ML: Just because they were having an affair?
JJA: Unlikely. Most of the time, there’s either evidence, or allegations, that classified information has been compromised. The Intelligence Community, and the national security crowd more broadly, isn’t a model of virtue. CIA has had many cases of top officials sleeping around, sometimes with underlings, sometimes with outsiders. Sometimes the Agency has taken punitive action, sometimes not…
ML: Yeah, I know. And by the way, you know that letter to the New York Times’ “ethicist” from a cuckolded husband that everyone suspected to be about the Petraeus affair? The Times says it wasn’t. So…
JJA: So, if the letter is kosher, there’s another high-level official carrying on an affair. No surprise.
ML: I think that blackmail is not what it used to be. When I had to pass security exams, I was told, for example, that gays could be blackmailed because they were terrified of being outed. But that was in the eighties. I doubt a threat of exposure would be very effective nowadays.
JJA: That’s what I hear, too. So why did the bureau fear Petraeus might be blackmailable?
ML: Right. If someone threatened to expose him, couldn’t he just say “be sure to print the really great pictures”?
JJA: I’d have to know more about his psychology. But I found his “message to the CIA” confession quite amazing. It reminds me of confessions from the Soviet purge trials. It’s one of the most humiliating statements ever. Which baffles me. Why didn’t he just resign?
ML: Indeed. And there’s that odd statement from him, “the president permitted me to resign…”
JJA: As if he couldn’t just turn in his badges and go home.
ML: Maybe that’s where the blackmail comes in.
JJA: Good one! The White House knew about the investigation (the FBI would have briefed Holder, and he would have told the president) for quite a while, but kept him at Langley until the election was over.
ML: Makes sense.
JJA: Sure, but it also suggests that they had some way to keep him on the job, doesn’t it? And that “some way” isn’t loyalty or friendship, because when he went, he went in the most devastatingly damaging way possible.
ML: And you’re saying that’s not his decision, it was imposed on him?
JJA: What do I know? But it sure stinks of that. He wasn’t very masochistic, was he?
ML: Not at all. He was famous, already in the early days in Iraq, for going around with a phalanx of Public Affairs officers squiring him from meeting to meeting. He’s very attentive to his image, and some of his colleagues resented that no end.
JJA: There you go. So he’s not the sort who would be overcome with guilt and driven to make a piteous public confession of sins.
ML: I never met him, but the humiliating confession seemed out of character to me.
JJA: Don’t you love counterintelligence? You start with the theory that he was blackmailed out of office, and you quickly move to a theory that he was blackmailed into remaining in office. That’s why “wilderness of mirrors” is such a good description…
ML: So, if the sex scandal doesn’t work, what could they have used to keep him chained to his desk? Some other scandal? Corruption in Iraq? In Afghanistan?
But he was gone. Maybe back to sleep. Wouldn’t blame him.