The evidence that Gen. David Petraeus, formerly the commander of US troops in Afghanistan, the author of the current Army field manual, Princeton Ph.D. and, until last week, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was forced to resign from the CIA to silence him is far stronger than is the version of events that the Obama administration has given us.
The government would have us believe that because the FBI confronted Petraeus with his emails showing a pattern of inappropriate personal private behavior, he voluntarily departed his job as the country’s chief spy to avoid embarrassment. The government would also have us believe that the existence of the general’s relationship with Paula Broadwell, an unknown military scholar who wrote a book about him last year, was recently and inadvertently discovered by the FBI while it was conducting an investigation into an alleged threat made by Broadwell to another woman. And the government would as well have us believe that the president learned of all this at 5 p.m. on Election Day.
We now know that the existence of a personal relationship between Broadwell and Petraeus had been suspected and whispered about by his senior-level colleagues and by his personal staff in the military, who worried that it might become publicly known, since before the time that he came to run the CIA.
We also know that when he was nominated to run the CIA, that nomination was preceded by a two-month FBI-conducted background check that likely would have revealed the existence of his relationship with Broadwell. The FBI agents conducting that background check surely would have seen his visitor logs while he commanded our troops and would have interviewed his military colleagues and regular visitors and those colleagues who knew him well and worked with him every day, and thus learned about his personal life. That’s their job.
And that information would have been reported immediately to President Obama and to the Senate Intelligence Committee, prior to Petraeus’ formal nomination and prior to his Senate confirmation hearing.
In the modern era, office-holders with forgiving spouses simply do not resign from powerful jobs because of a temporary, non-criminal, consensual adult sexual liaison, as the history of the FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, and Clinton presidencies attest. So, why is Petraeus different? Someone wants to silence him.
Gen. Petraeus told the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Sept. 14, 2012 that the mob attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, three days earlier, was a spontaneous reaction of Libyans angered over a YouTube clip some believed insulted the prophet Muhammed. He even referred to that assault -- which resulted in the murders of four Americans, now all thought to have been CIA agents -- as a “flash mob.” His scheduled secret testimony this week before the same congressional committees will produce a chastened, diminished Petraeus who will be confronted with a mountain of evidence contradicting his September testimony, perhaps exposing him to charges of perjury or lying to Congress and causing substantial embarrassment to the president.
It’s obvious that someone was out to silence Petraeus. Who could believe the government version of all this? The same government that wants us to believe that FBI agents innocently and accidentally discovered the Petraeus/Broadwell affair a few months ago and confronted Petraeus with his emails a few weeks ago is a cauldron of petty jealousies. From the time of its creation in 1947, the CIA has been a bitter rival of the FBI. The two agencies are both equipped with lethal force, they both often operate outside the law, and they are each seriously potent entities. Their rivalry was tempered by federal laws that until 2001 kept the CIA from operating in the U.S. and the FBI from operating outside the U.S.
In one of his many overreactions to the events of 9/11, however, President George W. Bush changed all that with an ill-conceived executive order that unlawfully unleashed the CIA inside the US and the FBI into foreign countries. Rather than facilitating a cooperative spirit in defense of individual freedom and national security, this reignited their rivalry. FBI agents, for example, publicly exposed CIA agents whom they caught torturing detainees at Gitmo, and Bush was forced to restrain the CIA.
Isn’t it odd that FBI agents would be reading the emails of the CIA director to his mistress and that the director of the FBI, who briefs the president weekly, did not make the president aware of this? The FBI could only lawfully spy on Petraeus by the use of a search warrant, and it could only get a search warrant if its agents persuaded a federal judge that Petraeus himself -- not his mistress -- was involved in criminal behavior under federal law.
The agents also could have bypassed the federal courts and written their own search warrant under the Patriot Act, but only if they could satisfy themselves (a curious and unconstitutional standard) that the general was involved in terror-related activity. Both preconditions for a search warrant are irrelevant and would be absurd in this case.
All this -- the FBI spying on the CIA -- constitutes the government attacking itself. Anyone who did this when neither federal criminal law nor national security has been implicated and kept the president in the dark has violated about four federal statutes and should be fired and indicted. The general may be a cad and a bad husband, but he has the same constitutional rights as the rest of us.
No keen observer could believe the government’s Pollyanna version of these events. When did the CIA become a paragon of honesty? When did the FBI become a paragon of transparency? When did the government become a paragon of telling the truth?
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.