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The Cable

Despite Plea Deal, Petraeus Still Consults for the National Security Council

The White House confirmed that former CIA chief David Petraeus was consulting on the Islamic State. Attorneys for other leakers say there’s a double standard.


It’s been an up-and-down month for former CIA chief David Petraeus. On March 3, he pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with his mistress, Paula Broadwell. On Monday, the White House confirmed that the retired Army general has spent months quietly advising the Obama administration on one of its top foreign-policy priorities: defeating the Islamic State.

In a statement that is likely to do little to quell critics who charge that President Barack Obama has a double standard when it comes to leakers, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Petraeus, who led the strategy shift credited with helping to turn the tide of the Iraq War, has been periodically consulting with the National Security Council (NSC) on Iraq and the fight against the Islamic State.

Petraeus, Earnest said, is “legitimately regarded as an expert when it comes to the security situation in Iraq.”

When asked if the White House was taking any additional security precautions given the former general’s legal entanglements, Earnest said, “Not that I’m aware of.”

The White House spokesman didn’t elaborate on the nature of Petraeus’s consultations or whether he was paid for his services. An email to an NSC spokesperson asking for details on the job, including whether the former CIA boss had access to classified materials, wasn’t returned. The NSC routinely deals with top-secret material.

A hearing on Petraeus’s plea deal is set for April 27 in Charlotte, Broadwell’s hometown. Under the terms of the agreement, he avoids jail but has to pay a $40,000 fine and will be placed on probation, although the judge presiding over the case could impose harsher punishment.

Supporters of others targeted by the federal government for leaks, like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and former State Department contractor Stephen Kim, allege that the leniency toward Petraeus is evidence that the president has two sets of rules: one for well-connected friends of the White House and another for average bureaucrats who spill secrets.

In a letter obtained by Yahoo News, Kim’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, told Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, that there was a “profound double standard” when it came to leak prosecutions that led to people like the former State Department contractor being targeted while others basically walked free. Kim, an expert on North Korea’s nuclear program, pleaded guilty in April 2014 to a felony violation of the Espionage Act for passing along classified information to Fox News reporter James Rosen. He is currently serving 13 months in a federal lockup.

“Lower-level employees like Mr. Kim are prosecuted under the Espionage Act because they are easy targets and lack the resources and political connections to fight back,” Lowell wrote in the March 6 letter, while more senior officials like Petraeus “leak classified information to forward their own agendas (or to impress their mistresses) with virtual impunity.”

An attorney for Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer convicted of leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, has also said he will cite the lax terms of the Petraeus plea deal in seeking more lenient terms for his client during a sentencing hearing next month.

Photo Credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

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