If former CIA Director David Petraeus had his affair while serving the US military, he could face heavy criminal charges. Although his mistress has known Petraeus for six years, the former general claims the affair began after he left the military.
Petraeus began working as CIA director on Sept. 6, 2011, and claims his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell began shortly thereafter and several months after retiring from the Army in August 2011.
But the 40-year-old biographer has spent years getting to know the former general, from meeting him at Harvard’s Kennedy School six years ago to going running with him in Afghanistan. Broadwell made six trips to visit Petraeus in Afghanistan over a one-year period while he was serving the Army, giving her exclusive access and preferential treatment over the other journalists. Staff members suspected Broadwell was in love with the general and questioned the access she was being given.
Petraeus claims no sexual relations were occurring between him and the much-younger woman at this time. If Petraeus had indeed carried out the affair while serving the Army, he could face charges under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and even face a prison sentence.
The code states that “adultery is clearly unacceptable conduct, and it reflects adversely on the service record of the military member”, thereby bringing discredit to the armed forces. The extent of the discredit, and therefore the extent of the punishment, depends in part on the subject’s marital status, military rank, grade and position. As a four-star general, Petraeus could face severe punishments for adultery, including dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and one year imprisonment.
The military weighs the damage done to its reputation as an organization before making decisions on a punishment.
Although Petraeus insists his affair begun two months after he became the CIA director, the way Broadwell acted with the general while he served the Army has caused some to wonder if something was going on at that time. Those who were close to the general said the biographer was embarrassing and too “gushy” about him, and that her feelings had crossed a professional line, ABC News reports.
Former Petraeus aide Peter Mansoor found it questionable that the general let an amateur writer with no journalism experience follow him around and write his biography with more access than reporters from the biggest newspapers in the world.
“For him to allow the very first biography to be written about him, to be written by someone who had never written a book before, seemed very odd to me,” he told ABC News.
As Congress investigates the affair and demands more information, the timeline of events could become clarified and determine the fate of the now-retired general. Any evidence linking his affair to his career in the Army could change the narrative of the scandal.