Senators, generals, ambassadors, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the owner of The Atlantic were in the roster of powerful voices who wrote to a federal judge to ask him to go easy on former CIA director and retired general David Petraeus, who admitted to giving classified information to his mistress and biographer.
Petraeus pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information and was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. The punishment stands in contrast to far harsher penalties sought for whistleblowers and leakers in less prominent positions.
The letters, released by a federal court in North Carolina today, attest to Petraeus’s good character, and many ask that he not face jail time.
Among the current and former lawmakers who wrote in was former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who has pushed for strict anti-leak legislation and who said in 2010 that the individuals responsible for WikiLeaks “are going to have blood on their hands.” WikiLeaks was “not only an attack on our national security, but an offense against our democracy and the principle of transparency,” he told CBS News.
Just a few years later, he said that Petraeus’s offense, by contrast, “showed that even such an extraordinary human being can make mistakes and yield to public temptation.”
“Dave is also humanly flawed, as many are, for which he has paid a huge price both personally and professionally,” wrote Admiral Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also wrote in on Petraeus’s behalf, though he regularly blasts the Obama administration for national security leaks, but argued that his “friend” Petraeus should not see jail time. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has called Edward Snowden’s actions “treason,” wrote that she believes Petraeus “recognizes the error of his actions as well as the importance of protecting classified information.”
David Bradley, chairman of Atlantic Media, which publishes The Atlantic and The National Journal, among other publications, wrote that he had heard the argument, “layers and layers deep into the city,” that “the Justice Department exercise its discretion not to prosecute the general.”
The 34 letters were initially filed under seal in federal court in the Western District of North Carolina. In April, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press led a group of news organizations, including The Intercept’s publisher, First Look Media, in suing to have them made public.
A sentencing memorandum by Petraeus’s lawyers was also released today.
Read all the letters submitted to court:
Photo: Chuck Burton/AP