As new information emerges regarding Friday’s resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, not only does the story begin to crystallize, but so does the timeline of the FBI investigation that sparked it. In light of the news that officials in the Department of Justice apparently knew about the investigation for months, it now appears that they may have prolonged the release of information to appropriate parties, including to the director of national intelligence.
Details surfaced late Friday that the woman with whom Petraeus engaged in an affair was in fact his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Ultimately, it was the harassing emails Broadwell sent to another woman connected to Petraeus, and whom sources say Broadwell perceived as some sort of rival, that prompted the FBI to initiate its investigation this spring. There has not been any evidence to suggest that the relationship between Petraeus and the other unidentified woman was romantic in nature.
Investigators initially thought the CIA Director’s personal Gmail account had been hacked and pursued the matter as a potential cybercrime. Instead, they discovered the affair through the course of examining emails between Broadwell and Petraeus, some of which were sexual in nature.
In a Wall Street Journal article published late Saturday evening, it was revealed that Attorney General Eric Holder himself was aware of the investigation for some time.
The FBI and prosecutors in Florida and North Carolina began investigating the possibility of email hacking, because at least some of the emails sent by Ms. Broadwell to the other woman included contents of messages that appeared to come from Mr. Petraeus’s own account, these people said. The Justice Department and high-level officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, were aware of the investigation for months, having to approve certain parts of the investigation. (emphasis added)
In an earlier article published by Newsmax, Ronald Kessler – author of several books on the CIA, FBI and the Secret Service – indicated that FBI agents working on the case notified officials about the matter and were not pleased with the delayed timing of Petraeus’ resignation.
FBI agents on the case were aware that such a decision had been made to hold off on forcing him out until after the election and were outraged.
“The decision was made to delay the resignation apparently to avoid potential embarrassment to the president before the election,” an FBI source says. “To leave him in such a sensitive position where he was vulnerable to potential blackmail for months compromised our security and is inexcusable.”
It is standard protocol for committees in Congress to be informed of such investigations, which draws even further scrutiny to the timing of the resignation. According to sources, no such notification occurred, as reported by CNN.
According to a congressional aide familiar with the matter, the House and Senate intelligence committees weren’t informed that there was an FBI investigation into Petraeus until Friday.
“The committees are required to be kept informed of significant intelligence activities,” the aide said Saturday. “If there was an official investigation that was looking, at least in part, at information that was compromising the CIA director, then I think there’s a solid argument to say that the committee leadership should have been notified to at least some level of detail.”
However, officials familiar with the investigation maintain that the investigation was related to a potential cybercrime, and therefore not a matter that typically falls under such protocol. The Wall Street Journal article indicates that FBI agents interviewed Petraeus in the past two weeks, during which he admitted to the affair.
Reports indicate that the Justice Department informed James Clapper of the results of the investigation on election night, which prompted the director of national intelligence to speak with Petraeus the same day.
Clapper then spoke with Petraeus and urged him to resign, notifying the White House the next day. That sequence has become a source of controversy, raising questions among some members of Congress about why key intelligence committees were not notified earlier and why the FBI waited before informing the administration about a probe that had stumbled onto embarrassing details about the CIA chief.
While investigators ultimately determined that no security breach occurred with respect to any cybercrime, concerns remain regarding the broader issues of security and the potential for risks such as blackmail, had the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell not been inadvertently discovered in the process. Equally concerning is the fact that the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder apparently saw no reason to make the director of national intelligence or any members of Congress aware of the investigation – even in part – until this week, despite having knowledge of it for months. It may have begun as a cybercrime investigation, but clearly it turned out to be far more involved than that. Just imagine – had Petraeus not actually resigned, most might never have known about the situation at all.