Military Times

David Petraeus faces potential demotion from four-star status

The Pentagon is re-examining taking a new look at whether retired Army Gen. David Petraeus should be retroactively demoted for giving his biographer girlfriend unauthorized access to classified information, defense officials say.

While the Army officially determined last year that Petraeus Petreaus should retain the status — and pension — of a retired four-star officer, that decision is now under review by Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s office, officials said. The story was first reported Monday by The Daily Beast.

Petraeus, who served as the top war commander in Iraq and again later in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty in federal court last April to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information. He was sentenced to two years probation and fined $100,000 after acknowledging He acknowledged that he shared his personal notebooks with his then-mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell, the biographer with whom the general also had an extramarital affair. Those notebooks included notes from national security meetings and in some cases the identities of covert officers.

Petraeus shared the classified information with Broadwell shortly before officially retiring from the Army. The Defense Department has the authority to revisit a retired officer’s final pay-grade determination if new evidence of misconduct is revealed. 

After Petraeus' guilty plea, then-Army Secretary John McHugh reviewed the matter and determined that the general's final pay grade should remain unchanged. McHugh's recommendation was recently forwarded to Carter's office for final approval, and the matter is now getting close scrutiny.

McHugh retired in November.

"The Department of the Army is still in the process of providing the [defense] secretary with information relevant to former‎ Secretary McHugh's recommendation. Once [Carter] has an opportunity to consider this information, he will make his decision about next steps, if any, in this matter," Peter Cook, a Defense Department spokesman, told Military Times.

Petraeus did not respond to a request for comment.

The disclosure of the Pentagon's high-level review sparked frustration among some of Petraeus's supporters. Conservative commentator Max Boot said it was a frivolous matter for defense officials to focus on at a time when the Islamic State controls large parts of Iraq and Syria.

"Talk about crazy, misplaced priorities," Boot wrote Monday in an op-ed for Commentary Magazine online.

"Let's get one thing straight: Petraeus is the greatest general America has seen since the retirement of the World War II generation," Boot said.

He said part of the problem is that the "U.S. government is so guilty of over-classifying that practically everything is slapped with a "secret" (or higher) label."

A diminished final grade determination could have a big financial impact. Petraeus is likely receiving a pension worth about $220,000 annually. Reducing his final retirement grade to that of a three-star general would lower that by more than $40,000, according to official Defense Department estimates for an officer with 37 years on active duty.

Petraeus is currently employed by KKR, a large New York-based private equity firm.

Broadwell published a book titled "All in: The Education of General David Petraeus" in 2012. It did not contain any classified information.

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