The Army has recommended that David H. Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director who quit in a scandal three years ago, not face further punishment for having an affair with his biographer and providing her with top-secret materials, according to Pentagon officials.
The final decision on whether to discipline Petraeus under military law rests with Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. Although he could overrule the Army’s recommendation, such a move would be unusual.
Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, said Carter has not yet formally received the Army’s recommendation. “Once he reviews the recommendation in full he will make his decision,” Cook said.
After a lengthy investigation by the FBI that disgraced the onetime military hero, Petraeus pleaded guilty in April in federal court in North Carolina to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials. He received two years of probation and a $100,000 fine.
Petraeus’s civilian sentence, however, did not exempt him from further punishment at the hands of the military. As part of his plea deal with the Justice Department, he admitted in a signed statement that he had committed wrongdoing while he was still in the Army before he retired in 2011 to take charge of the CIA.
He also admitted that he lied to FBI agents.
Specifically, Petraeus acknowledged providing eight notebooks that contained highly classified material to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in the waning days of his Army career. The notebooks were kept by Petraeus when he served as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.
They contained code words, war strategy, the names of covert officers and other sensitive information. In addition, the books outlined deliberative discussions with the National Security Council and President Obama.
Broadwell was not charged in that federal investigation. She is still an officer in the Army Reserve, but a senior Army official said the service was not contemplating taking action against her.
The Justice Department shared its investigative case file on Petraeus with the Army, according to Cynthia O. Smith, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon. After a review, then-Army Secretary John McHugh recommended that the military take no further action against Petraeus, Smith said.
McHugh issued the recommendation as one of his final acts in office before he stepped down as Army secretary on Nov. 1, according to a senior Army official familiar with the matter. McHugh has since been replaced as the Army’s top civilian leader by Eric Fanning.
It is unclear why Carter still had not received the Army’s recommendation as of Monday even though McHugh made his decision more than a month ago.
Petraeus remains a revered figure within the Army for his leadership during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the scandal that led to his downfall at the CIA, he also maintains close ties with many influential members of Congress.
Although he is a retired general, Petraeus remains subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Theoretically, he could have faced court-martial if Army leaders had decided to charge him with a crime.
In practice, however, it is extremely rare for retired generals to face discipline. In 1999, the Army court-martialed David R.E. Hale, a retired major general, and stripped him of a star after he admitted to committing adultery with the wives of four subordinate officers while he was still on active duty.
Among other possibilities, Petraeus could still receive a reprimand or even a reduction in rank should Carter determine that his service as a four-star general was unsatisfactory. Besides further tarnishing Petraeus’s reputation, such a move could cost him tens of thousands of dollars a year in pension payments.
Lawyers for Petraeus and Broadwell declined to comment.