Answer Man

Answer Man: Will Broadwell waltz around espionage rap?

Q. On March 3, retired Army Gen. David Petraeus agreed to plead guilty to “unauthorized removal and retention of classified material” as part of a plea bargain for providing documents to his mistress-turned-author, Paula Broadwell. Since it takes two to tango can you discuss what punishment she has or will receive for her role?

— Bill Malec, of O’Fallon

A. While Petraeus now faces jail time and a hefty fine, Broadwell so far has managed to dance around charges in this stunning scandal that destroyed the career of a highly decorated four-star general and CIA director.

And although she may not be totally out of the woods, legal eagles say they expect she’ll probably sidestep future trouble because a case would be difficult to prove and not worth the time and effort, according to my sources at the McClatchy Tribune Information Services.

As you know, Broadwell co-authored “All In,” a sympathetic biography of Petraeus that was published Jan. 24, 2012. Then just 10 months later, the roof caved in on both of them. On Nov. 9, Petraeus resigned as CIA director after revealing his extramarital affair with Broadwell. Meanwhile, Broadwell found herself in hot water for sending allegedly harassing and anonymous e-mails to Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite who was friendly with Petraeus and his wife.

A month later, federal prosecutors said that out of “fairness and justice” they would not bring cyberstalking charges against her. That wasn’t the end of it, though. While combing through her computer and North Carolina home looking into the emails, the FBI found that she had technically classified but not highly sensitive materials.

This is the legal cloud that reportedly still hangs over Broadwell, because unauthorized recipients of classified information can be prosecuted along with the leaker. But whether the government wants to make a federal case out of it is another matter.

“It would be very complicated,” Mark Zaid, a Washington-based attorney specializing in national security issues, told McClatchy’s T. Ortega Gaines earlier this year. “And I doubt the government would want to go there.”

For their part, Petraeus in the past has denied providing the information to Broadwell, and Broadwell has similarly denied receiving any from Petraeus. So what law might have been broken could depend on several questions, including Broadwell’s employment status.

This could mean extra trouble for Broadwell. A West Point grad, she was a major in the Army Reserves when the Petraeus scandal broke. She had a security clearance, which Zaid said “could change the dynamic” by upping her legal liability.

According to Gaines, stricter penalties, including a 10-year jail sentence, come with violating the Espionage Act’s prohibition against the gathering, transmitting or receipt of defense information with the intent or reason to believe the material will be used against the United States. But again, that likely would be difficult to prove.

“Although reporters frequently gain access to classified information, there has never been a non-espionage case in which a person has actually been charged with unauthorized receipt of classified information,” according to Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

In 2005, for example, the Justice Department charged two former officials with the American Israel Political Action Committee with receiving classified information and transmitting it to lobbyists, journalists and diplomats. However, all charges were dropped four years later when the judge said the government would have to prove that the defendants knew that distributing the information would harm the U.S. For prosecuters, that was too difficult a task.

So while she remains in some legal limbo, speculation is that she won’t be charged.

“Yes, there is potential liability, on paper,” Zaid told Gaines. “But there are lots of laws on the books that are never enforced.”

Even with his guilty plea, Petraeus is expected to get just two years probation along with a $40,000 fine. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has said only that a final determination is yet to be made in Broadwell’s case. Broadwell’s attorney, Robert Muse of Washington, has declined comment. I’m sure you’ll want to stay tuned to see whether she waltzes free and clear.

On the air: If you’re into the local music scene, you’ll want to see KETC-TV’s “City of Music,” a two-hour look at how St. Louis has influenced the nation’s musical heritage.

As a special treat, the program will feature live performances by many of the city’s leading musicians such as Billy Peek, Denise Thimes and the St. Louis Ragtimers interpreting the music of Scott Joplin, Miles Davis, Chuck Berry and others. The program will air in two hour-long parts at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday on KETC, Channel 9.

Then, at 10 p.m. Wednesday, “Science Matters” on KETC will talk with Washington University researchers who have invented “cancer goggles.” After they undergo surgery, cancer patients now often are left wondering whether surgeons removed ever speck of the disease. The new goggles allow surgeons in the operating room to see stray cancer cells glowing brightly. Although the goggles are still being tested, it is hoped they will reduce the need for follow-up surgeries.

Today’s trivia

How did “in the buff” come to mean “naked”?

Answer to Thursday’s trivia: Whether playing the ponies is your passion or you just enjoy watching the Triple Crown every year, you should pay homage to Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. The grandson of explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, Clark founded the Louisville Jockey Club, built Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and wrote many of the racing rules still in force today. Sadly, he lost his shirt in the 1893 stock market crash and eventually committed suicide in 1899 at the age of 53.