I wasn’t going to write about the Petraeus thing because everybody else is. But since most everyone is missing the most important story here, what the hell. Here we go.
A certain amount of familiarity with the “facts” is assumed. Here’s how it looks to me right now (with the understanding that it could be all different by the time you read this on Thursday): We start with a Tampa “socialite,” Jill Kelley, who’s married to a doctor (who can be charitably characterized as a “good sport”), who runs some shady charities, and who acts as an unofficial, unpaid “social liaison” between the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and, apparently, big parties at her mansion (which is being foreclosed on). Ms. Kelley seems to have a thing for a man in a uniform, a fetish that has always bugged me out.
Some months ago, Ms. Kelley began receiving weird anonymous e-mails. They’ve been described as “kind of catfight like,” mocking Kelley for having too much presence on the base, telling her to know her place, and one that appeared to accuse her of fondling Gen. David Petraeus under a table at one of her lavish soirees. While there were only a handful of these e-mails, which could hardly be called harassing—maybe annoying is the right word—Kelley was getting a little agitato. So she called an FBI agent she “knew” (apparently this guy had previously sent her shirtless pics of himself, like classless horny guys do on dating sites) and the agent dutifully commences some kind of investigation. His superiors hesitantly let him pursue it, because a couple of annoying e-mails is not the sort of thing any law enforcement agency would ever be interested in. But for some reason, the FBI took the case.
Through search warrants and subpoenas, the FBI was able to trace the annoying e-mails to Patricia Broadwell, a North Carolina writer who appears to have an arm fetish (her own) as well as one for the men in uniform. While the FBI was “looking around” at Broadwell’s e-mail accounts, they noticed a whole bunch of e-mails from Gen. Petraeus. At some point, shirtless-wonder FBI guy was taken off the case because he was a little too gung-ho; miffed at what he thought was lack of interest in the matter, he contacted Republican House members David Reichert and Eric Cantor and gave them the low-down on the down-low. Why did he go blabbing to two Republicans, one of whom is a Tea Bagger darling? Something to do with his “worldview.”
And while the FBI was “looking around” at Kelley’s stuff (for which she presumably gave them permission, although maybe not), they found a shitload (defined as 20 to 30 thousand pages) of too-friendly e-mails between her and Gen. John Allen, our head guy in Afghanistan.
And you know what happened next and what’s continuing to happen.
Most of the media are captivated by the tawdriness of it all; it’s like Peyton Place in military dress. Who was boinking who, when, where, how? What about the spouses, the families? Are there any really good e-mails, you know, like sexting? Then there is the business of national security. Was it breached during post-boinking pillow talk? Then there is the political angle: How come this didn’t come out until after the election? Why did this come out on the eve of the Benghazi hearings? Why didn’t Cantor do something? When did Obama know? Then there is the ethics: Does infidelity disqualify you from military service? From public service? But mostly, it’s all about the boinking. Oh, and the catfight. Grrrr!
What all but a few writers are missing is this: What the hell is the FBI doing snooping around in the private communications of some lady who sent stupid annoying e-mails to another lady who happens to be a “friend” of a low-level FBI agent with a hard-on? What gives them the right to do that? Where is the right of privacy, where is due process?
It appears that the FBI was acting pursuant to a federal law that says a federal prosecutor can freely subpoena anyone’s electronic communications that are more than six months old. No judge looking over his shoulder. You’re a prosecutor, you can just go get it. For communications less than six months old, you need to get a search warrant from a judge. Apparently the FBI used both of these devices, and then looked not just at one account, they helped themselves to all of Kelley’s and Broadwell’s e-mail accounts. Everything.
This is horrifying. What judge signed the search warrant? What crime did the FBI tell the judge had been committed? That someone broke the crazy-lady e-catfight law? You might think the ends justified the means here. If you do, I can’t wait for the blunt force of unrestrained government to take you down, too.
Paul Rapp is a local IP lawyer who’s planning on seeing the Charlie Watts Riots and Five Alpha Beatdown the night before Thanksgiving.