As the Democrats gloated over the victory of Barack Obama in the recently-held US presidential elections and citizens of the most powerful nation sat for a repose after an exhausting electoral campaign, the resignation of David Petraeus shocked America and to en extent the world. The Central Intelligence Agency, known more by the feared acronym CIA, lost its boss to a scandal that seems to get murkier by the day. Paula Broadwell, the biographer of the four-star general who once commanded US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, was unmasked as his paramour. A probe revealed that she had written a threatening email to Jill Kelley warning her to stay away from Petraeus. The anonymous nature of the emails sent to the Florida socialite triggered a chain reaction that brought down one of the most powerful and charismatic officials in the US.
When the FBI started investigating the emails of Kelley, who is also a ‘liaison representative’ with the military, they stumbled on a large number of messages exchanged with General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan. The nature of these messages pointed to an affair between him and Kelley.
All In, is General Petraeus’ biography penned by Broadwell who got unlimited access to her book’s subject and his resources, to the extent of often unsettling his security details and aides. She is said to have even accompanied the CIA boss on his runs. It was while scouring Kelley’s mail box that FBI agents also came across messages that showed a romantic liaison between the two. The resignation of Petraeus dropped like a bombshell on the entire security establishment.
The gaunt-looking top CIA official’s resignation came as a surprise to many. In the US, there was nothing so surprising about an ageing man having an affair outside marriage. Petraeus’ rotund-looking wife is a working woman and is the daughter of a former military official.
The Monica Lewinsky affair had seen a contrite but combative US president fend off the derision of an entire nation. In that light, Petraeus resignation raised many eyebrows. He is to depose before a Congressional panel on the Benghazi incident that claimed the life of the US ambassador to Libya and some other US officials. It was being speculated that Petraeus might have been forced to say or do things against his wishes in relation to the probe into the Benghazi attack. Some said he may have been blackmailed with the threat of his affair made public.
It came to light on Wednesday that Broadwell had a trove of secret documents on her computer. Speaking to mediapersons on Wednesday, President Obama said that there is no evidence that state secrets were compromised. The entire affair is a wake-up call for the US administration. Instead of trying to fend off allegations of impropriety and going on the defensive, Washington needs to introspect. An incisive inward-looking inquest can go a long way in pointing out what is wrong with top officials that makes them vulnerable to such indiscretions.