A lot of explaining to do: Petraeus
A lot of explaining to do: Petraeus

David Petraeus's reputation has already been ruined by the revelations that he had an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. But now many pundits believe he could face further punishment for failing to control his personal urges.

Petraeus dramatically quit his job as director general of the CIA last week, when details emerged of his affair with Broadwell. The former colonel of the US Army insists he got engaged in extra-marital, non-military manoeuvres only after quitting the United States military.

But this claim could yet be tested, if reasonable grounds for suspicion emerge that elements of the US military code may have been breached by the man who once exemplified it, as the top soldier in war-torn Iraq during the height of the violence.

The rules, or Uniformed Code of Military Justice, to give them their full title, clearly state that adultery is "unacceptable conduct, and it reflects adversely on the service record of the military member."

The maximum penalty for breaching the code is court-martial, meaning that were Petraeus to be convicted at a future military trial, he would lose his bumper pension, worth around £130,000 a year. But the damage to the reputation of the master warrior who spent 37 years serving in the military would be incalculable.

But that doomsday scenario is unlikely to happen, according to military law expert Richard Rosen, a law professor at Texas Tech University.

"I would be shocked if the military took any interest in this. I don't think the military will do anything to him," he told IBTimes USA, the sister edition of this title.

Rosen said a court-martial for adultery was possible but not plausible for Petraeus.

"Even though adultery is technically a crime, things like this are unlikely to go to court martial unless it's with a subordinate," Rosen said.

Retired Rear Adm. Donald Guter, who was the 37th judge advocate of the Navy, also believes it's unlikely Petraeus will be prosecuted under these circumstances.

"Any retired officer is still subject to the Uniform Code, but the longer you are out the more unlikely they will call you back," he said.