The former celebrity general, a favorite of two presidents, is pleading guilty to mishandling secret information.
Dropping years of denials, former CIA Director David Petraeus pleaded guilty Tuesday to mishandling classified information by providing it to his biographer and former mistress, Paula Broadwell.
New legal documents also show that while director of the CIA, Petraeus lied by telling two FBI special agents during an interview in his office at Langley that he had never provided Broadwell with classified information even though a year earlier he had done just that.
Although making false statements to the FBI in the course of a criminal investigation is a crime, Petraeus is not being charged with that.
Instead, he is being charged with mishandling classified information, a misdemeanor count. The former general’s plea agreement was filed Tuesday in federal in court in the Western District of North Carolina.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both. While no decision has been made yet on his sentencing, his attorneys and federal prosecutors have agreed to ask for two years’ probation and a $40,000 fine. The money will be no problem for Petraeus, who now works in private equity and is thought to earn several million dollars per year. In a statement after the plea deal was announced, Petraeus’s current employer, the KKR Global Institute, said it looked “forward to working with him as he continues to add value as chairman” of the firm.
Petraeus signed the agreement Feb. 22, capping a remarkable fall for the most famous general of his generation and an officer credited with turning around the failing American war effort in Iraq.
The plea deal outlines the types of agreements that Petraeus signed while in the military and as CIA director, in which he committed to never divulge secret or classified information.
The classified information at the heart of the case comes from Petraeus’s time as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, where he kept “bound, five-by-eight inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes that he took during official meetings, conferences and briefings,” according to the plea agreement.
The books had black covers and Petraeus would tape his business card to the cover of them, according to the legal documents. He accumulated eight of these black books during his time in Afghanistan. The books included the identities of covert officers, top-secret code words, war strategy, intelligence capabilities, and notes of conversations with President Barack Obama and with members of the National Security Council.
Petraeus never provided these black books to the Defense Department historian who worked out of the National Defense University and was charged with documenting the general’s handling of the war, which would have been standard practice. Instead, he kept them.
During an August 2011 conversation with Broadwell, which she recorded, he told her he was keeping them in a rucksack.
When she suggested they look through them for the biography she was writing about him, he said, “I mean they are highly classified, some of them. They don’t have it on it, but I mean there’s code word stuff in there,” according to a partial transcript of the recording, which was included in the plea agreement.
Later that month, he wrote to Broadwell to tell her he would share his black books with her. The next day, he delivered the books to a private residence in Washington, D.C., where Broadwell was staying during a weeklong trip to the city.
For the next five days, the black books stayed at this residence for Broadwell to look through as research for her book, All In: The Education of David Petraeus.
The legal document notes that no classified material made it into her book.
After an FBI investigation discovered Petraeus was having an extramarital affair with Broadwell, Petraeus resigned from the CIA on Nov. 9, 2012. The FBI stumbled across the affair while investigating whether a computer used by Petraeus was compromised.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said at the time.
After he resigned from the CIA, he signed a document that declared, “I give my assurance that there is no classified material in my possession, custody, or control at this time.” Meanwhile, his eight black books were still sitting in his home in Arlington, Virginia.
In his house, the CIA had installed a special lock box for Petraeus to keep classified materials, but that was removed in January 2013. It wasn’t until April 2013, when the FBI searched his house, that the black books were found in an unlocked desk drawer in Petraeus’s study.
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