David Petraeus

Last Friday, after a hacker broke into the email account of former President George W. Bush’s sister Dorothy, correspondence belonging to the Bush family went viral — most notably, images of President Bush’s paintings of himself, disrobed and in the shower.

One painting shows the president’s apparently muscular back as he gazes in a mirror in the shower; another displays his outstretched legs in a bathtub. They are almost as unskillful as they are awkward. I doubt I would be any better at painting a nude of myself, but then again, that’s why I don’t try. I would be even more reluctant to produce such a painting — not to mention unleash the beast onto the Internet — if someone accused me of being “the leader of the free world.”

Millions, including myself, delighted in mocking yet another of Bush’s clumsy gaffes — not because we particularly care about how he performs at his hobbies, but because it is kind of fun to catch powerful people in embarrassing moments.

When she was informed of the leaked emails, Dorothy Bush could only respond, “Why would someone do this?”

That’s a good question, and one that many Americans asked of the Bush administration after President Bush admitted that the National Security Agency had been engaging in unconstitutional, warrantless wiretaps. For years, federal agents monitored the telephone calls, emails and text messages of American citizens without any legal justification. None of those citizens could demand a Secret Service investigation, because the Bush administration’s suspension of basic civil liberties rendered every American a suspect, not a victim.

The Bush family’s hacked images and emails were popular on Facebook and Twitter for a few days. But an event that could have been used to reinvigorate a discussion of invasive security measures devolved into a fodder for short-lived entertainment.

America enjoys the fall of its icons. Even if we hide behind the guise of disappointment and moral superiority, we love to watch scandals unfold. The vast majority of the population has had no vested interest in Lance Armstrong’s career, but 28 million of us watched Oprah’s most recent interview, captivated by stories of syringes dumped in Coke cans.

I am not particularly interested in shaming anyone for rubbernecking. However, an obsession with scandal can become a problem when it takes precedence over enforcing high expectations for our leaders.

Last November, then-CIA Director David Petraeus announced that he was resigning because he had engaged in an extramarital affair. Colleagues and government officials, including President Barack Obama, emphasized that they were shocked and saddened by the news. For a week, newspapers ran profiles of his former mistress Paula Broadwell and revealed details about the “steamy romance.”

The media scandal died down, and the most reprehensible consequences of Petraeus’ departure are receiving far less national attention. Last Thursday, John Brennan’s confirmation hearing for the CIA director position commenced. Brennan, a UT graduate and the current Homeland Security Advisor, is one of the driving forces behind the Obama administration’s increasingly aggressive drone program, which has killed hundreds of innocent civilians abroad, including children. Petraeus’ consensual relationship with an adult is a career-ending scandal, but replacing him with a leader in favor of high-tech mass killings is business as usual.

Also last week, Obama released a memo detailing the total authority the White House has over American lives. The previously classified document provides a justification for targeted drone strikes against individuals, including Americans, suspected of terrorist activity.

The memo serves as the justification for the drone strike against American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was suspected of working with al-Qaida. It may also have been the document that gave the government authority to kill al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, a 16-year-old American citizen with no concrete ties to any terrorist organization. The minor was killed in a drone strike at a café in Yemen two weeks after his father’s death.

If Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s case and the recent memo are any indication of the Obama administration’s stance toward security, American citizens can be executed without warning or trial simply by knowing — or being born to — the wrong people.

Nonetheless, The Daily Texan didn’t even publish a news article regarding the groundbreaking announcement. The paper has published five articles on UT assistant football coach Major Applewhite’s “inappropriate relationships” and three on the Lance Armstrong scandal since the beginning of 2013.

I enjoy news about embarrassing celebrity moments as much as the next person, because we could all use a reminder that the idols we glorify are fallible. But we should use that reminder to stop putting leaders on pedestals and instead hold them accountable.

The most atrocious scandals are not uncovered through email exchanges or leaked photos: They are codified into our laws and upheld by our institutions. There is a distinction between being a voyeur and being an engaged citizen. Egalitarian democracies rely on recognizing the difference.

San Luis is a Plan II, English and women’s and gender studies senior from Buda.

In this June 29, 2012 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress said Sunday they want to know more details about the FBI investigation that revealed an extramarital affair between ex-CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer, questioning when the retired general popped up in the FBI inquiry, whether national security was compromised and why they weren’t told sooner.

“We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The FBI was investigating harassing emails sent by Petraeus biographer and girlfriend Paula Broadwell to a second woman. That probe of Broadwell’s emails revealed the affair between Broadwell and Petraeus. The FBI contacted Petraeus and other intelligence officials, and director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked Petraeus to resign.

A senior U.S. military official identified the second woman as Jill Kelley, 37, who lives in Tampa, Fla., and serves as a social liaison to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. A U.S. official said the coalition countries represented at the military’s Central Command in Tampa gave Kelley an appreciation certificate on which she was referred to as an “honorary ambassador” to the coalition, but she has no official status.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kelley is known to drop the “honorary” part and refer to herself as an ambassador.

The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation, said Kelley had received harassing emails from Broadwell, which led the FBI to examine her email account and eventually discover her relationship with Petraeus.

A former associate of Petraeus confirmed the target of the emails was Kelley, but said there was no affair between the two, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the retired general’s private life. The associate, who has been in touch with Petraeus since his resignation, says Kelley and her husband were longtime friends of Petraeus and wife, Holly.

Petraeus resigned while lawmakers still had questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Lawmakers said it’s possible that Petraeus will still be asked to appear on Capitol Hill to testify about what he knew about the U.S. response to that incident.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the circumstances of the FBI probe smacked of a cover-up by the White House.

“It seems this (the investigation) has been going on for several months and, yet, now it appears that they’re saying that the FBI didn’t realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn’t add up,” said King, R-N.Y.

Petraeus, 60, quit Friday after acknowledging an extramarital relationship. He has been married 38 years to Holly Petraeus, with whom he has two adult children, including a son who led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan as an Army lieutenant.

Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and an Army Reserve officer, is married with two young sons.

Attempts to reach Kelleyand Broadwell were not immediately successful.

Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell will be the subject of meetings Wednesday involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

Petraeus had been scheduled to appear before the committees on Thursday to testify on what the CIA knew and what the agency told the White House before, during and after the attack in Benghazi. Republicans and some Democrats have questioned the U.S. response and protection of diplomats stationed overseas.

Morell was expected to testify in place of Petraeus, and lawmakers said he should have the answers to their questions. But Feinstein and others didn’t rule out the possibility that Congress will compel Petraeus to testify about Benghazi at a later date, even though he’s relinquished his job.“I don’t see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn’t testify,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants to create a joint congressional committee to investigate the U.S. response to that attack.

Feinstein said she first learned of Petraeus’ affair from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call Friday with Petraeus. She eventually was briefed by the FBI and said so far there was no indication that national security was breached.

Still, Feinstein called the news “a heartbreak” for her personally and U.S. intelligence operations, and said she didn’t understand why the FBI didn’t give her a heads up as soon as Petraeus’ name emerged in the investigation.

“We are very much able to keep things in a classified setting,” she said. “At least if you know, you can begin to think and then to plan. And, of course, we have not had that opportunity.”

Clapper was told by the Justice Department of the Petraeus investigation at about 5 p.m. on Election Day, and then called Petraeus and urged him to resign, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

FBI officials say the committees weren’t informed until Friday, one official said, because the matter started as a criminal investigation into harassing emails sent by Broadwell to another woman.

Concerned that the emails he exchanged with Broadwell raised the possibility of a security breach, the FBI brought the matter up with Petraeus directly, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

Petraeus decided to quit, though he was breaking no laws by having an affair, officials said.

Feinstein said she has not been told the precise relationship between Petraeus and the woman who reported the harassing emails to the FBI.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, called Petraeus “a great leader” who did right by stepping down and still deserves the nation’s gratitude. He also didn’t rule out calling Petraeus to testify on Benghazi at some point.

“He’s trying to put his life back together right now and that’s what he needs to focus on,” Chambliss said.

King appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Feinstein was on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and Chambliss was interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.”