I have argued that stupid decisions in the past should not serve as binding precedents for stupid behavior in the present or future. Upon reading this piece, I had a similar reaction with a modification of the rule. Rosa Brooks argues that there are plenty of others who messed up in similar ways. Maybe the system is broken, but Petraeus still knowingly gave highly classified info to a person who did not have the same level of classification. His initial reluctance is rather telling. Then, of course, he lied about it. So, he broke the law and should be penalized, just as others should have been. And if the law is a problem, then, yes, it should be modified.
To be clear, I am not a P4 hater. I had a brush with him in 2001-2002 when I was on the Joint Staff as I had to talk to him about something (I forget the specifics) as I was on the Bosnia desk and he was serving at the time as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations for SFOR, the NATO force in Bosnia. I was impressed at the time, and followed him avidly when he was leading the 101st division into Iraq and into Mosul. Early reports and then Tom Rick's Fiasco indicated that Petraeus was doing the occupation stuff far better than most Americans at the time (a low bar but still).
So, I was a Petraeus fan before it was cool. Perhaps I am pissed off now as a let down fan. Or because he slept with his dissertation supervisee (Paula Broadwell). But I also think that one should not think with one's penis when handing around classified material. That she had a classification is not sufficient, as there are degrees of classification for a reason. Well, many reasons but two are: need to know and degree of risk. She didn't need to know, and reserved officers are a much wider group of people so no need to have as many with high classifications.
In my year on the Joint Staff, I had a Top Secret clearance. Which was handy and it did allow me to see stuff that I didn't need to see--the daily intel circulated throughout the interagency. But I did not get to participate in some meetings, especially those involving terrorism and the search for PIFWCs (war criminals) as that stuff involved Special Operations (what I inferred, not what I actually learned). I knew what I was missing, but not the specifics. And despite my desperate genetic imperative for more information--I am a very curious person, I was ok with being outside the room and not in the circle of trust.
Paula Broadwell should have understood that she was overreaching, and Petraeus should have gone with his first instinct and not give the stuff to her. As they say, you do the crime, you do the time.
Oh and one story about classified materials: on 9/11, I was on the way to State with two army officers. After the plane hit, these guys were determined to get back to the building both to see if our comrades were ok and to deposit the classified materials they were carrying. Taking stuff home is serious business and requires serious paperwork (see Erin Simpson on this). So, we did, indeed, go back into a burning building (a very big building where the burning was on the other side) to drop off the documents.