Analysis: Will national security scandal create national security risk?
Paula Broadwell's affair with CIA Director David Petraeus led to his resignation. She got to know him while working on a Ph.D. dissertation about him. Alleged "jealous" e-mails she wrote anonymously to another woman, Jill Kelley, brought the affair to light, a government source told CNN.
November 13th, 2012
08:44 PM ET

Analysis: Will national security scandal create national security risk?

By Mike Mount, CNN Senior National Security Producer

The fallout from the scandal involving now disgraced CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and possible connection to top Afghan commander Gen. John Allen comes at a transition time for the Obama administration. Just a week after the election, one of Washington's favorite guessing games started as politicians, journalists and every other political wonk started to calculate who could be filling the major Cabinet positions that would be opening as some get set to step down. It raises the question of what effect all this could have on the country's national security.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton long ago announced she would be leaving and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, said this week that he does want to return to his home in California. Asked how long he plans to stick around the Pentagon, he responded to reporters, "Who the hell knows?"

In the military, regularly scheduled command changes were getting set as well, as Allen was moving to head the European Command and a new commander was preparing to take over in Afghanistan. Both have to be confirmed by the Senate and a confirmation hearing is set for Thursday with the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But in light of the scandal, is the president at risk of losing too much of his foreign policy brain trust as Petraeus departs and Allen works under the haze of an investigation?

White House spokesman Jay Carney addressed that question Tuesday, saying the president, "has great confidence in the acting CIA director. He has confidence in his military, and the secretary of Defense and the Defense Department to carry out the missions that he has assigned to them."

Mark Jacobson, a former NATO adviser to Petraeus while he was in Afghanistan and now a fellow at the policy analysis group The German Marshall Fund, says a scandal like this would not affect national security.

"What it is, is a loss for the CIA, which does need some restructuring, as does the Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Folks need to move away from Afghanistan and Iraq and start looking at the long-term strategic picture and I think Petraeus was the right guy to do that for the agency," Jacobson said.

"There was a thought he (Petraeus) could be leaving to head up Princeton this year, so he might have left anyhow," Jacobson said.

But if the personal nature of the relationship between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, does not have a consequence on national security, surely the decision-making process of who will fill the open positions could have a trickle down effect.

For instance, if the Obama administration loses its top CIA boss and its top commander in Afghanistan, on top of the departure of Clinton and the expected departure of Panetta, who could possibly oversee the sensitive diplomatic and military mission of the final two years of U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

Surprisingly, many in Washington think there are plenty of qualified people who can fill these gaps. In fact, many national security staffers on Capitol Hill we spoke with Tuesday believe the scandal will not hollow out those with national security experience in the administration.

"It's not like there is a void of qualified people. If that was the case the president would have to keep Petraeus in his job," said one Capitol Hill staffer who asked not to be identified.

But one senior Hill staffer thinks the Pentagon's decision to not outright fire Allen and keep him in his position is not only a signal that the military does not know if he was in the wrong, but also a way to protect him if he is found not to be at fault.

"It would be a shame to lose a man with the experience he has in Afghanistan if they were to fire him only to find that he was not actually guilty of anything," the staffer said.

But even keeping Allen in the role he was expected to be confirmed for as head of the U.S. European Command, who could fill the other gaps in higher positions?

The CIA No. 2 man under Petraeus, Mike Morell, has been in that position for years and knows just as much about Afghanistan and Libya and numerous other hot spots than anyone.

Other names, like former Rep. Jane Harman, a stalwart on national security issues, is also somebody whose name is often mentioned. The names being whispered now were being whispered before this scandal broke. The same goes for the Pentagon. Jacobson says a decision there would be driven by the possible large-scale budget cuts.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts and head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been bounced around as a possible secretary of state or secretary of defense. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has support inside the administration to head the State Department.

"The shuffle will largely be unaffected by it (the scandal)," Jacobson said. "I think the administration has some time to maneuver, and some might say this gives the president another position to be able to fill."

The White House is still playing its hand close to its chest when asked if the president will revamp his national security team.

"I can tell you that the president has not made decisions on personnel matters, and you will not hear me discuss them until the president has made those decisions and has announced them," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday.

Allen is working on options to present to the White House regarding the U.S. presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of most troops in 2014. But even with that key job, Allen already had one foot out the door.

"I'm not sure it (the scandal) has a big national security impact in Afghanistan. ... I think there are bigger drivers on that right now," Jacobson said. "This is about the White House foreign policy agenda and the Afghans being more helpful and providing an atmosphere where ISAF forces can operate," he said.

There are bigger problems with the Afghans that must be addressed and a lot of political wrangling going on just below the surface with a lack of cooperation by the Afghans.

"If the Afghans are less cooperative, then the administration is less likely to listen to arguments about why we should slow the pace of the withdrawal," he said.

But as investigations ramp up and look to see if any damage to national security has been done, Republicans maintain that the Petraeus departure is only part of a bigger picture that ties the scandal to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

As more information comes out on the September 11 attack there it is becoming more clear that Petraeus knew much more about what happened than has been said by the Obama administration.

Closed hearings on Capitol Hill scheduled for this week will begin to dive into what happened and who knew what when.

Filed under: Analysis • Gen. Allen • Petraeus • White House
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    November 30, 2012 at 2:20 am | Reply
  11. Raven

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    November 27, 2012 at 12:38 am | Reply
  12. lizzytalorburton

    Who cares about the scandal with Petreaus and his women? Obama's putting that out there to distract everyone from his treason and dereliction of duty for not sending in the Marines with REAL BULLETS!!! to protect the Ambassador and the two Seals and the diplomat. The 3:00 a.m. call went unanswered, obama and Hillary Clinton asleep while they were killed.

    November 15, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
  13. StanCalif

    No where else to post this yet:
    John McCain stands on the Senate floor and critizes Rice and Obama. How short are the memories!!!
    Did he take to the floor and critize George W. for sending Colin Powell to the UN to out right lie!!!
    Of course not! Powell did the "honorable thing" and resigned after he learned George W. lied to him and sent him to lie to the UN!!! McCain should shut up and examine what his own has done in the past! Oh, remember that "wonderful" VP pick he chose??? Memories are much too short!

    November 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Also remember what McCain's "highly qualified VP pick" really did. We forget all too soon.
      Sarah saw the emerging Tea Party as an opportunity. Middle class, hard working Americans wanting things to change. Did Sarah ever tell these people about Grover or Cantor? Of course not! Had they known, there would never have been a Tea Party uprising! people Palin riled up simply got "sold down the river". During this past campaign, the Tea Party was never mentioned by Romney. Possibly he included them in his 47% he didn't care about.
      Romney convinced voters that he was all about taking care of the rich – any wonder he lost? All of the billions his PAC's spent to "buy" the office didn't work! A great victory for our democracy!
      Don't forget!!! Remember who really has your interest at heart!

      November 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  14. Myto Senseworth

    Something smells bad here....... Like Watergate??

    November 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahahhaha

      It's the general's finger and d_ck. That's all!!! Hahahahahahahah

      November 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Yea, it smells like McCain wants to run for president again!
      He doesn't mention how George W. sent Colin Powell to lie before the UN! But for some reason, Rice is a disgrace.
      He doesn't mention that his "highly qualified VP pick" was simply an opportunist (no brains at all). All her efforts to dominate the Tea Party! Did Romney ever mention the Tea Party in his campaign? Of course not! Tea Party people are simply not rich enough to attact his attention!
      McCain had a celebrated military career. He is very niave in understanding what power and prestige does to these highly honored 4 and 5 star generals. He wasn't one.
      Shut up McCain! Your political buddies will ditch you in a minute. You don't speak for the rich! You try to stand up for average Americans who are not respected by your chosen party!

      November 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  15. Hahahahahahahahhaha

    The general banged a broad!!! That's it!!! That is unless our national security is up her.....c_nt. Hahahahahahahaha

    November 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  16. siri dentycopia

    ONE BIG COVER-UP...My gut says their is ALOT MORE TO THIS STORY.

    November 14, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  17. robotmonster

    May all this could morph into an Anna Kareinina story – adulterous married woman with children who jumps in front of a train...

    November 14, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
  18. sarge from Utah


    November 14, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  19. jorge washinsen

    Set a trap with honey--

    November 14, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
  20. mikrik13

    al Qaeda is probably celebrating these selfish American women and holding them up as examples of corruption in the west. Their action were deliberate.

    November 14, 2012 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • asdrel

      It wasn't just the women involved who were selfish. I think that General Petraeus and maybe General Allen deserve that description as well.

      November 14, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
  21. anna lee

    🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴 🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴
    These losers worked for Republicans & Democrats
    Petraeus , a ugly man cheats on his ugly with a middle eastern lebanese B!t(h with a fake American name. Petraeus gives this B!t(h access to a laptop with sensitive information. thanks.
    30,000 emails to investigate???? When do they work?????
    Twelve year old girls don't text and email this much.
    I can not believe the FBI investigated a "cat fight" between Petraeus two B!t(hes
    The FBI Investigator caught fooling around (sending nude pictures) with Petraeus' former B!t(h

    An Old ugly General having an affair with Petraeus' other Slvt got busted doing his own inappropriate crap. In an unrelated matter, another General used public funds for his private vacations

    The secret service buys south american hoez then refuses to pay them.

    STUPID………… STUPID…………….. STUPID …………….STUPID

    November 14, 2012 at 9:35 am | Reply

      What are you smoking? This has less to do with ones ancestry and more to do with power. Obviously your simean countenance suggests a heritage rich in species diversity!

      November 14, 2012 at 11:09 am | Reply
  22. eessydo

    It absolutely defies reason that people would be more concerned about finding the truth of a man cheating on his wife has taken center stage over finding out the truth about the deaths in Bengahzi.

    When problems arise, set off a smoke screen and do your best to run from the real scandal.

    It has come to the point where I can't trust any media outlet, not even CNN. Fox News, Big three networks, and now CNN, all garbage.

    There is no more objectivity in reporting the news.

    November 14, 2012 at 8:58 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Of course! The goal of all media today is to "create" headlines – headlines get the clicks and pays the bllls. Truth takes too much effort (effort = expense!). This is also the "Romney philosophy" of doing business – cut expenses, the consequences just don't matter! He lost! Wake up people, our government nor our media no longer respects truth and honesty – our business "leaders" today are interested in one thing only, "the bottom line"! Consequences? Who cares!

      November 15, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
  23. mike

    another media made scandal....when the ratings fall on this I wonder whats next.....enquiring minds want to know.


    November 14, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
    • mike


      November 14, 2012 at 8:13 am | Reply
  24. michaelfury

    "As more information comes out on the September 11 attack" you may ask yourself: Why was the FBI spying on the CIA?

    November 14, 2012 at 7:51 am | Reply
  25. StanCalif

    Come on people! The mistake made in Benghazi was made by Ambassador Stevens. If Stevens felt so insecure he should have left and returned to Tripoli. The Benghazi facility is NOT a US embassy and did not have embassy level security. Stevens was simply wrong to be there on 9/11!

    November 14, 2012 at 7:34 am | Reply
    • uncdig

      Like Dorothy in the wizard of Oz – "Theres no place like home, theres no place like home, theres no place like home – keep repeating it over and over & maybe even you will believe it.

      November 14, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
      • sir

        you are not in kansas any more

        November 14, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Gone

      Anniversary of 9/11 deserves due diligence at all US interest places and places not so common.

      November 14, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
  26. Tom-the Infidel

    What transition is needed? What a bunch of BS!

    November 14, 2012 at 6:29 am | Reply
    • BS

      The only transition needed is to get the rest of the Bush-era appointees out!

      November 14, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply


    November 14, 2012 at 12:51 am | Reply

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