Thursday, November 15, 2012

What the Petraeus Affair Means to Mom Bloggers

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, my kids have been studying the Pilgrims and Puritans and I can't help but notice some striking similarities between their morality-driven lives and certain political goings-on in the United States.

Something tells me that Petraeus is probably not feeling particularly "thankful" this holiday season for the FBI Puritans that felt his extramarital affair was worth investigating for security breaches. While I think we can all agree that extramarital affairs are something to be frowned upon, I think we can also agree that it is shocking to see a relatively small-fry complaint by a Tampa socialite queen bee, regarding some anonymously-sent emails sent by a jealous lover, could spur an FBI investigation of Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the CIA? It seems unreal to me that an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a smart, successful, ambitious woman, has ended with him feeling compelled to resign his position and is now threatening the careers of General John R. Allen, Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who initially complained and who has shared some overly-friendly emails with Gen. Allen, and possibly even the FBI agent who filed the complaint for her, Frederick W. Humphries II (who happens to be a family friend of the Kelley's).

Confused by all the players? It would be understandable when the investigation is playing out like a military-based soap opera, splashed, in high-definition, across the pages of the New York Times. The joke, of course, is on all of us, because tax-payers are footing the bill for the investigation! Doesn't it seem like Magnum, P.I. or the investigators of Moonlighting could've taken care of this whole thing?

Oh, who am I kidding? These two would've given those crazy lovers a break. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to point out something we should all be thankful for: That we can use their extramarital mistakes to learn some valuable lessons.

And, my internet-loving friends and blogging peers, there are some very important issues at play here that we need to be paying especially close attention to: the matter of our privacy in an increasingly digital age.

NY Times' reporter, Scott Shane, wrote about this privacy issue brought up by the Petraeus investigation, noting, "On the Internet, and especially in e-mails, text messages, social network postings and online photos, the work lives and personal lives of Americans are inextricably mixed. Private, personal messages are stored for years on computer servers, available to be discovered by investigators who may be looking into completely unrelated matters."

To that point, another news story noted that the ensuing investigation into Gen. Allen's relationship with gal-pal Kelley, whose career is now in limbo while waiting to see what investigators decide, was initiated because a few blue emails between those two were found among the 10,000 emails investigators were looking through for the Petraeus case! From the article:
Pentagon officials said the review covered more than 10,000 pages of documents that included “inappropriate” messages. But associates of General Allen have said that the two exchanged about a dozen e-mails a week since meeting two years ago and that his messages were affectionate but platonic. 
A law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, disputed that assertion on Wednesday, saying some messages were clearly sexual. Investigators were confident “the nature of the content warranted passing them on” to the inspector general, the official said.
Well, THAT isn't reassuring—because what they're saying is that while investigating a potential "security breach" by Petraeus with his biographer/lover, these guys found some personal emails between Allen and Kelley and then decided to investigate them, too. 

Nope, not reassuring at all. I get that these guys have very important jobs, but COME ON. Seriously? Isn't there a War on Terror somewhere that needs the attention of our FBI agents a little more than this 'who is sleeping with who' business??

No matter whether you sympathize with Petraeus or if you think cheating spouses are getting what they deserve for their duplicity, what we can all take away from this mess is that almost every piece of electronic communications with everyone you know is up for grabs in an investigation. In particular, if you missed the various verdicts that have come out over the last year or so, pretty much everything you write, even in "private message" form in social media, can be subpoenaed and used against you. Facebook and twitter are the first places a good divorce lawyer will turn to when gathering evidence against your spouse—or you—if there was an affair. If you are part of the mom-blogger zeitgeist and put almost all your personal information out into the great searchable internet, well,... best of luck keeping anything secret, even the information you were absolutely positive was just between you and one other person.

While I'm all for wronged spouses getting their pound of flesh in the form of alimony, I know that not everything is always what it seems. It's bad enough that such emotion-based evidence can be used against a person in a divorce proceeding—what about the people who end up having their careers destroyed, too?  I find our adherence to an age-old morality code, a code that is, by the way, bound to catch out at least 1 in five married men (and about 14% of married women), in the matters of business and careers bizarre. People are people and you can't fight human nature.  After years of observation, I have gleaned that (gasp!) a lot of men have a hard time keeping their you-know-whats in their pants. Especially middle-aged guys. The 45+ guys not only have affairs, but seem to lose their fucking minds over them, too, particularly when the woman is younger. I'd cite references, but why bother when I'm 100% positive that you personally already know a man who has done this or a divorcée who's ex is that guy.

To be perfectly clear, I am not saying that cheating on your spouse is okay. (I would be righteously pissed off if my husband cheated on me.) But, I think that every couple works through an affair in their own way—and that 'between the couple' is where the issue of an affair should remain. If the parties involved weren't breaking the law by being together (or, say, embezzling funds to pay off their lover, like that old cad Jim Bakker did with Jessica Hahn, for example) then it is an issue that the involved parties need to resolve. I, for one, certainly don't feel like I need to hear about every important business person's personal affairs on CNN or even the local news, but I know I will be subjected to them eventually. We Americans love a good sex scandal!

Which brings us to the biggest scandal of them all, of course.

Remember a certain White House intern named Monica Lewinsky? Don't worry, if you were just (thankfully) starting to forget, her new book should jog your memory—an "unnamed publisher" seems to think her re-telling of the 15-years-ago affair (possibly accompanied by letters from Bill Clinton complaining about his sex life with Hillary!) that her story is worth $12 million. For that kind of money, I hope it also includes a sex tape complete with a cigar-sniffing money shot. Barf. It seems hard to believe there was anything left unsaid at the time, as Linda Tripp revealed every breathless secret that the then-22-years-old and naive, in-over-her-head Monica ,spilled to her in Congressional hearings and endless documents that kept the entire country bathed, and completely enthralled, naturally, in the tawdriness of it all.

The Petraeus scandal, to me, isn't just another sex scandal, though. It is a scary revelation that rights to privacy are standing on very shaky ground right now and that even the head of the CIA during very shaky political times on the world stage can be brought down by old emails in his inbox.

Part of the answer to the problem is that we all need to choose our methods of communicating more carefully, another may be that investigators, whether they are FBI or local police, need to have their methods of discovery regulated in such a way that time and tax monies aren't wasted on investigations into anything read and deemed by an individual agent as sexually "inappropriate."

The biggest takeaway here is that your mom was right when she told you: Don't write anything down that you aren't prepared for everyone to see. 


  1. Ridiculous use of resources and time. Chilling to think of the ramifications.

    1. Agreed, Ann. I hope I always stay on the right side of the law, because... YIKES! I shudder to think what they could pull just from the archive of this blog! Let's not even think about twitter.

  2. But LOVE your new logo, Amy...xoxo

    1. Thanks, Braja! Do you think it would look good in henna? ;)

  3. Nice piece of writing, Amy, and one I agree with almost completely. But I still can't shake the question raised by one of the pundits addressing the matter: What does it say about national security when the head of the CIA can't even manage to keep his own dalliance a secret?

    1. Joe, that hadn't even crossed my mind—but, my God, YES! How could he not keep it secret?? lol

  4. They did make an attempt at secrecy. They established two separate email accounts that they both knew the passwords for and then wrote draft emails that both of them could read. None of the emails were ever sent!

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  6. We've gradually given away most of our privacy rights in favor of "security," safety, and a chance to be internet famous, though, haven't we? I mean as a country and society...not necessarily the two of us.


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.