The assumption, Richards said, is that anyone who spends private time with the boss “would be vetted by the director’s staff.” Never would he meet alone with someone without the knowledge of the security detail.
Even under those circumstances, opportunities exist for the kind of illicit relationship that cost David H. Petraeus his job as CIA director, according to people who have worked in the job and others who have witnessed the interaction between the director and those who protect him.
Petraeus, a retired four-star general, resigned Friday following 14 months at the CIA, after acknowledging an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, a former Army major who wrote a biography of him.
Associates of Petraeus said Broadwell’s role as biographer gave her unusual access to him, both when he was commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan in 2010 and early 2011, and after he became CIA chief in mid-2011. They said the affair began soon after Petraeus became CIA director and ended about four months ago.
Although some have speculated about how the chief of an intelligence agency could maintain a secret relationship, interviews with Richards and others with knowledge of security practices say it is not hard.
Members of the CIA director’s security detail guard his office, but they are not inside with him at all times. They live in the basement of his private home, but they do not roam freely through the residence. They accompany him to personal and professional meetings, but they do not always go into the room. They protect his hotel suite, even deploying motion detectors in the hallway, but they do not step in uninvited. They ride in his agency-provided jet, but they are not usually inside his VIP cabin.
There are times when the director might require a completely private meeting with a jumpy foreign head of state, a nervous covert asset or an undercover U.S. government employee. The security detail is trained to protect and remain silent.
“They actually are willing to take bullets for the man — of course they aren’t going to tell,” said a former senior CIA official who worked closely with several directors. He spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment about security matters. “Their duty is clear: You don’t tell anyone anything.”
Broadwell spent hours alone with Petraeus interviewing him for the biography. This past summer, Broadwell told a reporter that she and Petraeus were considering working on a second book, which would have given her a reason for spending more time with him.
Infidelity in close proximity to armed bodyguards is nothing new. President Bill Clinton spent hours alone in the White House with an intern, Monica Lewinsky, with whom he engaged in what he described as an “improper relationship.”