Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has decided not to impose any further punishment on David Petraeus, the former CIA director and retired Army general who was forced to resign in a sex-and-secrets scandal in 2012.
In a brief letter sent on Friday to the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Pentagon reported that Carter had agreed with the Army’s recommendation not to discipline Petraeus.
“Given the Army’s review, Secretary Carter considers this matter closed,” Stephen Hedger, the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, wrote in the three-sentence letter, obtained by The Washington Post. The letter did not elaborate.
The Pentagon letter was addressed to Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairman and top Democrat, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In a public letter of their own on Jan. 20, the senators had urged Carter to let the Petraeus matter lie and allow him to keep the four-star rank he had earned during his long career in the Army.
After a lengthy investigation by the FBI that disgraced the onetime military hero, Petraeus pleaded guilty in April in federal court in North Carolina to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials. He received two years of probation and a $100,000 fine.
Petraeus’s civilian sentence, however, did not necessarily exempt him from further punishment at the hands of the military. Although he retired from the Army in 2011 to take the top job at the CIA, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice he still could have faced discipline for his actions.
Under military law, Carter could have imposed a range of disciplinary measures, from issuing a non-binding letter of concern about Petraeus’s actions to demoting him from his current rank as a retired four-star general.
Besides further tarnishing Petraeus’s reputation, stripping him of a star could have cost him tens of thousands of dollars a year in pension payments.
Carter’s decision effectively ends a long and embarrassing period of uncertainty for Petraeus, one of the Army’s most venerated leaders before his reputation was shredded by the scandal.
Petraeus’s attorney, David Kendell, declined to comment on Saturday on the outcome of the case.
As part of Petraeus’s plea deal with the Justice Department, he admitted in a signed statement that he had committed wrongdoing while he was still in the Army before he retired in 2011 to take charge of the CIA.
He also admitted that he lied to FBI agents.
Specifically, Petraeus acknowledged providing eight notebooks that contained highly classified material to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in the waning days of his Army career. Petraeus has also admitted to having an affair with Broadwell.
The notebooks were kept by Petraeus when he served as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011.
They contained code words, war strategy, the names of covert officers and other sensitive information. In addition, the books outlined deliberative discussions with the National Security Council and President Obama.
Broadwell was not charged in that federal investigation. She is still an officer in the Army Reserve. It is not publicly known whether the Pentagon’s decision to close the case on Petraeus also applies to her. While the Washington Post reported in December that a source said the Army was not contemplating action against her, the U.S. Attorney in Charlotte told the Charlotte Observer in January that the Army had not yet made a decision.
The Justice Department shared its investigative case file on Petraeus with the Army after his guilty plea, and some Justice Department officials made little secret of their desire for the military to take further action against the former spymaster.
After a review, however, then-Army Secretary John McHugh made a formal recommendation in the fall that Carter take no further action in the case. McHugh issued the recommendation as one of his final acts in office before he stepped down as Army secretary on Nov. 1.
Petraeus remains a revered figure within the Army for his leadership during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite the scandal that led to his downfall at the CIA, he also maintains close ties with many influential members of Congress.