In my dismissal yesterday of the way the Petraeus soap opera is being covered, I neglected to point out a very good article over at the Guardian. Glenn Greenwald mostly ignores the sex—while ruing the sad fact that adultery, of all things, is what has people up in arms about the ethics of the US military brass—and zeroes in on the fucked-up way this investigation got started in the first place:
As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.
That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email.
To see the FBI chasing ghosts and small game is not so unusual—The Stranger, and many other papers, have run stories about law-enforcement devoting "substantial resources" to nothing much at all (like, say, a years-long undercover investigation of a guy who used to know some people who might have known people who were in the ELF) and wreaking havoc on people's lives along the way. What's unusual in this case is the prestige of the ghost the FBI was chasing.
So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime... they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley...
This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.
But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America's national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: "Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?"
There's more to this story than socialites and petty duplicities after all.