The Blackmail Test
It’s common knowledge when considering someone for a job as a soldier or spy, that if that person has something in his or her life that can be used as blackmail, then they are not the best choice for that job.
Among the most common subjects for blackmail is a married man or woman who is having or has had an affair.
The Classified Information Test
There is no evidence of blackmail in the affair between the married General David Petraeus, then head of the CIA, and the married Paula Broadwell. Previously General Petraeus had been leading US forces in Afghanistan.
The story of the affair came out in a different way.
However, there is evidence of another danger of an affair when one or both parties have access to classified information.
The feelings of euphoria and ecstasy in an affair can lead to reckless openness and sharing of all kinds of personal or confidential information. There is no thought of what the risks are. There is no sense of “Maybe it is not wise to put complete trust in this person who I really don’t know that well and who I’m not supposed to be talking to about this.”
In other situations, people are more cautious about exposing secret information that they know through their work. Their head is not in a fantasy world and they stay aware of the consequences of telling secrets. It could lead to a loss of their job. It could lead to someone being killed (such as exposing a counterspy). It could lead to the loss of the advantage of years of research and development (such as when secret valuable technology is revealed). It could lead to severe shame and embarrassment.
Oblivious to the Consequences
Now, we see that General Petraeus may be facing criminal charges stemming from disclosures he may have made during the affair. He has already lost his job as a result of the affair. [“Prosecutors Weigh Petraeus Charges” Wall Street Journal, Jan 10, 2015]. “The Justice Department is weighing whether to file criminal charges against retired Gen. David Petraeus for allegedly providing classified information to his former mistress, according to people close to the case.” Both General Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell have denied the charges.
Besides reckless disregard for risk, Gen Petraeus may have revealed classified information because it gave him a more powerful status vs. his mistress in their relationship. It’s very likely that this disclosure made him even more attractive to her.
Counting the Costs
This is all in all a sad story with negative impact upon more than these two individuals. This includes the families of Gen. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell, people connected to their careers, and the reputation of our military.
Maybe if both of them had paid more attention to their own homeland security, we would all have had more national homeland security. Affairs can leave residue in many places.