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David Petraeus Enters Into Plea Deal With Justice Department

Former CIA Director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus speaks at the University of Southern California on March 26, 2013, his first public speech after resigning as CIA director.
Kevork Djansezian
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Former CIA Director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus speaks at the University of Southern California on March 26, 2013, his first public speech after resigning as CIA director.

Former CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus, whose military career has been overshadowed by charges that he provided classified data to his mistress, has made a deal with the Justice Department in which he will plead guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

The deal will allow Petraeus, who rose to the rank of a four-star general before becoming director of the CIA, to avoid a trial and plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He'll also avoid a prison sentence, if a federal court agrees with the plea deal's terms.

The charge's maximum possible punishments include a fine of $100,000 and a one-year prison sentence. Instead, prosecutors agreed that Petraeus should serve a two-year probation and pay a fine of $40,000.

The plea agreement is one of several legal documents filed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in North Carolina. News of the filings was passed to us by NPR's Carrie Johnson.

"The criminal Information charges the defendant with one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1924," Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in a statement. "The plea agreement and corresponding statement of facts, both signed by the defendant, indicate that he will plead guilty to the one-count criminal Information."

As Carrie notes, "former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and former CIA Director John Deutsch pleaded guilty to similar offenses in the past."

Petraeus resigned from the CIA in November 2012, citing an extramarital affair with a woman whom investigators suspected of receiving secret data.

Federal prosecutors recommended filing charges against Petraeus in January. The question then became whether Attorney General Eric Holder would pursue a criminal case against the decorated veteran.

As we summarized in January:

"The nature of Petraeus' relationship with Army reservist Paula Broadwell emerged during an FBI investigation that was sparked by allegations from another woman, Jill Kelley, that she was receiving harassing emails. Those messages were reportedly traced to Broadwell."

Update at 12:240 p.m. ET: 'Black Books' Given To Biographer

The papers filed today say that Petraeus held on to some classified and sensitive information that he shouldn't have, in the form of "Black Book" notebooks — and that he later provided them to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair.

Court papers say that while Petraeus was the commander of the international force in Afghanistan, he collected "bound, 5-by-8-inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes."

The notebooks had black covers on which Petraeus taped his business card.

The documents say:

"A total of eight such books (hereinafter the "Black Books") encompassed the period of defendant David Howell Petraeus's ISAF Command and collectively contained classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant David Howell Petraeus's discussions with the President of the United States of America.

"The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret/SCI and code word information."

Petraeus and Broadwell talked about the Black Books in August of 2011, court papers say, relating this exchange:

Biographer: "By the way, where are your black books? We never went through...
Petraeus: "They're in a rucksack up there somewhere."
Biographer: "Okay ... You avoiding that? You gonna look through 'em first?"
Petraeus: "Umm, well, they're really – I mean they are highly classified, some of them. They don't have it on it, but I mean there's code word stuff in there."

Later that month, Petraeus sent an email promising the black books to Broadwell; he then left them with her for several days. A little more than a year later, he resigned from his post leading the CIA.

The documents say that Petraeus gave false statements to FBI agents about providing the black books to Broadwell and that he also falsely swore when he left the CIA in 2012 that he did not possess or control any classified material.

In April of 2013, the papers say, the FBI executed a search warrant at Petraeus' house and found the black books in an unlocked desk drawer on the first floor of his home in Arlington, Va.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.