The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate why the FBI failed to immediately notify the White House and Congress when it discovered that ex-CIA Director David H. Petraeus was involved in an extramarital affair.
The FBI began investigating after a woman, a friend of Petraeus and his wife, Holly, complained to law enforcement about receiving harassing e-mails, according to two officials briefed on the probe.
The Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, said she had no indication that the second woman had an affair with Petraeus. “She was frightened and went to the FBI,” Feinstein said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation traced the threatening e-mails to Paula Broadwell, 40, the author of a Petraeus biography. Broadwell’s messages warned the woman to stay away from Petraeus, said the officials briefed on the probe, who asked for anonymity to discuss information that hasn’t been released. The probe also found e-mails that showed an extramarital affair between Broadwell and Petraeus, they said.
Retired Army Colonel Steve Boylan, a former spokesman for Petraeus in Iraq, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the affair began about two months after he took over as CIA director in mid-2011 and ended four months ago.
“The affair started after he had been in the CIA, after he had retired from the Army,” said Boylan, who said he’d spoken with Petraeus over the weekend. Petraeus “deeply regrets” that it happened, Boylan said.
A senior U.S. military official identified the woman who reported the e-mail threats as Jill Kelley, 37, who lives in Tampa, Florida, and serves as an unpaid social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base, site of the military’s Central Command and Special Operations Command, the Associated Press reported.
Kelley and her husband, Scott, released a statement yesterday saying that, “We and our family have been friends with General Petraeus and his family for over five years. We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children.”
Last week, Petraeus, 60, resigned and admitted in a statement to having an affair. During his career, he rose to the rank of four-star general and led the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before retiring to become head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Although the probe had been under way for several months, according to two law enforcement officials, it wasn’t until last week that the FBI notified James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence. Clapper notified the White House. Petraeus met with President Barack Obama on Nov. 8 and the president accepted his resignation the next day.
Feinstein said Congress should have been told of the probe, and there are confidential ways of doing it. The affair “could have had an effect on national security,” she said.
“The FBI director had the obligation to tell the president or the National Security Council at the earliest state” of the investigation, not after “this has been going on for several months,” said Representative Peter King of New York, a Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
That the “FBI didn’t realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved” after four months of looking at e-mails wasn’t plausible, he said. “It just doesn’t add up.”
The FBI investigation included interviews with Petraeus and Broadwell, according to two law enforcement officials briefed on the probe. The last interview, with Broadwell, took place the week before Election Day, one official said.
The probe took time to unfold, one of the law enforcement officials said. It was not obvious who the e-mail account attached to the threatening messages belonged to, and the FBI had to track down the owner. As the investigation continued, and Broadwell was tied to the account, the messages with another unknown account were also uncovered, the official said.
That account belonged to Petraeus, adding a new element to the investigation, the official said.
Senior Justice Department officials were briefed on the probe for the first time in September and they continued to receive updates, the officials said.
The investigation looked into whether the e-mails constituted a national security threat, one official said. While it was determined that there were no national security risks, the probe continued as a criminal investigation into the threatening e-mails -- a primary reason cited by officials for the agency not informing Capitol Hill of the probe.
Lawmakers were not entirely in the dark, however.
Representative David Reichert, a Washington Republican, heard from an FBI source about the probe in late October and passed the information to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, according to Rory Cooper, Cantor’s spokesman. Cantor spoke to an FBI employee on Oct. 27 about the affair, Cooper said.
Cantor, a Virginia Republican, then discussed the call with his chief of staff, Steve Stombres, a day later. The decision was made to call the FBI, which Stombres did on Oct. 31, after the government resumed normal operations in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Stombres contacted the FBI’s chief of staff, who informed him that the bureau would not confirm or deny the investigation.
“I was contacted by an FBI employee concerned that sensitive, classified information may have been compromised and made certain Director Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security,” Cantor said in a statement yesterday.
Investigators have found no evidence of a security breach, any loss of classified material or any evidence that another foreign power was aware of Petraeus’s infidelity, which the official said could have exposed him to blackmail.
Three people, all intelligence, military or congressional officials, have identified Broadwell, who wrote “All In: The Education of David Petraeus,” as the woman who had an affair with Petraeus. There were no responses to an e-mail to Broadwell or phone messages left at her home.
Two of the officials briefed on the probe said there appear to be no criminal or national security matters involved, adding that it isn’t clear if the FBI has closed its investigation.
CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell has taken over as acting director with Petraeus’s departure, Obama said. The president said he was “completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission.”
Morell’s first test may be dealing with the fallout on Capitol Hill.
Petraeus leaves an agency embroiled in questions about what led to the deaths of four U.S. citizens, including the ambassador to Libya, in the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Republican lawmakers have been pressing the Obama administration, CIA and State Department for more information about what occurred during the attack.
Yesterday, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Intelligence panel, and Feinstein both said he may be asked to appear later.
“At the end of the day, I would not rule out General Petraeus being called to testify,” Chambliss said. “That still could happen at some point in time.”
Morell is scheduled to meet with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers , a Michigan Republican, and Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the panel, on Nov. 14, according to a House aide.
“I have real questions about this,” King said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think a time line has to be looked at and analyzed to see what happened.”
Feinstein, who called Petraeus’s resignation “an enormous loss” said she “may well ask” Petraeus to testify in front of her committee about the events in Libya, something Petraeus was scheduled to do this week before his resignation.
A fitness buff and avid runner who earned his Ph.D in international relations from Princeton University, Petraeus had a distinguished 37-year military career. He co-authored the army’s counterinsurgency manual, which became the blueprint for forces in Iraq under his leadership.
He also stepped in, at Obama’s request, to command the war in Afghanistan after Army General Stanley McChrystal resigned after an embarrassing article in Rolling Stone magazine.
Broadwell graduated with academic, fitness and leadership honors from West Point, according to the Penguin Speakers Bureau. During more than 15 years of military service, she has served with the U.S. intelligence community, Special Operations Command and FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, the bureau said.
In her book preface, posted online, she said she first met Petraeus in 2006 as a graduate student at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government when he was visiting Harvard.
Broadwell described Petraeus as a mentor, and said they went on “a lot of runs” in Kabul while she was researching her book. She said the general’s nickname was “Peaches.”
In a Nov. 5 Newsweek article she wrote about Petraeus’s rules for living, Broadwell lists as No. 5: “We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear view mirrors -- drive on and avoid making them again.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Phil Mattingly in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; John Walcott in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at firstname.lastname@example.org