This week I thought I was reading one of my own plots when every morning there was a new twist to the Petraeus scandal. I couldn’t believe it from the very start. Having spent some time in the intelligence world, I first thought it had to be a joke. Yes, powerful men have affairs, but the CIA Director using a Gmail drop box? No, it couldn’t be. And then, more details trickled out – party giver in Florida, harassing emails fighting over Petraeus by two attractive brunettes (both married), a shirtless FBI agent, a private run with Lance Armstrong arranged by the mistress, a call to a Congressional office that triggered the FBI to finally have to tell the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) about their more than a month-long investigation. Really?
Of course, then add all the on-air hot air. Suddenly, Petraeus was being painted as God’s gift to the U.S. What? He is one man, not the savior of mankind. Nor, the last time I checked, is one person the sole protector of the United States and guardian of the entire American intelligence services. The rank and file are actually our daily heroes in the intelligence, diplomatic, and military services and are the ones who guard us day and night.
So I hope the talking heads stop extolling the virtues of someone who was stupid enough to have an affair and use Gmail to communicate (Do they honestly think that every other spy agency in the world hasn’t figured out how to hack into these emails?). And how can he be the end all for the intelligence world when he didn’t think to delete emails and clean out his computer? I wonder if he knows that his phone with GPS can be used to track him 24/7? Eeeeek!
I understand those who are always concerned about Big Brother looking over our shoulders feeling a little queasy about how easy it was to start an FBI investigation. The one thing they must remember is that this was the Director of the CIA. Personally, I don’t care that he had an affair. Plenty of those happen everyday, but he used a public email system to communicate. That is what we call “bad tradecraft.” And bad tradecraft at that level is a major security breach waiting to happen. The Director also has thousands of employees who are forced to maintain a nearly spotless life for security reasons so that blackmail is never used to learn state secrets. For those reasons, the FBI had to investigate to make certain that the private email account of the Director was not hacked and being used. It is also not difficult to believe that perhaps in a careless moment, someone used a computer in the office to go to the private email account. Any great hacker can then get into anything else for which the computer is used including classified documents.
Anyone who carries the level of security clearances at the senior levels of government should know better, and they know that they have to live by a stricter standard than the rest of us. If they are not willing to live by those rules, they shouldn’t be in the job. So, Morning Joe shouldn’t worry about the Director of the CIA being investigated as a sign that all of the rest of us will have our email hacked by the FBI. If that really concerns you, don’t use a mobile phone, computer, iPad, or anything else that connects you to the modern world — since all of that is hackable by all sorts of computer geniuses.
Now, of course, I am thrilled with this entire story since it provides all sorts of variations for my next books. Truly, real life is more absurd than anything a fiction writer can create. Speaking of that, this week is the perfect week to read Vince Flynn’s new book, which has many similar elements in it. The Last Man is about a military commander who has an affair with a State Department employee, trouble in Afghanistan, and an FBI agent who hates the CIA. Go Vince! (Full disclosure: Vince is one of my favorite authors and has kindly encouraged me to keep writing.)