A soft fall for Petraeus

The federal government takes charges that someone mishandled classified information seriously, and no wonder. Secret information in the wrong hands could prove dangerous if not deadly for those working in the government’s service on sensitive political and military matters.

That others charged with mishandling such data face stiff prison terms and fines has been noted, and appropriately so, after reports that Gen. David Petraeus, the Army general who commanded forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and then was named CIA director by President Obama, will get two years probation and a $40,000 fine in exchange for pleading guilty to one count of mishandling classified information.

Petraeus, once touted as a possible presidential candidate, fell from the heights after it was revealed that he had had an affair with Paula Broadwell of Charlotte, his biographer. A Washington attorney called the sentencing arrangement for Petraeus “a sweetheart deal.”

Indeed, in the course of an investigation, the FBI found classified documents on Broadwell’s computer, and court records say Petraeus agreed to share classified “black books,” records he kept, with Broadwell. The Charlotte Observer reports that records also show Petraeus lied to investigators about whether he still had classified documents in his possession because he didn’t tell them about the black books.

The former general’s fall has been spectacular and painful. He resigned as CIA director in 2012 after his affair was revealed. Then he faced charges.

But even though some might say Petraeus has paid a tremendous price for his behavior, his plea deal seems to be a very good one – for him. Maybe too good, in fact. Attorney Mark Zaid of Washington, who has defended clients connected to national security issues, said, “It’s frustrating to see someone at this high a level essentially getting off light when the little people seem to have their lives completely ruined.”