WASHINGTON — Former CIA chief David Petraeus was given two years' probation and fined US$100,000 on Thursday for providing classified secrets to his mistress, capping a dramatic fall from grace for the man feted for changing the course of the Iraq war.
Petraeus, a decorated four-star general and the most revered commander of his generation, pleaded guilty in a North Carolina court, avoiding a trial that would have cast an embarrassing light on details of his affair and his flouting of secrecy laws.
The Justice Department had previously said that Petraeus had acknowledged giving eight "black books" – logs he kept as the US commander in Afghanistan–to his lover and biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Petraeus "admitted to the unauthorised removal and retention of classified information and lying to the FBI and CIA about his possession and handling of classified information," acting US Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said, in a statement following sentencing.
"Petraeus was sentenced to a two-year probationary term and was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine." He had been expected to admit his guilt after signing a plea deal.
The five-by-eight inch notebooks were meant to serve as source material for Broadwell's book about the general, "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."
The notebooks included his daily schedule, classified notes, the identities of covert officers, details about US intelligence capabilities, code words, summaries of National Security Council sessions, and accounts of his meetings with President Barack Obama, according to court documents.
The black books contained "Top Secret" and "national defence information," it said.
An official Defence Department historian gathered up classified papers that Petraeus had collected while in uniform but the general never provided the notebooks to the historian as required.
Instead, Petraeus kept the notebooks in a rucksack, he told Broadwell in a conversation that she recorded.
"They are highly classified, some of them... I mean there's code word stuff in there," the general told her.
Petraeus later emailed Broadwell promising to give her the notebooks and personally delivered them to a residence where she was staying in Washington DC. He retrieved the black books a few days later and kept them at his home.
In October 2012, FBI agents questioned Petraeus at CIA headquarters while he was still director. The retired general told them he had never provided any secret information to Broadwell – a lie that he acknowledged in his plea deal.
Passing the sensitive information to Broadwell and then keeping the notebooks at his home clearly violated his legal obligation to safeguard classified information, authorities said.
None of the classified information appeared in Broadwell's book, which was published by Penguin in 2012.
Civil liberties advocates said the treatment of Petraeus reveals a double standard by government prosecutors, as more junior personnel who tried to blow the whistle on wrongdoing had faced much tougher treatment. — AFP