In the Petraeus Scandal, the FBI Ran Amok

There is one thing about the Petraeus scandal that bothers me a lot.

And that’s the ability of the FBI to take down any person in the country on the flimsy basis of their private, consensual behavior.

In the case of Petraeus, it now seems that one low-level FBI agent in particular pushed the Petraeus investigation forward. And this FBI agent appears to have had some kind of a relationship with the woman who was allegedly receiving threatening phone calls from Petraeus’s mistress. The same woman also had voluminous e-mail exchanges with General John Allen, the lead commander in Afghanistan.

This is the stuff of a bad soap opera.

But what makes it a matter of concern is that there seems to be no restraint on the part of the FBI to use all the surveillance means at its disposal to go after someone when no serious crime seems to have occurred.

I had the same reaction to the Eliot Spitzer takedown, and I’ve never believed the cover story: that the FBI or the Treasury Department, doing routine inspection of money transfers, just happened to come upon Spitzer’s money trail to his prostitute. It seems much more likely either that his political enemies or, more likely, the titans on Wall Street found the dirt on him and turned it over to the feds. Oh, I know what Spitzer did was illegal and hypocritical; but it hardly should have caused an FBI investigation.

Someone must have prompted it.

Just as someone prompted the Petraeus investigation.

So I’ve got a couple questions: Who’s calling the shots over at the FBI? And what checks are in place there to prevent biased investigations from going forward?

We need answers to these, or we’ll all be vulnerable to witch-hunts.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “The Poetry of Protest."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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