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Petraeus to Plead Guilty, Get 'Hand-Slap' Over Classified Data Scandal

Former CIA director accused of giving classified documents to his mistress while in charge of agency

David Petraeus will plead guilty to a charge of mishandling classified information while acting as CIA director. (Photo: US Army/flickr/cc)

Former CIA director David Petraeus will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, allowing him to skip a public trial over allegations that he gave classified documents to his mistress while serving as head of the intelligence agency.

Petraeus reached the plea deal with the Justice Department on Tuesday. The Justice Department issued the following statement:

Three documents—a criminal information, a plea agreement and a statement of facts—were filed today in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina’s Charlotte Division in the case of United States v. David Howell Petraeus. The criminal information charges the defendant with one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. ... The plea agreement and corresponding statement of facts, both signed by the defendant, indicate that he will plead guilty to the one-count criminal Information.

If found guilty, Petraeus faces a maximum of one year in prison. As investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler writes, that penalty amounts to a "hand-slap" for obstruction of justice.

His affair with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, came to light in November 2012 after FBI agents discovered he had given her access to classified documents that she was not authorized to see.

Petraeus resigned from his CIA post shortly after the scandal broke, after just over a year on the job. He now works as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, a part of the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Even as he faced possible charges from the FBI and the Justice Department, Petraeus retained the public support of President Barack Obama and several members of Congress.

On Twitter, reaction to the news was focused on the leniency Petraeus is likely to receive, despite the U.S. government's aggressive pursuit of whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and others.

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