A small example last weekend of how national security is not about what you know but who you know. Over the weekend, the US Department of Defense decided not to take any action against David Petraeus, former CIA head and US General, such as demoting him from four-star general. Readers will recall Petraeus, who admitted to leaking damaging national security information — not, as in the case of Chelsea Manning, to reveal war crimes by US forces or the profound cynicism of US foreign policy; not, as in the case of Edward Snowden, to reveal illegal mass surveillance by the US government and force a debate about overreach by secretive security agencies, but to impress his then-mistress, Paula Broadwell.

This comes on top of Petraeus’ two-year probation and $100,000 fine that he received after he admitted leaking secret material to Broadwell. The decision is just days before the first anniversary of the release of former CIA officer John Kiriakou from prison, where Kiriakou served a two-year sentence. Kiriakou’s crime? Revealing to the media the CIA’s torture program. To date, Kiriakou is the only person jailed in relation to CIA torture. There’s a connection between Kiriakou and Petraeus. When Kiriakou was convicted in 2013, then-CIA head Petraeus issued a strongly worded statement to CIA staff. Petraeus said:

“Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”

Petraeus of course had already broken his oath in giving information to his girlfriend, but no one knew that at the time. When he was eventually prosecuted, prosecutors wanted to point out that Petraeus had lectured CIA staff about Kiriakou when he had committed the same crime, and specifically include a reference to his little lecture about breaking oaths. But Petraeus’ lawyers demanded the prosecutors remove the reference. Petraeus not merely avoided jail, he avoided having his utter hypocrisy thrown in his face. Meanwhile, Manning sits in jail and Snowden lives in Moscow, knowing the US will seek to abduct him if he ventures anywhere in Western Europe.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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