Former CIA Director David Petraeus is expected to be sentenced Thursday in a federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, for leaking military secrets to Paula Broadwell, his biographer and mistress. Petraeus pleaded guilty in March to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, a misdemeanor charge.
He has secured a plea agreement, which carries a possible sentence of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The government is expected to recommend that the former general’s punishment be limited to two years’ probation and a $40,000 fine, according to the Charlotte Observer. However, presiding judge David Keesler is not bound by the plea deal, and can still impose a prison sentence.
The affair brought down the retired four-star general who led U.S. strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus resigned from his role as director of the CIA in 2012 after it was revealed that he shared with Broadwell eight “black books” that he had compiled in Afghanistan and improperly kept after retiring from the Army.
The binders reportedly contained secret codes and covert identities, as well as overall strategy discussions and security reports. Broadwell kept the books for at least four days in 2011, according to prosecutors. They were seized by the FBI during a 2013 raid on Petraeus’ home. Court documents also show that Petraeus lied about keeping the sensitive information and about giving it to Broadwell, according to the Observer. Broadwell has not been charged with any crimes.
Petraeus’ relatively light sentence has drawn criticism from transparency groups and activists, who contrasted his plea agreement to the 30-month sentence served by John Kiriakou, a whistleblower who leaked details about the CIA’s torture program. Petraeus had praised Kiriakou’s sentencing in 2012.
Attorney Abbe Lowell, who is representing Stephen Kim, a State Department official charged under the Espionage Act, sent a scathing letter to the Justice Department in March, decrying the “profound double standard” in Petraeus’ case.
“The decision to permit General Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor demonstrates more clearly than ever the profound double standard that applies when prosecuting so-called ‘leakers’ and those accused of disclosing classified information for their own purposes,” Lowell wrote. “High-level officials (such as General Petraeus and, earlier, Leon Panetta) leak classified information to forward their own agendas (or to impress their mistresses) with virtual impunity.”
Prosecutors from the FBI and the Justice Department had reportedly recommended bringing felony charges against Petraeus, but Attorney General Eric Holder refused to comment on the reports, according to the New York Times.
President Barack Obama's administration has reportedly used the Espionage Act against whistleblowers more times than all previous U.S. administrations combined.