Petraeus 'shocked' by lover's e-mails

2012-11-13 10:01
Paula Broadwell. (File, AP)

Paula Broadwell. (File, AP)

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Tampa — CIA Director David Petraeus was shocked to learn a few months ago that his mistress was suspected of sending threatening e-mails warning another woman to stay away from him, former staff members and friends said on Monday.

Petraeus, who led US military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned his CIA post on Friday, acknowledging his extramarital affair with his biographer-turned-lover and expressing deep regret.

The scandal has rocked Washington, where members of Congress demanded to know why a months-long probe that ended the former general's storied career was kept quiet for so long.

Petraeus told associates his relationship with the second woman, Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, was platonic, though his lover Paula Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival.

The retired general also denied to these associates that he had given Broadwell any of the sensitive military information alleged to have been found on her computer, saying anything she had must have been provided by other commanders during her reporting trips to Afghanistan.

The associates spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to publicly discuss the matters, which could be part of an FBI investigation.

New details

Meanwhile, FBI agents appeared at Broadwell's Charlotte, North Carolina, home Monday on night and appeared to be conducting a search. An FBI spokesperson confirmed the agents' presence but did not say what they were doing.

New details of the investigation emerged as President Barack Obama hunted for a new CIA director.

Kelley, the Tampa woman, began receiving harassing e-mails in May, according to two federal law enforcement officials. They, too, spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter.

The e-mails led Kelley to report the matter, eventually triggering the investigation that led Petraeus to resign as head of the intelligence agency.

FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell, the officials said, and discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private gmail account. Further investigation revealed the account belonged to Petraeus under an alias.

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their e-mail traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Intimate relationship

Rather than transmitting e-mails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic "dropbox", the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft e-mails there. This avoids creating an e-mail trail that is easier to trace.

Broadwell had co-authored a biography titled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, published in January.

In the preface, she said she had met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.

But the contents of the e-mail exchanges between Petraeus and Broadwell suggested to FBI agents that their relationship was intimate.

The FBI concluded relatively quickly — by late summer at the latest — that no security breach had occurred, the two senior law enforcement officials said. But the FBI continued its investigation into whether Petraeus had any role in the harassing e-mails.

Petraeus, aged 60, told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, aged 40, a couple of months after he became the director of the CIA late last year. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding US troops overseas, the associate said.

No security breach

FBI agents contacted Petraeus, and he was told that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and he mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders she visited in the field there. The FBI concluded there was no security breach.

One associate also said Petraeus believes the documents described past operations and had already been declassified, although they might have still been marked as "secret".

Broadwell had high security clearances on her own as part of her job as a reserve Army major working for military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the Petraeus biography.

During a talk last month at the University of Denver, Broadwell caught attention when she said the CIA had detained people at a secret facility in Benghazi, Libya, and the 11 September attack on the US Consulate and CIA base there was an effort to free those prisoners.

Obama issued an executive order in January 2009 stripping the CIA of its authority to take prisoners. The move meant the CIA was forbidden from operating secret jails across the globe as it had under President George W Bush.

Threatening tone


CIA spokesperson Preston Golson said: "Any suggestion that the agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless."

Broadwell did not say who told her about CIA activities in Libya. The video of Broadwell's speech was viewed on YouTube.

A Petraeus associate said the retired general was shocked to find out about Broadwell's e-mails to Kelley. Petraeus was not shown the messages, but investigators told him the e-mails told Kelley to stay away from the general in a threatening tone.

Petraeus told former staffers and friends that he was friends with Kelley and her surgeon husband, Scott, and regularly visited their brick home with imposing white columns overlooking Tampa Bay.

Jill Kelley, aged 37, served as a sort of social ambassador for US Central Command, hosting parties for the general when Petraeus was commander there from 2008-2010.

A photo shows Petraeus and his wife, Holly, with the Kelleys and Jill's identical twin sister Natalie Khawam in the Kelleys' front yard, decked out in party beads with a pirate flag in the background.

Furious Mrs Patraeus

 The sisters — hard to differentiate in the picture with their matching long dark locks and black dresses — also competed in a cook-off filmed for a Food Network show called Food Fight in 2003.

Jill Kelley regularly kept in touch with then-General Petraeus when he became commander of the Afghan war effort, the two exchanging near-daily e-mails and instant messages, two of his former staffers say. But those messages were exchanged in accounts that his aides monitored as part of their duties and were not romantic in tone, the staffers said.

Kelley did not answer the door at her Tampa home on Monday morning, and later left her home by car without talking to reporters.

The Kelleys hired Abbe Lowell, a Washington lawyer who has represented well-known clients including lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former presidential candidate John Edwards, and released a statement on Sunday through a Washington-based crisis management firm that she and her family had been friends with the Petraeus family for five years and wanted to respect their privacy.

Petraeus and his family are devastated over the affair, especially Mrs Petraeus, who "is not exactly pleased right now", after 38 years of marriage, said Steve Boylan, a friend and former Petraeus spokesperson who spoke to him over the weekend.

"Furious would be an understatement," Boylan told ABC television's Good Morning America. The couple has two adult children, including a son who led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan as an Army lieutenant.

Urged to resign

Broadwell is married with two young sons and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has not returned phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

As the criminal investigation continued into the e-mails to Kelley, FBI Director Robert Mueller and eventually Attorney General Eric Holder were notified that agents had uncovered what appeared to be an extramarital affair involving Petraeus, said one of the law enforcement officials.

Broadwell and Petraeus have each been questioned by FBI agents twice in recent weeks, with both acknowledging the affair in separate interviews.

The FBI's most recent interviews with Broadwell and with Petraeus both occurred during the week of 29 October, days before the election, one of the law enforcement officials said. The FBI notified Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, of the investigation on Tuesday, 6 November, election day.

Clapper called Petraeus that night and urged him to resign. Clapper informed the White House late on Wednesday, and aides informed the president on Thursday morning, before Petraeus came to personally hand in his resignation letter.

Some members of Congress are questioning why they weren't told sooner. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wants to investigate why she had to find out from news reports on Friday.

Obsession

But there were at least a couple of members of Congress who heard inklings of the affair before the election. Republican Representative Dave Reichert of Washington state received a tip from an FBI source that the CIA director was involved in an affair in late October.

Reichert arranged for an associate of his source at the FBI to call House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Saturday, 27 October, according to Cantor spokesperson Rory Cooper.

The FBI agent who contacted Reichert was the same one who first received the allegations from Kelley, a federal law enforcement official said on Monday night.

That agent's role in the case consisted simply of passing along information from Kelley to the FBI agents who conducted the investigation, but that agent was subsequently told by his superiors to steer clear of the case because they grew concerned that the agent had become obsessed with the investigation, the official said.

The agent was a friend of Kelley and long before the case involving Petraeus got under way, the agent had sent Kelley shirtless photos of himself, according to this official. The Wall Street Journal first reported that this FBI agent was kept away from the case.

Cooper said on Monday that Cantor notified the FBI's chief of staff of the conversation but did not tell anyone else because he did not know whether the information from a person he didn't know was credible.

"Two weeks ago, you don't want to start spreading something you can't confirm," Cooper said.

Benghazi attack testimony

The FBI responded by telling Cantor's office that it could not confirm or deny an investigation, but assured the leader's office it was acting to protect national security.

Cooper said Cantor believed that if the information was accurate and national security was affected, the FBI would, as obligated, inform the congressional intelligence committees and others, including House Speaker John Boehner.

One of the law enforcement officials who spoke to the AP said long-standing Justice Department policy and practice is not to share information from an ongoing criminal investigation with anyone outside the department, including the White House and Congress. The official said national security must be involved to notify Capitol Hill, and that was not the case in the Petraeus matter.

Petraeus' affair with Broadwell will be the subject of meetings on Wednesday involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell.

Petraeus had been scheduled to appear before congressional committees on Thursday to testify about the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens. Morell is expected to testify in place of Petraeus.

Feinstein and others didn't rule out the possibility that Congress will try to compel Petraeus to testify about Benghazi at a later date, even though he has relinquished his CIA job.

- AP

Read more on:    david petraeus  |  barack obama  |  us  |  libya  |  benghazi attack
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