fb-pixel Skip to main content

AFTER AGREEING to plead guilty to leaking classified information to his lover, David Petraeus, the former CIA head and retired four-star general, was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $100,000.

More than 30 people filed letters of support for what comes down to your basic sweetheart deal for Petraeus — who gave his sweetheart access to material she could use to write a biography that was essentially an ode to his ego.

"The letters paint a portrait of a man considered among the finest military leaders of his generation who also has committed a grave but very uncharacteristic error in judgment," said US Magistrate Judge David Kessler at the sentencing.


These missives for mercy, however, are under seal. In an effort to win their release, several media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, the Associated Press, and First Look Media,have filed suit.

It's ironic that Petraeus, whose actions exposed classified government information, now wants privacy for those pleading his case. But beyond irony are larger concerns about his access to friends in high places and how that subverts the principle of equal treatment under the law. Asothers have pointed out,his monetary penalty is less than what Petraeus makes for giving a speech. And, probation is a joke as punishment, up againstprisonsentences meted out to those who act out of conscience to expose what they believe to be government wrongdoing.

Just this month, the government backed a recommendation of 19 to 24 yearsfor Jeffrey Sterling, who was convicted of providing classified information to Times reporter James Risen about the CIA's efforts to undermine Iran's nuclear program. Before that, former intelligence adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim was sentencedto 13 monthsfor disclosing a report about North Korea to a reporter. CIA veteran John Kiriakou receiveda 30-month sentencefor revealing the identity of an undercover agent who used enhanced interrogation techniques. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years for violations of the Espionage Act and Edward Snowden is on the run for his role in leaking classified information from the National Security Agency.


Who sought leniency for Petraeus? Where do they stand on punishment for those not trying to please a lover, but instead just trying to get out word about excessive government surveillance and other alleged wrongs?

The public — as well as Petraeus's fellow leakers — deserve to know.