I have a simple question. If you are head of the CIA, and you can’t keep your own extramarital affair secret, how safe are our country’s other secrets?

For those of you who have been under a rock, detained at Guantanamo, or simply trying to navigate security at O'Hare the last couple weeks, there is a burgeoning scandal involving retired general and (now former) head of the CIA David Petraeus, whose name interestingly rhymes with “betray us”. Petraeus, it turns out, had an extended affair with his personal biographer Paula Broadwell (not to be confused with the phrase “Paula Beds Well”). Both are married, just not to each other. Adding to the confusion is a platoon of generals who have apparently been sending thousands of emails to a somehow involved Tampa socialite who is now demanding diplomatic protection and the removal of verminous reporters from her manicured lawn. The entire sordid affair came to light when the FBI hacked into the electronic files of the world's most powerful super spy and discovered secret communications between him and Broadwell. Perhaps Petraeus should have used a more sophisticated password than “PaulaBedsWell”. It gets even more convoluted when we learn one of the FBI agents, a friend of the Tampa socialite, was removed from the case because, among other things, he emailed her shirtless photos of himself.

Where are the chaperones at this teen soirée? Are there any adults left running the country? Certainly not the Secret Service. They are still in Colombia waiting for a receipt from their prostitutes.

Petraeus and Broadwell met when she was hired to write his biography, a book titled “All In”. Turns out he was; more than we knew. Well, more than anyone who was not in the military, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice department, the Daughters of the American Revolution, about 6,000 Amway distributors and anyone on the Tampa socialites email distribution list. Essentially the rest of us were not told until after that pesky, insignificant election we recently had to endure. Go figure.

It brings an entirely new context to the phrase “Embedded with the troops”. And we are not yet done with the absurdity of it all.

In Denver, some idiots at a TV station, probably members of the Google generation, inadvertently pulled a Photoshopped image of Broadwell's book to use in a report on the story. Remember, the book was titled “All In”. The photo below is a snapshot of the report as it aired.

Anyone see a problem here?  Anyone? Anyone?

Perhaps I am making too much of this. After all, if the CEO of a large organization has an inappropriate relationship with an underling, it's not like it would kill anybody. Except those guys in Libya, or hundreds in Afghanistan or thousands in Syria – but I am sure we were on top of things. At least on top of one thing, anyway.

Beyond the specter of an out of control spy agency, sordid affairs with a bazillion generals who are taking orders from their privates, an exploding Middle East and the related potential of global thermonuclear war, we have an excellent lesson for those of us in the employment risk sector.

Personal conduct matters, and not behaving in an appropriate manner brings the risk of detrimental results to your organization. At its core, this is an example of what can go wrong in any organization when a high level executive disrupts the operation with personal affairs. Literally. The fact that this particular operation should have its fingers on the pulse of the world instead of each other is merely a distraction from the main issue. Even if no direct laws were broken, the participants are exposed to potential compromise and extortion. Interestingly, in an address to Denver University (which was the story our much maligned Denver station was covering), Broadwell made statements about calls for assistance from the Libyan compound, where four Americans died, that were in direct conflict with the official government line. Where did she get that information? A story out 2 days ago reveals she has been stripped of her security clearances because she was found to be storing classified military material at her home. As with any CEO, this affair is not some meaningless fling. It is a distraction with real and potential corporate consequences.

And if that distraction surrounding the affair ends in an exploding global conflagration, well that is a bad thing, too. Forget sending in the clowns. For this circus we need to send them on their way.

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