Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation


Petraeus’ Betrayal

There is a lot going on, and a lot of misunderstanding.  It happens that a lot of the misunderstandings stem from the words, “CIA”, and the understandings people have about the agency, and “intel” work in general.  It happens to be a field I’m moderately familiar with.  I spent a career in the Army as an interrogator, and an interrogation/counterintelligence instructor.  I did some related intel work; having nothing to do with either field.  I was lent out to some “three-letter angencies” and I’ve known some actual “spooks”.

A huge amount of the flap has nothing to do with the CIA, and everything to do with how the press fell in love with “The Man, Petraeus“.

I don’t think he should have resigned.  I think he should have been fired.  I even think he probably should face criminal charges, and end up in prison.

He had an affair.  I don’t care.  In the grand scheme of things having a CIA director who’s having an affair is pretty trivial.  He’s not the first, he won’t be the last, and it’s not really leverage.  He’s not out where people of the sort to 1: compromise him, and 2: make it stick, are hanging out.

When a lower level operative, even a section chief is fooling around (married or not) that’s one thing, esp. if they are in a semi-clandestine role (say one of the “attachés at an embassy), they are vulnerable to turning, either directly, or indirectly.  It is, however, not easy.  To turn someone directly requires an agent of an FIS (Foreign Intelligence Service) to get access to the target.  If they are known to be fond of flings it’s one thing, but if they aren’t, it’s not.  Making a move on someone who is in a high-profile position, in the hopes of managing to get them to engage in an infidelity is risky.  There is more to be gained, if one can get that sort of frequent access, in the things they don’t think they are revealing.

It’s amazing, to most people, just how much we reveal about things we think we aren’t.  When I was in Monterey, studying Russian, I wore the “Unit Crest” of the Defense Language Institute on my jeans jacket.  I had someone try to give me grief about “opsec” (Operational Security).  I laughed at him.  I had a “high and tight” haircut.  I walked like a soldier.  I was taking cabs up and down the hill.   I reeked of being stationed at DLI.  I’d been in cabs with people.  I’d been in bars with them.  I heard all sorts of stuff they thought they weren’t sharing with the world.  I knew which Seal Teams were focusing on which parts of the world.  So did anyone who was paying attention at The Rose and Crown. That pin was my way of reminding myself of OpSec.  I could see it everytime I stepped out; telling me to keep my mouth shut.

So no his tradecraft, or lack thereof, are not the issue. It seems he, and Broadwell, used an email “dead-drop”, to avoid actually sending messages to each other.  It’s a handy trick, and (so long as that’s all it’s used for) it’s about as secure a means of clandestine communications as one can have.  Were it not for metadata in the system they used, it might never have been known who the other half of the equation (i.e. Petraeus) was.  They never used identifiable names in the messages.

But she sent harassing messages to a third party, and like re-using a “one time pad” that’s a fatal compromise of the system.

Who cares?  Petraeus isn’t a spook.  He’s a manager.    Does anyone think George Bush (pere) was a spy?  No.  How about Leon Panetta?  No.  The simple fact is I don’t care how well the guy at the top knows the nuts and bolts of the ways to run a source, or tap a phone, or do a “black bag job”.  Moreover, those are only a small part of the CIA’s brief, and over-focusing on them has hurt us.  You want to know what the really important guys at the CIA are like, look at Nate Silver. The real work, the day to day stuff: the stuff Bush (fils) ignored, came from guys like Nate Silver, not guys like James Bond. What a care about is how well the director maintains a good working relationship with the president; how well the best guesses the various parts of the CIA are presented to the president.  That’s what the job is about.

So the affair isn’t relevant, to me, from a security standpoint.  There was, of course, no way he could survive in his position after it was plain it was going to come out.  The nature of Washington meant the Republicans; in need of scandals to try and keep the democratic president in the Oval Office from being able to govern, were going to be using this as some sort of  bloody shirt, and the press; feeling betrayed at the Golden Boy they built up turning out to be just as human as anyone else were going to treat as hounds do a fox at the end of a hunt.

So why do I say he ought to be facing charges?

I was entrusted with this opportunity to sit in on high level meetings with General Petraeus. Sitting in on SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility] meetings in the morning, listen to classified chatter of terrorist talk and so forth. And I had that background anyhow, so I knew a lot of that information for my writing, but I knew there was a clear line that I couldn’t cross when I was writing it out,” Broadwell said in the July 2012 discussion at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

What The Fuck?  She was, “sitting in” on meetings in a SCIF?  No.  She has† a TS (Top Secret) clearance?  Ok.  She’s had an SCI background investigation?  Ok.  Doesn’t Mean Shit.  She didn’t have the requisite, “Need to Know”.  If you don’t have a need to know, you don’t go in a SCIF. Even in a SCIF, you don’t go to areas you aren’t, “read-on” to participate in.  You don’t.

Petraeus, apparently before the affair, was giving her access?  Why?  That’s the lapse in judgement I am concerned about. She’s not supposed to talk about it.  Not just the things she heard, but that she was there at all.  What was she doing?  All she could learn, relevant to the book she was writing was see how well he ran a meeting.  No need to go into a classified environment to do that.  Lots of reasons not to.

A long time ago, when I was just getting started in the greyish world of intel I was giving a briefing.  It was “Unclass”, and the door was open.  I was talking to a lot of intel guys and forgot I was speaking to people outside my discipline.  It being the Army I used an acronym.  Four of the people in the room got really stiff.  Really Stiff.  They sat up in their chairs, like dogs on point, eyes as wide as saucers.  The ranking officer glanced at my classification marking sign, shot his eyes to the door; leaned out to see if anyone was in the hall, looked back at the sign and asked me to repeat what I’d said.

When I did one of the others doing this odd thing asked me what the acronym stood for, and I told them, and they all relaxed and started to breathe again.  I, under my breath, swore; because I suddenly knew I had classified info that I wasn’t supposed to have.  I had it because they had such a strong reaction.  If the door had been shut I might have missed it; but the Major was terrified someone with zero-clearance might have heard it, and he over-reacted (absent context, even if I had made a mistake and used a classified term, no one who didn’t know what I was talking about was going to know what I was talking about).  Had it been just him, I still might not have caught on.  But having all of them wig out like that gave the game away.

I had info I couldn’t share with anyone.  Here’s the kicker, if it weren’t that the acronym is no longer classified in that application, I wouldn’t even being telling the story.  That’s what having a clearance means.  You promise to reveal nothing which is classified to anyone who doesn’t have need to know.  You also don’t want anyone to know you know classified info.  If it weren’t that the minimum requirement for job in the Army are in public records about my military service I suspect I’d not be telling it now.  That’s how serious that sort of thing is.  I know people who lost their clearance because they signed off that a room was secure when there was an unlocked safe with class-info in it.

And Petraeus let someone without need to know in the SCIF?  No. That’s a crime.  It’s more than one crime.  The UCMJ has articles about it too.  Technically, since he committed the offense while in the service he could be recalled back to duty to face a court-martial.

I’m not against that idea.  That’s the sort of questionable judgement which ought to have prevented him from being nominated.  It’s something which, of course, no one was looking for.  If you had asked me if this was likely, I’d have said, “no way”.  But generals do stupid things. They do stupider things when they’ve been “COM” commanders, because the duties in running something like CentCom, are akin to running a small country.  They require being a Consul, a Tribune, and an Ambassador; all at once, and with minimal supervision.

He should have known better.  I don’t care where he was sticking his dick, what I care about is the way he was dicking around.

† I hope she no longer has her clearance after that little outburst.  It also implies that either the affair was still ongoing, or Petraeus was using that account for other things, and didn’t have the wit to change the password; since the official story is they broke it off some months ago.  That’s what I mean about things people don’t realise they are revealing.