The wild twists and turns to this bombshell story continue. CIA director David Petraeus resigned suddenly on late Friday afternoon, following revalations that he had carried on an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Here’s what we know so far:
Initial reports stated that the FBI began investigating a string of threatening emails to a longtime Petraeus family friend, Jill Kelley, of Tampa, Florida. So far, the married Kelley has denied their relationship was anything other than plutonic. The emails were apparently serious enough for Kelley to contact the FBI.
This is where it starts to get murky. The first reports merely said that Kelley was receiving threatening emails, which were eventually traced to Broadwell. There, the FBI saw Petraeus’s name and found other explicit emails describing the affair. However, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the investigation began out of suspiscion that someone was using Petreaus’ Gmail account to send the messages to Kelley. This, in turn, led them to discover the affair with Broadwell, a married mother of two.
During the investigation, an FBI employee contacted Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, concerned about the potential national security implications of the inquiry. Cantor has since confirmed that his office had spoken with the source, described as a whistleblower, and have known about the investigation since the end of October.
The fact that it was Petraus’s personal email account, and not his official government account, that was being investigated did little to make the situation any less serious. As the Wall Street Journal piece states:
The computer-security investigation—which raised questions about a potential compromise to national security—points to one reason Mr. Petraeus and the White House decided he couldn’t remain in the senior intelligence position. An extramarital affair has significant implications for an official in a highly sensitive post, because it can open an official to blackmail. Security officials are sensitive to misuse of personal email accounts—not only official accounts—because there have been multiple instances of foreign hackers targeting personal emails.
The latest information indicates that Kelley was accused of having an “inappropriate relationship,” but the emails did not indicate Petraeus by name, prompting her to contact the FBI, instead of Petraeus himself. The ensuing investigation led to the discovery of a gmail account that Petraeus had set up, using a pseudonym.
After monitoring Broadwell’s email account, the FBI finally determined that she was having an affair with Petraeus. This led to concerns that classified information was potentially at risk, leading to the whistleblower contacting Congressman Cantor.
Confronted by the agents, Broadwell admitted the affair with Petraeus and turned over her computer to the FBI, leading to the discovery of classified documents that she had in her possession, raising fresh concerns about national security leaks.
Law enforcement sources stated that they did not believe that this investigation will result in criminal charges. Keep in mind that Kelley was so alarmed by the threatning tone of the emails, she went immediately to the FBI. One presumes that this was more serious than just a “stay away from my man” email. Furthermore, the unauthorized possession of classified material is also against the law.
There are also conflicting reports on who ended the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell. One report claims that Broadwell ended it shortly after Petraeus’s confirmation as CIA director. Others state Petraeus ended it. If Broadwell was indeed the dumper, than why would she maintain a jealousy strong enough to send threatening emails?
Among those most stunned by the revelations were Congressman Peter King and Senator Diane Feinstein, members of the House and Senate Intelligence committies, respectively. Feinstein explicitly points out that her commitee is supposed to be made aware of any significant intelligence news from any federal agency, immediately, and points out that the CIA director potentially embroiled in an email hacking or national security breach would certainly qualify.
Overshadowing all of this is the continued mystery of what went wrong in Benghazi. Patraeus was scheduled to testify before Congress this week, but now is not expected to appear. Instead, CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell will take his place. Will this satisfy lawmakers in their search for answers, or will they subpoeana Patreaus, as has been hinted?
The news of the affair shocked many in Washington, but apparently not a lot of people who were close to the General. After all, Broadwell and Petraeus had spent an inordinate amount of time together while she researched and wrote his biography, ironically titled, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.”
Broadwell and Petraeus had much in common. They were both West Point graduates, army officers, and fitness fanatics. They could often be seen running together at the bases in Afghanistan, after Petraeus took over there from General Stanley McChrystal. Petraeus was traveling frequently, Broadwell with him much of the time, and she was obviously infatuated with him. It sure didn’t hurt that she was 20 years younger than him, not to mention fairly attractive.
There are more salacious rumors flying all over. Remember, one report claims that Broadwell broke off the relationship shortly after Petraeus was sworn in as the new CIA Director last September. But Petraeus continued to pursue her, sending her thousands of emails over the next several months. This has not been verified.
This news broke on late Friday afternoon, traditionally a time when White House Administrations have released sensitive news, hoping the weekend can blunt the impact. Somehow, I have a feeling that is not going to work in this case. Attention political hacks: I realize that used to work like 50 years ago, but we have the internet now. I’m sure there is much more yet to be revealed.