Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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So the head of the CIA (USA's Central Intelligence Agency, the largest and most invasive security force in the world) fell on his sword after an extra-marital affair was discovered and made public. General David Petraeus' sexual exploits with Paula Broadwell continue a long and noble tradition among leaders in the USA, from John F Kennedy's rampant womanising to Bill Clinton's unseemly conduct with Monica Lewinsky in the White House itself. Ironically, it was the FBI who found him out - some would say that the FBI is the CIA's biggest rival, now that the USA and Russia are friends and the KGB is largely history.

General Petraeus took very careful steps to cover up his affair. His communication with Broadwell was via an anonymous Gmail account to which both parties had access - if one of them wanted to send a message to the other, he or she would log on to the account, compose a message and save it in the "drafts" folder without sending it. The other person would then log on to the same account and look in the "drafts" folder; any replies would be saved there as well. In this way no emails were ever actually sent, thus drastically reducing (but not eliminating) their electronic footprint.

General David Petraeus and Paul Broadwell in happier times

The affair would not have been discovered if Paula Broadwell had not made the mistake of sending a threatening email to Jill Kelley, a family friend of General Petraeus. Kelley reported the matter to the FBI, and because of General Petraeus' position as head of the CIA, the FBI started investigating. No emails may actually have been sent between the two parties, but all their draft messages to each other (many containing sexually explicit material) were saved on Google's servers and were made available to the FBI when a warrant was served. After that it was a simple matter for the FBI to track down the two culprits.

But the ironic thing is that neither Broadwell nor Petraeus committed any crimes. They may have behaved immorally and unethically, but that is not against the law (at least not in the USA). Yet General Petraeus felt he had to resign, even though it was generally acknowledged that he had been pretty good at his job. On the other hand, American politicians and administrators can happily order people to be tortured and even killed in the name of "state security" and no shame is attached to that; in fact, such executions are often glorified. What's going on here? Has the world reached the point where an unhappy marriage is a greater sin than mass murder?

Surely Petraeus' private life was his concern, and provided it did not impact on his job then it should have remained just that - his private life? Not in the USA, apparently ...

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa