Who can be the most scurrilous?

This whole Petraeus incident has got all sorts of issues flying around about it. The media seems to care, because sex was involved. There are also privacy questions, and the question of whether Petraeus should have stepped down to begin with.

I'm not sure where I am on all of the issues. I'm fairly happy to see Petraeus gone, but only because I don't like having the spy agencies run by a military guy. I just don't want to see any more crossover there than required by immediate mission needs.

On the privacy front, I actually don't have a whole lot of problem with what was done, because they were investigating something that might have been a crime. The only part I don't know about is whether they got a warrant or not. If they did (and I think they would have had no problem getting one), then I think the system worked as it should. If they didn't, then I think they should have (though I believe the law doesn't, but should, require one).

Another part I have to think about is this. Petraeus was in position to know more about spying operations than anyone else in the country (even the President, who has less reason to know details). An affair is a major red flag for maintaining a clearance, because it's potential blackmail material. So I have mixed feelings about the ouster. I generally don't much care about a public official's sex life (for all I know, maybe his wife knew about the affair), because it has little effect on ability to carry out duties. But the potential for blackmail (especially if his wife didn't) is a real problem. So I have mixed feelings.

One thing I had to wonder about. When you have a clearance, you need to get reinvestigated periodically (how often depends on the clearance). Generally, people are asked for a list of people in different contexts (co-workers, neighbors, friends, etc) who will vouch for them. If someone has had a biography written, is the biographer automatically used as a reference? I have no idea, though it would certainly make sense.

After writing the previous (several days ago), this spot-on article about the media's approach to the whole thing was pointed out to me (Gruber, again).  I think the only questionable part of the whole thing was his complete dismissal of blackmail as a possibility; even if it hadn't happened (and there's no reason to think it did), it was still possible.  But that's a very minor quibble with an excellent article.

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