Former U.S. military commander and CIA director David Petraeus was sentenced to two years' probation and fined $100,000 by a federal court in North Carolina on Thursday for leaking secrets to a mistress who was also writing his biography.
Petraeus, a now-retired U.S. Army General, had already agreed to plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. But as part of a nonbinding plea agreement with prosecutors filed in March, the government did not seek any prison time.
In court papers, prosecutors recommended two years of probation and a $40,000 fine. But Judge David Kessler increased the fine to "reflect seriousness of the offense."
In court, before being sentenced, Petraeus apologized "for the pain my actions have caused."
Petraeus attorney Jake Sussman said this was not a case about the public dissemination of classified information. He said it was about the wrongful removal of materials.
Prosecutor James Melindres, however, called it "a serious criminal offense. He was entrusted with the nation's most classified secrets. The defendant betrayed that trust."
Petraeus, who served stints as the top U.S. commander in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned from the CIA in 2012 after it was revealed that he was having an affair with his biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell.
A court document signed by Petraeus and prosecutors says that in 2011, before he became the CIA director, the four-star general illegally gave Broadwell access to binders, known as "black books," that included classified information.
He was also accused of improperly storing classified materials at his residence, and of falsely telling the FBI in October 2012 that he had not shared any classified information with Broadwell.
Civil liberties and government transparency advocates say the government's lenient treatment of Petraeus suggests prosecutors maintain double standards. Other leak case defendants have received harsher punishments, such as former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was sent to prison.
Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, said ahead of Thursday's sentencing that he was not against lighter sentences for people involved in leaking, so long as such treatment is handed out equally.
"The problem is not that David Petraeus is getting lenient treatment," Wizner said. "The problem is that lenient treatment is only available to people in high places."
Al Jazeera and Reuters