CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Political, military and international figures are among the nearly three dozen people who filed letters of support for former CIA Director David Petraeus, whose career was ruined for sharing classified materials with a mistress who was writing his biography.
A federal judge in Charlotte unsealed the documents Monday, two months after the retired four-star general was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $100,000 for unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.
While his sentencing was public, documents in the case had been sealed, including letters submitted to Judge David Keesler before he sentenced Petraeus.
But a coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, pushed for the release of the materials.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California praised Petraeus' military career. So did former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
With a Ph.D. and a reputation as a thoughtful strategist, Petraeus was brought in by President George W. Bush to command multinational forces in Iraq in 2007, a period when the war began to turn in favor of the U.S.
Petraeus' command coincided with the "surge" of American forces in Iraq and a plan to pay Sunni militias to fight al-Qaida in Iraq.
"I can say without hesitation, General David Petraeus was an extraordinary military leader who provided incredible leadership during the most difficult days in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Graham, who is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Blair said Petraeus' expertise on counterterrorism issues is needed.
"In my view, he is one of the most outstanding public servants I have ever worked with," said Blair, the British prime minister between 1997 and 2007. "We need his service at this time and his brainpower."
Feinstein, a Democrat, said she hoped the judge would take into account Petraeus' "extraordinary contributions."
"General Petraeus recognizes the error of his actions and has admitted his guilt. ... I believe the punishment proposed in his plea agreement is fair, and that he recognizes the error of his actions as well as the importance of protecting classified information," she said.
When Petraeus was sentenced, some argued that he received preferential treatment, noting the government's prosecution in other security cases.
Supporters of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer convicted of giving a New York Times reporter classified details of an operation to derail Iran's nuclear ambitions, had noted the Petraeus case. Sterling was sentenced last month to 42 months in prison, but federal prosecutors in Virginia had been urging a stiffer sentence.
Petraeus' plea agreement was filed in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, the city where Paula Broadwell, the general's biographer and former lover, lives with her husband and children.
Prosecutors said that while Broadwell was writing her book in 2011, Petraeus gave her eight binders of classified material he had improperly kept from his time as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Days later, he took the binders back to his house.
Those binders were later seized by the FBI in an April 2013 search of Petraeus' Arlington, Virginia, home, where he had kept them in the unlocked drawer of a desk in a ground-floor study.
Prosecutors said that after resigning from the CIA in November 2012, Petraeus signed a form falsely attesting he had no classified material. He also lied to FBI agents by denying he supplied the information to Broadwell, according to court documents.
In his letter to the judge, retired Admiral Michael Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Petraeus knows he made a mistake.
"He is a human being of character and strong moral fiber who led with integrity. Dave is also humanly flawed, as many are, for which he had paid a huge price both personally and professionally. And I am certain he will deeply regret his mistakes for the rest of his life," he said.