David Petraeus subdued Iraq, steered the course for exit in Afghanistan, and is one of the most decorated generals of his generation. So why was he no match for his biographer?
From all appearances, David Petraeus was in his element. It was the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 7, and the CIA director was the keynote speaker at a high-minded foreign-policy conference in Washington held by the World Affairs Councils of America. The audience of roughly 250 people crowded into a ballroom to hear what was billed as an off-the-record conversation with the legendary general–turned–spy chief.
Petraeus held forth on a vast range of global topics, including U.S. economic competitiveness, China, Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, and the turmoil in the Middle East. “He was thoughtful and methodical,” gushed one participant. “Wow, what an amazing mind.” It was the kind of virtuoso performance for which Petraeus had become known: an effortless, incisive tour of the world.
At that very moment, however, Petraeus’s own private world was cracking at the seams. Earlier that day, his boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, had confronted Petraeus about his affair with his 40-year-old biographer, Paula Broadwell. Clapper had urged his colleague to resign, and Petraeus agreed that he had no other choice. “It was,” says Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Clapper, “a difficult and wrenching conversation.”
Now as Petraeus wowed the audience at the World Affairs conference, Clapper was delivering the news of the CIA director’s affair to the White House. After the event, as the guest of honor sped off into the night, people still milled about the ballroom where the conference was being held. They had no idea that anything was amiss.
Soon enough, the people who attended the event, like the rest of America, would begin to learn about a different side of Petraeus. But even as details of the scandal have trickled out, some fundamental questions about the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell have remained cloudy. What drove this most disciplined of men to be so reckless? What accounted for the bond that he formed with Broadwell? And above all: what might have caused these two particular people to have an affair at this particular time?
Petraeus may have moved effortlessly from the battlefield to the corridors of power in Washington, but it is important to remember that he was a pure product of the military’s insular culture, with its own language, tribal codes, and belief systems. He had grown up the son of a “crusty old Dutch sea captain,” with exacting expectations, as he put it to Newsweek in 2011. Failing to meet standards resulted in an icy-blue stare and a growl. “Results, boy, results!” his father would say, according to Petraeus.
Did the former CIA director sleep with his biographer because she was younger and attractive, or did his vast power actually change his brain? Chris Berdik considers the latest neuroscientific research.
“Power corrupts, but too much testosterone just makes you stupid.”
David Petraeus attends the Allen & Co Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 12, 2012. (Jim Urquhart / Reuters / Landov)
This astute comment followed a blog post by New Yorker writer Jon Lee Anderson on the still-unfolding sex-lies-and-email scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus, his biographer Paula Broadwell, and a growing cast of supporting characters. The post set Petraeus’s fall against a backdrop of hero worship stoked by a desire to reimagine the Iraq War. OK, but let’s get back to that testosterone.
What psychologists and neuroscientists who study power are finding is that it corrupts in part because of the surging testosterone that comes along with it—and the concomitant decline in the stress hormone cortisol. A little of this swirling hormonal cocktail can do wonders, but a lot can make people, well, stupid. In studies, the magnitude of the hormonal shift in folks given a sense of power corresponds with cognitive and behavioral changes that make them bolder and more charismatic, but also more reckless and less moral.
Before digging into this research, it’s worth saying that none of us is a slave to our hormonal ebb and flow. We make our choices, and we should own the consequences. But here is yet another powerful man brought low by a lack of power over himself. And once again the question arises: what’s with these guys? What is it about traditional power that’s so corrosive to willpower?
In several recent studies, a trio of researchers—Dana Carney, Amy Cuddy, and Andy Yapp—have put power under the microscope. They started by giving some subjects a sense of power—either by randomly assigning them to be a boss with authority over fellow subjects, or merely by having them stand alone for a minute or two in expansive postures (think Superman) before they begin various lab tasks. Before and after the poses, the researchers took saliva samples to check their subjects’ hormone levels.
To see if he misused agency funds.
Where’s the trust? The CIA’s inspector general has reportedly begun an internal investigation into the general conduct of David Petraeus during the 14 months he was in charge of the agency. The FBI has already said that their investigation has not turned up any threat to national security, but the inspector general reportedly wants to make sure that Petraeus did not misuse any agency assets during his affair with Broadwell. A CIA spokesperson said the investigation is “exploratory” and “doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome.”
Didn’t we all decide a long time ago that it’s none of the FBI’s damn business what any American does in bed? How one rogue agent brings back the bureau’s darkest days.
Everybody loves a Washington sex scandal. But let’s not talk about sex for a second. A truly serious crime may have been committed in the Petraeus case.
FBI Special Agent Frederick W. Humphries posed with target dummies following a SWAT practice in an unknown location. According to the Times Humphries sent the photograph to friend and Florida socialite Jill Kelley and others. (Special to The Seattle Times / AP Photo)
Was the relationship between the Great Man and the Other Woman a crime? No way; fornication and adultery are not federal offenses.
What about the flaming emails she sent to the Other Other Woman? Not even close to a crime. Nothing to see here. Move along.
But wait! The billets-doux Petraeus sent to his paramour-cum-biographer on an unencrypted Gmail account! Weren’t they a threat to national security? An invitation to blackmail?
Not at all—unless Paula Broadwell turns out to be a Russian spy (which is all this story needs to fully command the attention of Congress and the media until we all fall down the fiscal cliff).
Six years ago, the woman who’s now at the center of the investigation of David Petraeus nearly joined the bureau herself. If only.
The FBI searches of her home this week must have been all the more surreal for Paula Broadwell because she once had been just a formality away from becoming an FBI agent herself.
L: Paula Broadwell holds a drink in the kitchen of her brother's house in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. R: FBI agents carry out a computer and boxes after a search of the home of Paula Broadwell in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 13. (AP Photo; Getty Images)
According to a retired FBI agent, the woman now at the center of the David Petraeus scandal applied to the FBI six years ago, passed a polygraph test, and was offered an appointment. Broadwell was a recruiter’s dream: a West Point graduate who had been named the fittest in her class with a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver. She even had active-duty military experience.
“I’m sure that applicant coordinator in Denver was salivating over her,” the retired agent says.
The bureau further noted the great potential Broadwell had demonstrated during her stint in 2003 and 2004 as an Army intelligence officer attached to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Denver. The retired agent notes, “She did very well.”
And Broadwell seems to have been as enthusiastic about the FBI as the FBI was about her. She was just a solemn oath away from becoming an agent when she was offered a spot as a research associate at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard. She made the choice any ambitious person might.
It might seem strange that MacDill Air Force Base has become a cornerstone of the unfolding Petraeus scandal. But to Tampa locals, it’s always been known as party central, writes Winston Ross.
TAMPA—But for the drab taupe paint and flat maroon rooftops on nearly every building, the military base that has become the focus of fallout over Gen. David Petraeus’s resignation as director of the CIA last week could be mistaken for a sprawling tropical resort.
Jill Kelley leaves her home in Tampa, Nov. 12, 2012. (Chris O'Meara / AP Photo)
Higher-ranked officers at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa live in bayfront homes on stilts, with three-car garages and covered porches. There’s a beachside restaurant, SCUBA lessons, boat rentals, a skeet and trap range, golf course, a gleaming hospital, a top-of-the-line gym and a tidy tax-free commissary. A jogging path lined with recycled rubber snakes around the water’s edge, past C-37 and KC-135 aircraft parked in the lot, awaiting their next mission. The streets are wide and quiet, lined with palm trees dancing in the warm Florida breeze.
“It’s the nicest base I’ve ever seen,” says a private contractor with base access, who asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing his job with the government. “It blew me away, as far as what the taxpayers pay for.”
MacDill is an oasis at the end of a seedy stretch of Dale Mabry Drive, which is lined with strip clubs, liquor stores, and pawn shops. Homeless veterans ask for spare change outside the gates, and crime is rampant in the run-down neighborhoods within spitting distance of this opulent military mecca. If it has shocked America to learn of lavish parties and sex scandals that have ensnared some of the military’s top brass, it shouldn’t, say several people familiar with the culture of MacDill. The high-ranking officials here are celebrities in Tampa, big wigs, and socialite Jill Kelley is one of the many MacDill liaisons described by some as eager to curry favor with some of the most powerful men on the planet.
“It’s no different than they are in Washington, D.C.,” Aaron Fodiman, editor of Tampa Bay Magazine, told The Daily Beast. “These are some of the most important people in the world. They are warriors out there, protecting our country and leading the world, why shouldn’t they be admired, and why wouldn’t people want to be in their presence?”
Says image was sent to several friends.
The FBI special agent who sent Jill Kelley a shirtless photo of himself said Thursday the image wasn’t meant to be sexual. It “was a tongue-in-cheek joke,” Frederick Humphries explained, noting he sent the image to dozens of friends, including a reporter at The Seattle Times. In the 2010 photo, Humphries is posing with two target dummies in the picture, which is captioned, “Which One’s Fred?” Kelley turned to Humphries for help after she received harassing messages from an anonymous email address. Humphries then took the emails to the FBI’s cyber-crime unit, essentially launching the investigation that uncovered David Petraeus’s affair with Paula Broadwell.
“Offensive” messages reportedly sent to Allen.
Maybe Jill Kelley did have reason to be afraid. A source close to the Kelley family said on Wednesday that the emails sent to Gen. John Allen about the Tampa socialite were “offensive” while also sending emails to Kelley that were “stalking.” Kelley has been linked to threatening emails sent by Paula Broadwell, the woman having an affair with former CIA director David Petraeus, who resigned last week in response to the scandal. The email reportedly came from an account called “Kelley Patrol,” and it implied that Allen could lose his reputation for his association with Kelley. Allen reportedly then sent the email to Kelley herself, who showed it her husband, Scott Kelley. In early June, the Kelleys, who have a joint email account, started receiving messages in a similar vein.
Forget his affair with Paula Broadwell. What the general really mishandled is the war in Afghanistan, says one military critic. Jamie Reno reports.
An emerging theme in the ever-widening media coverage of Gen. David Petraeus’s illicit affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, is that while the highly decorated Army commander and now former CIA director made a huge mistake in his personal life, he remains an American hero for his leadership in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At a Wednesday press conference, President Obama said he hoped the Petraeus scandal “ends up being a single side note” on what has otherwise been “an extraordinary career.”
But that is a bogus narrative, says retired Lt. Col. John L. Cook, a former Army intelligence officer and senior adviser to the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan, who oversaw the development of the force structure of the Afghan National Police. In his book Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure, released in September, Cook—who earned the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart during his two-decade career as an intelligence officer—divulges secrets of America’s longest war and suggests that all the major objectives in Afghanistan have not worked, in large part because of Petraeus.
“Petraeus shouldn’t have resigned over the extramarital affair, he should have resigned over the way in which he handled Afghanistan,” says Cook, who served in Afghanistan from March 2008 to August of this year. “Petraeus made a mess of things in this war. That’s the real scandal.”
It’s not that Cook approves of Petraeus’s personal behavior. In fact, Cook says Petraeus is “probably not being truthful” about when his affair with Broadwell started. Cook says that Petraeus would often come over to the NATO training mission offices with his entourage when they were both in Kabul.
“I remember one time when he came over for a meeting, he had a young woman with him,” Cook says. “I asked who the woman was, and one of his staffers told me that she was writing a biography about him. When I asked them what she had done before, they told me that she wasn’t even a writer, she was a student. Petraeus will say he never started this relationship until he left Afghanistan, but I think the affair was going on in Afghanistan. His staffers were already concerned about their relationship.”
Petraeus says it wasn't him.
The FBI seized classified information from the home of Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus’s biographer whose extramarital affair led to his resignation as CIA director, sources said on Thursday. The files were reportedly discovered on a machine in Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, N.C., and investigators also allegedly discovered documents Broadwell admitted taking from secure government buildings. A U.S. official said Wednesday that, in a somewhat unsurprising move, Broadwell's security clearance had been suspended. Meanwhile, Petraeus has said that he did not leak intel on Benghazi.
David Petraeus's extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, has taken so many twists and turns, it's hard to keep track of what happened when. There's an investigation, potentially another other woman, and yet another general wrapped up in the sordid saga. The Daily Beast offers a timeline to help you keep track.
The feverishly anticipated new ‘Call of Duty’ game features an unfortunate appearance by the former CIA director. From LaToya Jackson to Lindsay Lohan, WATCH VIDEO of more cameo fails.
Fans who got their hands on Call of Duty: Black Ops II after it hit shelves Tuesday night were the first to discover former CIA director David Petraeus’s fictional promotion on the video game. A scene introduces “Secretary of Defense Petraeus,” a gimmick the game’s developers probably thought was clever when it was originally pitched but now appears egregiously poorly timed since Petraeus resigned from the government amid a scandal with so many tawdry twists and turns that the programming director at Lifetime is probably sitting at her desk giggling, “Tee hee, girl, this is too crazy even for us.”
But it’s not the first time a production company has been burned by a subject’s controversial personal life. Here’s a tour through some of the most embarrassing cameo fails—poorly timed, poorly conceived, or otherwise.
LaToya Jackson in Brüno
Sacha Baron Cohen’s raunchy performance-art comedies Borat and Brüno mine laughs by foisting aggressively odd foreign characters on unsuspecting people and filming their, often hilarious, discomfort. One such victim was LaToya Jackson, who filmed a scene in which she ate sushi off a naked fat man and gamely fielded questions about her brother Michael. But when the King of Pop died just two weeks before Brüno’s release, producers wisely cut the scene. It does, however, show up on the film’s DVD.
Virtually every journalist in D.C. is feasting on the sex scandal. Howard Kurtz on the irresistible lure of tawdry affairs.
There’s no escaping Petraeus madness.
Former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus speaks during an armed forces ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., Aug. 31, 2011. (Susan Walsh/ AP Photo)
Pick up the paper, turn on the tube, crack open the laptop, stop at any Starbucks, and the chatter is all about Dave and Paula and John and Jill.
The news that Petraeus’s paramour is hiding out here in the nation’s capital, at her brother’s house, prompted this breaking-news tweet from Politico’s Byron Tau: “After an hour in the cold, I can report that Paula Broadwell eats food and wears sweaters.” But it did produce a through-the-window photo that replaced the sleeveless-blouse pictures of Broadwell from her Daily Show appearance plugging her Petraeus-walks-on-water book.
Forget the fiscal cliff. Inside the Beltway, at least, we are all climbing Petraeus Mountain. There is no other topic. Every reporter, columnist, commentator, and blogger is finding an angle. Every conversation circles back to a scandalous tidbit: Jill Kelley and Gen. John Allen exchanged 30,000 emails! (Um, when did he have time to run the war in Afghanistan?) Broadwell called Kelley a “seductress” in those harassing e-mails that led Kelley to complain to the FBI. And what’s with that agent sending shirtless photos? Some of the details turned out to be overhyped—OK, maybe there weren’t 30,000 emails—but why let the details get in the way of a good wallow?
Even Barack Obama’s first postelection news conference began with the obsession du jour: So, prez, what do you think of the Petraeus affair?
The agency’s acting director will tell Congress today that agents on the ground the night Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed never requested military assistance, Eli Lake reports.
When the CIA’s acting director, Michael Morell, testifies Thursday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he is expected to say that the agency never requested Europe-based special operations teams, specialized Marine platoons, or armed drones on the night of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.
Acting CIA Director Michael Morell walks through the Capitol to attend a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on November 13, 2012 in Washington, DC. Morell was called on to fill in as acting CIA Director after the resignation of David Petraeus last week in the wake of the revelation of an extramarital affair. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
The disclosure may put an end to one line of inquiry into the Benghazi affair about why reinforcements from the region were not sent on the night of the attack. “Assistance from the U.S. military was critical, and we got what we requested,” the senior U.S. intelligence official said.
According to a Pentagon timeline made public last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta prepared multiple military responses from the region at around midnight Benghazi time, more than two hours after the initial assault began. Those orders included mobilizing two special Marine platoons known as Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) from Rota, Spain, to deploy to Tripoli and Benghazi. Panetta also ordered a special operations force, training in central Europe, to deploy at the Signonella Airbase in Italy. Another special operations team based in the United States also prepared to deploy to Libya.
The CIA, however, requested none of that assistance. Neither did the State Department. None of those teams ever arrived in Benghazi.
On the evening of the attack, the military provided two kinds of support to the CIA security officers who tried to fend off an attack at the U.S. diplomatic mission and then later stood guard at a CIA base less than a mile away, which was hit in a second wave at about 5 a.m. (A U.S. military team working for the CIA was sent that evening from Tripoli, but that team did not arrive at the CIA annex until after the U.S. diplomatic mission was overrun.)
Having trouble keeping track of the saga of David Petraeus's affair with Paula Broadwell? The Daily Beast's timeline has you covered.
On this week's Spin Cycle, Howard Kurtz chats with the longtime Slate editor, who compares the Petraeus story with Bill Clinton's Lewinsky scandal: it was a 'grotesque thing that went out of control, but was so much fun.'
Lessons on leadership from General David Petraeus.
With David Petraeus out as head of the CIA, Michael J. Morell—a 32-year agency veteran—takes over at the top.
Diane Dimond reports on what we know about Gen. Petraeus’s biographer.
It's a joke-off! Watch Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Seth Meyers and more weigh in on the general.
From suave Jack Ryan to smarmy Eugene Kittridge, potential candidates for America's next top spook.