanks for the link. Unless there are things we don’t know, I agree with you that I don’t see why he resigned over an affair.
I wonder if charges will be brought against Paula Broadwell for sending threats?

mazingerz88's avatar

Seems the FBI ruled out any national security related concern regarding her emails?

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