The FBI investigation into emails between two high-ranking U.S. officials and two civilians that has resulted in both officials losing their jobs has civil liberties groups worried about the invasion of citizens privacy.
Now-former CIA Director David Petraeus and General John Allen, key individuals in protecting the country from foreign threats, were taken down in the last week after a woman complained to the FBI about threats she received from Petraeus’s alleged mistress.
“There should be an investigation not of the personal behavior of General Petraeus and General Allen but of what surveillance powers the F.B.I. used to look into their private lives,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in an interview with the New York Times
. “This is a textbook example of the blurring of lines between the private and the public.”
Jill Kelley, a friend of both Petraeus and Allen, complained to a friend in the FBI about threatening emails she had received from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s biographer and alleged mistress. Although the agent who received the complaint was told to stay away from the case because he had sent shirtless photos of himself to Kelley, the bureau opened a cyber-investigation nonetheless.
During the investigation, agents found evidence of the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell, leading him to resign Friday. It also discovered potential inappropriate access to classified information.
Had the wrong person gotten wind of Petraeus extramarital affair, government officials are concerned he could have been blackmailed into any number of more potentially dangerous revelations of U.S. secrets.
Law enforcement officials claim they used only ordinary methods to investigate the four individuals email accounts — none of which were government accounts — but the potential for official inquiries to harm the performance of public duties, and vice versa, is significant.
“It’s a particular problem with cyberinvestigations — they rapidly become open-ended, because there’s such a huge quantity of information available and it’s so easily searchable,” he said, adding, “If the C.I.A. director can get caught, it’s pretty much open season on everyone else.”
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