An electronic trail follows us all

Former CIA Director David Petraus, of all people, should have know that. Yet, his career was ended by electronic messages.


The public unraveling of David Petraeus' life is so bizarre it could not possibly be true. Yet it is.

And it should be a cautionary tale for everybody.

If the director of the CIA, a former general who oversaw the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, can be toppled by a thread of emails and computer postings, and then those emails lead to Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, and more scandal it begs the question -- are any of us safe?

The answer is an unwavering no. The American Civil Liberties Union is on alert and very concerned.

"There should be an investigation not of the personal behavior of Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Allen, but of what surveillance powers the FBI used to look into their private lives," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "This is a textbook example of the blurring of lines between the private and the public."

It is a bit more complicated than that. As the head of the CIA, Petraes personal life does matter. However, there is still some haze in this matter when it comes to computer snooping.

There is little Congress can do to bring clarity. The fact is that each of us leaves bits of information beind every time we send an email, post on Facebook or tweet. Those and every other computer file we create is stored in our computer's hard drive or in cyberspace.

So when the FBI (or the local police) are investigating alleged wrongdoing, they often must follow computer-generated documents. When they start sifting through all the documents and scandal is discovered, the information gets out. Remember, when two people know something it is no longer a secret.

In this case, the FBI was looking into computer harassment when agents caught wind of scandal.

Here is what happened (as reported by The New York Times).

A Tampa, Fla., woman, Jill Kelley -- a friend of Petraeus and Allen -- was being harassed through emails. She had received about six anonymous emails last June and had enough. Kelley took the emails to an FBI agent she had met. The agent took it to his boss who launched an investigation.

The emails are thought to have come from Paula Broadwell, the woman who helped Petraeus write his biography and with whom he later had an affair.

The investigation found the electronic messages had been sent to Allen, thus getting him involved in this scandal. Apparently some flirting was going on. It seems much more fluff than substance.

Petraeus and Allen have not been charged with any crimes.

In the end, the only reason this even became a public matter is because Petraeus resigned from his job as CIA director when it became clear to him word of the affair was spreading.

All of our lives now have an electronic trail. We can protect ourselves only by realizing what we leave behind could, even through no fault of our own, become public. That's the reality of cyber communication.



oneStarman says...

ONCE UPON A TIME there was something called Privacy. Once upon a Time there was something called Freedom. Once upon a Time there was something called 'The rule of Law' - but all that was Before the USA Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
There used to be STRICT PROHIBITIONS against Surveillance of US Citizens by our Intelligence Agencies. It was OK for the NSA to use its Global Network of Electronic Communications Monitoring systems to read emails and listen to phone calls of people in OTHER countries and SIFT through the DATA with its MASSIVE Computers - but NOT here. There USED to be provisions to Prevent the MILITARY from being used by Law Enforcement against US Citizens. Not anymore.
Now anyone is just a Keystroke away from a Black Bag over the Head and a Prison Cell on a Military Base where NO One will every hear from you again. Its NOT the Famous people like Patraeus that have the most to Fear - It is You and Me and the People like us that simply Disappear.

Posted 19 November 2012, 5:04 p.m. Suggest removal

campbell_rd says...

Does anyone else see a lot of misleading facts in this case? Anyone who has ever held even a Secret clearance needs to undergo exhaustive investigations. David Petraeus had recently gone through this process in spades, suddenly there is a scandal that no one discovered in this process. There is much more to this than a simple affair. Former President Clinton had numerous affairs and he was POTUS at the time. Be careful what you read from the current administration.

Posted 20 November 2012, 9:47 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

If you think our freedom is going fast check out the legislation that was presented by the illustrous Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for the warrantless invasion into your emails at any given time they decide. This is a total invasion of privacy but this Administration and the Democrats are going to own everything that a taxpayer can own. The revolution will be right around the corner before they realize it!

Posted 20 November 2012, 6:48 p.m. Suggest removal

oneStarman says...

The Truly Frightening thing about the Bill you are Discussing is that it was WRITTEN to make the Public's Privacy MORE Protected - But the JACKBOOT of Militarized Modern Law Enforcement DEMANDED that it actually REDUCE Our Freedom.

Posted 21 November 2012, 2:23 p.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Brought on by the Democrats I might add!

Posted 21 November 2012, 6:41 p.m. Suggest removal

mtnthc says...

Petraeus is a Republican.

Posted 23 November 2012, 10:10 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

So one thing about it Gen Petraeus is human - if he had been a Democrat the issue would never have been brought to the public!

Posted 23 November 2012, 3:32 p.m. Suggest removal

mtnthc says...

Hahahaha, are you a comedian or just smoked way too much dope? Lets see, party with a "moral" agenda, oh wait,...snap its the GOP and their "hanky" police. Why don't you start the revolution now I am sure someone will pry that cold steel from your hand when your gunned down.

Posted 24 November 2012, 11:30 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

Speaking of smoked up!

Posted 26 November 2012, 6:05 a.m. Suggest removal

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