Peter Maass's blog

November 15, 2012  |  permalink

Was Petraeus Borked?

Will the scandal surrounding David Petraeus, General John Allen, Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley, and a shirtless F.B.I. agent turn into the same sort of eureka moment on privacy that Congress experienced when Judge Robert Bork’s video rentals were revealed during a bruising battle over his Supreme Court nomination? My latest story, co-published by the New Yorker and ProPublica, explores the implications of the FBI’s investigation. Although the lustful portion of the Petraeus scandal is hardly disappearing—who else will be drawn into it, and when will we read the e-mails?—attention is turning toward the apparent ease with which the F.B.I. accessed the electronic communication of Petraeus, Broadwell, Kelley, and Allen. The exact circumstances of how the F.B.I. got its hands on all this material remains to be revealed—for instance, whether search warrants were obtained for everything—but the bottom line appears to be that the F.B.I. seriously harmed the careers of at least Petraeus and Broadwell without, as of yet, filing a criminal complaint against anybody. As the law professor and privacy expert James Grimmelmann tweeted the other day, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal (or what the FBI thinks is legal).” Click here, here or here to read the story.


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