ABC News on a possible outcome of the revelation that former CIA director and retired General David Petraeus had an affair with writer Paula Broadwell:
One result is that Petraeus could possibly face military prosecution for adultery if officials turn up any evidence to counter his apparent claims that the affair began after he left the military.Is it possible, technically? Yes. I know of a couple of cases when a retired service member was recalled to active duty in order to face prosecution by court martial. But they are extremely rare. One of the cases was for aggravated murder and the other for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Army's funds. (Neither was a general officer, btw.)
Is it ever going to happen? Not a chance. It is true that adultery is an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but once the presumed offender has left active duty, I assure you no one cares any more. Unless a crime rises to the level of those two above, when you're out, you're free. And that's how it should be.
Beside, what do you think is the chance that President Obama will approve the recall to duty for trial of a retired four-star who had been one of his prize appointments?
Update: We learn today that SecDef Leon Panetta held up the retirement of four-star Army General William E. Ward for 17 months to decide what to do about Ward's lavish padding of his expense account when he commanded US Africa Command.
Under law, Panetta didn't have an option short of actual legal action except to reduce Ward by a star or let him retire at four stars. If Ward had been retired when Panetta or investigators learned of his malfeasance, would he have recalled to general to active duty to face the music?
I doubt it. If Panetta is unwilling to send the matter to a military court while he has Ward in his grip, he would not do it after Ward retired.
What I find just as disturbing, though, is that the Joint Chiefs chairman, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, urged Panetta to sweep it all under the rug and let Ward retire at four stars.