How did David Petraeus, the storied wartime general and former CIA director, avoid prison for lying to the FBI and violating the Espionage Act? The Washington Post tells the inside story. Not everyone at the U.S. Justice Department shared the prosecutors' confidence in the case, and lawyers for Petraeus and his mistress, Paula Broadwell, separately pushed back hard, saying they would fight and beat the charges being considered. With its mix of sex and government secrets, a trial promised to be an uncomfortably tawdry affair, one some in the government as well as defense lawyers preferred to avoid.
The Justice Department has never discussed how it reached its decision to accept a plea on a lesser charge. Six current and former U.S. officials, as well as others familiar with the case, provided the first detailed look at the internal debates and wrangling with Petraeus's lawyers that took place before the retired four-star general entered his guilty plea in federal court in Charlotte. All spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private legal deliberations. The plea agreement left some in the Justice Department angry, particularly at the FBI, and some agents have argued privately that it will hamper future efforts to secure prison terms in leak cases. Others in the government defended the deal as the only viable conclusion to a case in which a successful prosecution on the more serious charges was far from certain. “Nobody was going to be happy with the outcome,” a former Justice Department official said. “There was nothing about this case that was typical.”