The real lesson from the Pentagon sex scandal: Your email, your liability

Once again, smoking gun emails take down the high and mighty. The scariest part? How easy it was to do it

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The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper grabbed a screen capture from the ABC affiliate in Denver, which ran a video clip of Ms. Broadwell speaking at the University of Denver. Apparently somebody at the station felt the need to insert a cover shot of Ms. Broadwell's book about the general in the background; unfortunately, he or she used a NSFW parody of the cover instead of the actual one. That image has since gone viral. Sorry, I can't quote it here, you'll have to click the link above. I gotta say, I think they'd sell a lot more copies with the new title.

The daily fishwraps have also had a bit o' fun with this story, such as the Daily News ("In the Line of Booty") and the New York Post ("Cloak and Shag Her").

Despite all the craziness, which shows no sign of abating, there are serious implications in all of this, but they have less to do with who was doing what to whom or even what did or did not pose a threat to national security. The big takeaway here is how thoroughly just one federal agent can eviscerate your privacy and/or your career with minimal motivation.

From this vantage point, it seems like Kelley called in a favor with a fed who was warm for her form, and the story snowballed from there. It ended up taking down the head of the CIA and might kill the career of another four-star general, as well ruin up to four marriages. And it could get much worse.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a piece for the UK's Guardian that gets to the heart of the matter:

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime -- at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment" more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people -- and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court....

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of Internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

The irony, says Greenwald, is that in this instance the spy state managed to bring down the world's No. 1 spook.

Surveillance run amok is the real scandal. But you're not likely to see much coverage of that amongst the flowcharts, the snarky headlines, and the sex.

Are you involved in the Love Pentagon too? Implicate yourselves below or email me the dirt: cringe@inforworld.com.

This article, "The real lesson from the Pentagon sex scandal: Your email, your liability," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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