The real Petraeus scandal is why the bureau was rummaging around in his private communications in the first place.

 

 

 

 

” For the past week, Washington has been embroiled in an ever-escalating sex scandal involving Gen. David Petraeus, his biographer Paula Broadwell, and a third woman named Jill Kelley, and now, tangentially it seems, Gen. John Allen. The affair between Petraeus and Broadwell was discovered by the FBI and revealed late last week when Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA. But while the salacious details have kept Washington’s press corps busy, the details about how the bureau ever got this information should concern us far more.

Every turn in the investigation that led to Petraeus’s resignation perfectly illustrates the incredible and dangerous reach of the massive United States surveillance apparatus, which, through hundreds of billions of dollars in post-9/11 programs — coupled with weakened privacy laws and lack of oversight — has affected the civil liberties of every American for years. The only difference here is the victim of the surveillance state’s reach was not a faceless American, but the head one of the agencies tasked to carry it out.

The spark that set events in motion was a handful of allegedly harassing emails sent anonymously to Kelley, a friend of Petraeus’s, which she brought to a friend at the FBI. Yet it’s unclear why an investigation was ever opened, given that everything publicly known about the emails suggests they weren’t illegal.

As the Daily Beast reported, they said things like “Who do you think you are? … You parade around the base … You need to take it down a notch.” The story noted, “when the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted that the absence of any overt threats.” ”

 

 

Illustration By Patrick Chappette