After Paula Broadwell co-wrote a biography of the most feted American general of the past 50 years, David Petraeus, a telling sentence appeared in her author's profile: ''She spent much of the past year in Afghanistan as an embedded author''.
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Harassing emails led to FBI probe
The scandal that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus started with harassing emails sent by his biographer and paramour, Paula Broadwell, to another woman.
She also wrote about her ''passion for leadership''.
In the biography's prologue she wrote: ''I took full advantage of his open-door policy …''
She then titled the book All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.
She also lists herself as a ''model/demonstrator'' for KRISS.
KRISS makes machineguns.
This all-in, embedded-author, open-access, weapon-enhanced, passion-for-leadership might have been worth no more than a tap on the shoulder by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, except that Broadwell became too pushy.
Having gone all-in with Petraeus and become his mistress, she gained access to his private Gmail account. Ominously, media reports in the US say, she used this access to acquire email addresses and send anonymous critiques to several people on the general's private email account.
This was folly. Petraeus was not only a four-star general who had commanded US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was director of the CIA.
The FBI takes an interest in anonymous emails that can be traced to the private email of the chief gatekeeper of national security. The emails led to Broadwell. Petraeus became compromised.
He waited until after the presidential election, then resigned on Friday after sending a self-admonishing, sackcloth-and-ashes resignation letter to CIA staff, which referred to his ''extremely poor judgment''. His letter gave the real reason he was falling on his sword: he had gone all-in with his embedded biographer as they shared a passion for leadership.
A quiet warning would have been the better and fairer outcome, but it appears Broadwell's transgressions precluded a discreet continuance of business as usual. She had been investigated for having improper access to potentially classified information.
Such a waste. No American general has had such a storied career, or been mentioned so often as having presidential potential, since Dwight Eisenhower, the Allied forces commander in World War II. Eisenhower duly became president in 1952, in a landslide, and was re-elected by another landslide in 1956. Presidential politics have never been as stable since.
Some things don't change. Generals are not made of granite. It was well known in Washington circles - but never made public - that Eisenhower had a long-running affair with his attractive army driver, Kay Summersby, during the war. The famous moment when the affair caught the light was when she adjusted his collar and scarf in public. Such a simple gesture, but not one of a chauffeur towards a general.
The affair did not become public until 1975, six years after Eisenhower's death, when Summersby wrote a memoir, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower. By then she was dying of cancer, would not survive the year, and it was safely 15 years after the end of Eisenhower's presidency. Summersby confirmed that Eisenhower had considered divorcing his wife and that their affair had ended when the war ended.
Divorce and remarriage would have generated considerably more scandal 60 years ago, and Eisenhower was already being groomed for the greatest prize the US can offer. While this affair never became fodder for the media, in the modern, omnivorous media age, news of the Petraeus affair became a pulp e-novel within 72 hours.
The back story is far more compelling than the biography, which Broadwell co-wrote with a Washington Post reporter, Vernon Loeb. He provided the writing, she provided the access.
In the book, Broadwell describes her first meeting with Petraeus, in 2006. He had given a lecture at Harvard University and she had introduced herself afterwards and told him about her research into leadership. He offered to help.
In 2010, after Petraeus was given command of the US forces in Afghanistan, Broadwell leveraged her Harvard master's thesis into a book proposal. Penguin bought. Petraeus agreed to co-operate. She went to Afghanistan six times.
It was a long way from North Dakota, where at high school she was state student council president and an all-state basketball player. She got into West Point, the US military academy, and graduated with honours. (Twenty years earlier, Petraeus graduated from West Point and married the commandant's daughter.)
Broadwell later gained masters' degrees from the University of Denver and Harvard. She graduated at the top of her class at West Point in physical fitness and remains a fitness demon. Earlier this year, on a book promotion tour, she appeared on the The Daily Show and challenged the host, Jon Stewart, to a push-up contest. She won easily.
Now 40, Broadwell lists herself as a research associate at Harvard's centre for public leadership and a doctoral candidate in the department of war studies at King's College, London. She is married to Dr Scott Broadwell, a radiologist, and they live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with their two sons. In her Twitter biography she describes herself as: ''Author … National Security Analyst; Army Vet; Women's Rights Activist; Runner/Skier/Surfer; Wife; Mom!''
The reference to women's rights refers in part to Broadwell's opposition to the Pentagon's ''combat exclusion policy'', which limits combat roles for women. ''We are facing a brass ceiling'', she said in an interview this year.
''[You need] combat experience to qualify to lead divisions and regional commands. Without that [women] could never become chief of staff of the army, or chairman of the joint chiefs of staff … In today's warfare, where there really are no front lines, where women are serving everywhere that men are … there should be no more barriers because we have already proven ourselves.''
This cause may be another casualty of the Petraeus affair.