Petraeus Had Friends in High Places as Leak Sentence Loomed

Former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

An array of friends in high places came to the aid of retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus as he faced sentencing for providing classified data to his mistress, newly released court papers show.

Senator Lindsey Graham and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair were among almost three dozen people who wrote a federal judge urging leniency for Petraeus. The former general was sentenced to two years probation after he signed a plea deal to avoid jail time.

The documents were filed under seal until a challenge by media organizations including Bloomberg News resulted in the papers being released Monday under the Freedom of Information Act.

Petraeus was sentenced in April and also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine for giving classified material to Paula Broadwell, his biographer with whom he had an extramarital affair.

Petraeus’s request for leniency was backed up by a who’s who of leaders in the world of foreign policy and defense, including President Barack Obama’s former national security advisor Tom Donilon and Ryan Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those who wrote on Petraeus’s behalf were: Graham Allison, founding dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat; Stephen Hadley, national security advisor to President George W. Bush; retired Admiral William McRaven, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Blair Praise

Others knew him in different capacities, including as a West Point plebe, a West Point professor, a supporter of programs to assist returning military veterans, and as a personal friend.

Blair praised Petraeus’s character and said “the world needs his continued engagement and presence.”

Several supporters said he played a pivotal role in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

“Twice when our armed forces faltered in the field and national policy hung in the balance, two presidents -- one Republican, one Democrat -- called on Dave to lead the surge forces that restored momentum in two theaters and established the conditions necessary for a safe and secure American withdrawal,” wrote retired Colonel Joseph Collins, who said he has known Petraeus for 30 years.

In Iraq, commanding the U.S. and allied forces, Petraeus was “tireless, focused and absolutely committed” to the U.S. mission, said Crocker, who worked along side him as U.S. ambassador.

Two Theaters

“General Petraeus is a tireless public servant,” said Donilon. “He was deployed in war zones for years over the past decade at great personal sacrifice to him and his family. He faced immense pressure and responsibility in commanding men and women in two theaters of war. He was and is devoted to those whom he has commanded, as reflected in the work he has done with veterans organizations since his retirement.”

The past two years “have been a punishing period for him and his family,” wrote Donilon. “He continues to provide unique experience and insights to the nation as we deal with a wide range of continuing national security threats.”

Petraeus in March admitted he provided notebooks containing classified information to his mistress, ending an investigation that derailed his public career. He agreed to plead guilty to the unauthorized possession of classified information to avoid a trial. The misdemeanor charge carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Petraeus resigned from his Central Intelligence Agency post in November 2012 after his relationship with Broadwell became public. He has acknowledged the affair, which began about two months after he took over as CIA director in 2011 and ended four months before he resigned.

He had previously strongly denied providing Broadwell with classified information.

The case is U.S. v Petraeus, 3:15-cr-047. U.S. District Court, Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte).

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