Report: FBI investigation into CIA chief's email "started with two women," not Petraeus (updated)

The Washington Post reports that the investigation into CIA chief David Petraeus began "when a woman whom he was having an affair with sent threatening e-mails to another woman close to him," citing "three senior law enforcement officials with knowledge of the episode" as sources. The Wall Street Journal reports the probe said the FBI began investigating after "a complaint from a woman in Florida" about Paula Broadwell, his biographer and lover. Other news accounts suggested that the FBI began snooping on the spy boss' Gmail account over fear it had been compromised by Chinese hackers.

If the prevailing narrative is true, Petraeus paramour Paula Broadwell used the same email account to send

A) Sexmail to Petraeus, and B) Threatmail to another woman.

Initial media speculation was that this "other woman" was a romantic rival (or perceived as one by Broadwell), but who knows? Bloomberg reports that the emails from Broadwell warned the woman to "stay away from" the general. But what if, instead, the target of Broadwell's threatening email were someone who knew too much? A woman who had knowledge of the affair and represented a threat of exposure. A Washington insider, maybe a reporter. "Stay away" not because you're a romantic rival, but because you might out us, and in so doing, destroy our lives.

The WSJ's late-Saturday story follows a love triangle narrative: the Florida woman's complaint "alleged Ms. Broadwell was sending harassing emails to her about the nature of the relationship between Mr. Petraeus and the Florida woman," and while no reporters claim to have seen the emails' contents, "people familiar with the investigations said they suggested Ms. Broadwell suspected the other woman was in a relationship with Mr. Petraeus." There is no evidence her suspicions were true, the WSJ adds.

The FBI worked with prosecutors in North Carolina (where Broadwell is based) and Florida (where the woman she emailed was based). The investigation initially focused on "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."

Using one (insecure) email account for clandestine romantic communication and for personal threats to a third party is not very smart security protocol, and less than one might expect from a West Point grad who spent so many years in military circles.

Snip from AP counterterrorism/intel reporter Kim Dozier's account:

Broadwell has deep ties and friendships throughout the Washington media sphere and often was sought for comment on Petraeus' viewpoints as he proved harder and harder to reach. The CIA director had lowered his media profile, stopping his practice of emailing reporters and ending once-common background interviews by the agency.

By various accounts, the "other other woman" was neither a government employee nor a family member. My goodness, but this would make a good Jerry Springer episode.

From the WaPo:

The recipient of the e-mails was so frightened that she went to the FBI for protection and help tracking down the sender, according to the officials. The FBI investigation traced the threats to Paula Broadwell, a former military officer and a Petraeus biographer, and uncovered explicit e-mails between Broadwell and Petraeus, the officials said.

When Petraeus’s name first surfaced, FBI investigators were concerned that the CIA director’s personal e-mail account had been hacked and security had been breached. But the sexual nature of the e-mails led them to conclude that Petraeus and Broadwell were engaged in an affair, the officials said.

The identity of the woman who received the e-mails was not disclosed, and the nature of her relationship with Petraeus is unknown. The law enforcement officials said the e-mails indicated that Broadwell perceived the other woman as a threat to her relationship with Petraeus.

The WaPo account goes on to specify that national intelligence chief James Clapper learned about the matter "from the FBI on Tuesday evening around 5 p.m.” (that'd be election night), and that Clapper “advised Director Petraeus to resign,” which in civilian-speak sounds like he fired Petraeus.

An updated New York Times story today echoes a similar narrative: the investigation was triggered by a "complaint several months ago about 'harassing' e-mails sent by Paula Broadwell, Mr. Petraeus’s biographer, to an unidentified third person." The Times reports that most of the relevant emails from Petraeus came from his personal account (identified elsewhere as Gmail), not his official account.

When F.B.I. agents following up on the complaint began to examine Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Mr. Petraeus that revealed that they were having an affair, said the official, who spoke of the investigation on the condition of anonymity.

The person who complained about harassing messages from Ms. Broadwell, according to the official, was not a family member or a government official. One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter on Friday said senior intelligence officials had explained that the F.B.I. investigation “started with two women.”

“It didn’t start with Petraeus, but in the course of the investigation they stumbled across him,” said the Congressional official, who said the intelligence officials had provided no other information about the two women or the focus of the inquiry. “We were stunned.”

Who was the "other other woman" in Florida who contacted law enforcement about the "harassing emails," then? A professional connection, or a personal one? Why did Broadwell see her as a threat?

Bloomberg on questions of whether security was breached:

Concerned after discovering correspondence because of an earlier Chinese hack into the Google Inc. e-mail service, which the McAfee Internet security company dubbed “Operation Aurora,” the FBI was investigating whether Petraeus’s private or CIA e-mail accounts had been compromised, the official said. They so far 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.

Elsewhere, the WaPo reports that eyebrows were raised for some time about the unusual closeness of Broadwell and Petraeus when she embedded with him (snerk) for a year in Afghanistan.

“Her credentials didn’t add up,” said a former Petraeus staff member interviewed by Broadwell. “I was underwhelmed. It was surprising to me that she was his official biographer.”

The general's staff were also annoyed by Broadwell's penchant for form-fitting attire in Afghanistan, where tight pants and bosom-hugging blouses on women "can offend local sensibilities." And then, there was her habit of Facebook-humblebragging from the battlefield:

Officers close to Petraeus grew concerned about her posts on Facebook, which they believed sometimes divulged sensitive operational details. The posts, intended for friends back home, were often playfully written and aimed at showing off her adventures in the war zone.

After he left the military to head the CIA, a Princeton newspaper tried to reach out to Petraeus, who is a Princeton grad ('87), and Broadwell, about a profile. Broadwell wasn't a government employee, but seized the role of personal media liason. “Gen. Petraeus is going to send some thoughts which I’ll pass along to you this afternoon,” she told the Daily Princetonian in an email. More details here, which echo reports elsewhere of this unorthodox role.

tl;dr: Guns were smoking for a while. Why was the CIA chief outed now, and in such dramatic fashion, and effectively by the FBI? For moral failings, or leaks/security breaches, or something more complicated?

(via Blake Hounshell, Chris Soghoian; thanks to Phosphorius for the Overly Attached Broadwell meme-generation)

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      1. No mention of adult diapers in this story yet.  Antinous, you’re ahead of the curve with your link. Regardless of the details, though, I think this type of single minded focus, honed by the finest military training, must feed into the mindset that is required to cast judgement aside and let wanderlust run amuck. I’m sure the media and public is in for a good ride with this story, not unlike the principals (prior to last Friday).

        1. Often one can’t assess the level of crazy until post-boink. 

          Biological imperative is a cruel mistress…

          1. Oh crazy is half the fun. What else is there?

            I mean, who doesn’t love that game of chicken where neither of you know which one is going to turn out crazier?

            That alone can sustain a relationship for years!

          1. “Don’t stick your dick in the crazy”

            w/corollary: “Don’t let the crazy stick its dick in you” ?

      2. 24 hours after your post, Antinous, it looks like you’re on to something. Latest report identifies woman who reported Broadwell to FBI as she feared for her own safety after receiving threatening messages from Mrs. B.

        1. I know that you can’t really tell anything from someone’s picture on the web, but she looks….. intense.

          1.  That’s an understatement. I hate to judge by looks, too, but maybe on some level we’re hard wired to respond to “looks”. That said, here’s my take: I’ve seen her in 3 different venues online. She has 2 “looks”. One is a 1940’s tweed jacket buttoned up the front, head mistress and the other were 2 off the shoulder numbers that seemed oddly inappropriate for the setting (The Daily Show and something else). A character with a German accent from a Mel Brooks film comes to mind.
            Just going by looks and not facts or science she makes the General look like a boyscout at the jamboree.

          2. She certainly looks like she could take him down faster than he could blink. Very physically dominant. Maybe that’s what he’s into. It’s a pretty common fetish for people in positions of enormous power.

    1. You know what the New York Post headline should be? Cat Fight Leaves Pussy Hound in the Dog House
      *RIMSHOT*

    1. This is the typical sexist logic that occurs in these cases. Other reports have people saying that Broadwell “got her claws into him”. Perhaps, just perhaps, Petraeus wasn’t a victim of some femme fatale but as an adult and a human being played an equal role in this adultery scandal. And maybe instead of automatically blaming the women and giving them the greater part of the guilt we can recognize that all parties are guilty and that sexist statements like this only continue to perpetuate stereotypes.

      1. I’d assign equal-or-greater blame to Petraeus his role in their affair; but I can’t really see anybody but Broadwell being responsible for the ‘threatening somebody until they freak out and go to the FBI’ plan, which seems like a pretty stupid one by any standard.

        Even by ‘asshole internet troll’ standards, using the same email address for threats that you use for sexting is dumb.

        By ‘is sleeping with the head of the CIA on the side and might want access to somebody with a security clearance ever again’ standards, that is seriously stupid. And her CV suggests that she certainly isn’t garden-variety dumb. That pretty much leaves ‘crazy’ or ‘crazy like a fox, I eagerly await further revelations about her scheme’…

      2. Speaking of double standards, I’ve seen a whole lot of ink spilled over the notion that an intelligence director or agent can’t have an affair, because it creates conditions where (s)he could be blackmailed…

        But I have yet to read the op-eds raising questions about the journalistic integrity of sleeping with one’s subjects/sources, and the questions that doing so raises on one’s previous (or forthcoming) body of work.

        1. Ask and ye shall recieve. Glenn Greenwald sez:

          Third, there is something deeply symbolic and revealing about this whole episode. Broadwell ended up spending substantial time with Petraeus when she, in essence, embedded with him and followed him around Afghanistan in order to write her biography. What ended up being produced was not only the type of propagandistic hagiography such arrangements typically produce, but also deeply personal affection as well.This is access journalism and the embedding dynamic in its classic form, just a bit more vividly expressed. The very close and inter-dependent relationship between media figures and the political and military officials they cover often produces exactly these same sentiments even if they do not find the full-scale expression as they did in this case. In that regard, the relationship between the now-former CIA Director and his fawning hagiographer should be studied in journalism schools to see the results reliably produced by access journalism and the embedding process. Whatever Broadwell did for Petraeus is what US media figures are routinely doing for political and especially military officials with their “journalism”.

          http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/10/petraeus-scandal-media-military

          1. my first thought — lots of parallels with the John Edwards/ documentary-making woman situation…too much “embedding” in that case as well…

        2. More to the point, an intelligence director or agent that has an affair and can’t cover it up could be seen to lack the basic spycraft needed to protect our government and military secrets. 

    2. This is the typical sexist logic that occurs in these cases. Other reports have people saying that Broadwell “got her claws into him”. Perhaps, just perhaps, Petraeus wasn’t a victim of some femme fatale but as an adult and a human being played an equal role in this adultery scandal. And maybe instead of automatically blaming the women and giving them the greater part of the guilt we can recognize that all parties are guilty and that sexist statements like this only continue to perpetuate stereotypes.

  1. Aren’t the CIA and the FBI mortal rivals? Wouldn’t taking out the head of the CIA be like the ultimate score in office politics? 

    1. The FBI probably took out the head of the CIA when Porter Goss resigned under rather mysterious circumstances in May2006.

      A week later, the home the #3 guy at the CIA ( Dusty Foggo )was ransacked by the FBI as part of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal, which sent Congressman Cunningham to federal prison.
      http://legacy.utsandiego.com/news/nation/20060512-0906-foggo.html

      All these guys made their bones under Reagan running guns to the contras, and when the Iraq war started they came back to DC to cash in on the deluge of bribery.

      Does that provide a sense of perspective that this gigantic Republican scandal got swept under the rug? Compare that to whatever non-“scandal” supposedly grips the Democrats this week.  

  2. She broke Other Woman Protocol. Can’t we have some sort of Cotillion school or something for this, cuz right now the Call-Girls are outclassing the ladies of good repute. 

  3. Broadwell was also married and had at least one child.  She was a West Point graduate and you can watch her on The Daily Show and CSPAN flogging her book by preaching “duty, honor, country.”

  4. You know, throw in that letter to the new york times (and go with the columnist’s assumption that the letter was really not about asking for advice as much as it was a message meant to draw the attention of specific people) and you’ve got the basis of a great political/thriller/drama. I’d watch it.

    1. I see it as more of a Lifetime channel thing…
      Though if they’re going all out, they should call it “All In”, or as one commenter said, “Balls Deep”. 
      With Daniel Day Lewis as Broadwell because he can.

      1. This is what comes from emBEDding yourself in the army! The whole thing reeks of a shameless book plugging strategy by Broadwell and her husband.

      2. This is what comes from emBEDding yourself in the army! The whole thing reeks of a shameless book plugging strategy by Broadwell and her husband.

    1. Both cases were deeply foolish (Dear everybody, never mount a volume on an untrusted computer unless you are happy with the idea of all its contents being sent absolutely anywhere…); but I’d say that the active stupidity required to draft some hatemail to your love-triangle-rival is reflective of far worse judgement than the passive stupidity required to forget a CD in the drive (though, of course, had her job been anything related to electronic security, even putting the CD in the drive would be grounds for a banhammering).

  5. Now that we know their little secret the photo of the two shaking hands while posed in front of the American flag is hilarious! It speaks volumes to the empty rhetoric of Right Wing so called religious and family values. Really, the photo is an ode to the cynicism and pandering of the right.

    1. That wasn’t just a handshake, it was foreplay to a little wrasslin’, followed by a bit of plugging (of the book and bonk variety).

      1.  No, Petraeus is/was on the Republican short list as their next candidate for President.  He’s also a :”Xtristian” Dominionist extremist.  He was looked at as Romney’s VP.  Very definitely a Republican.

        The FBI needs to dig far deeper into this man and his actions when he was leading the forces in Iraq & Afghanistan.  A very dangerous man to lead the CIA.

        http://godsownparty.com/blog/

  6. I would think that ANY email communications that Mr Patreus had with anyone, regardless of what account he used, would be fully known to internal security at CIA. If they didn’t know about it, then there’s a bigger problem. I’d like to think we have the CIA director under close watch at all times. Also, I see no reason why he couldn’t still be called to testify before a congressional committee just because he’s not the director anymore. Anybody can be subpoenaed.

  7. I would think that ANY email communications that Mr Patreus had with anyone, regardless of what account he used, would be fully known to internal security at CIA. If they didn’t know about it, then there’s a bigger problem. I’d like to think we have the CIA director under close watch at all times. Also, I see no reason why he couldn’t still be called to testify before a congressional committee just because he’s not the director anymore. Anybody can be subpoenaed.

    1. Under rational rules, sure. But not under primate hierarchy rules. Petraeus was a boss. Who dares to monitor the boss? No one who wants to keep their jobs.
      That’s why it took the FBI to uncover this – the FBI is territorial arch-enemies of the CIA.

  8. During World War 2, Eisenhower – History’s last five star general, supreme leader of allied forces – was widely rumored to be having an affair with his aide & personal driver, Capt. Kay Summersby.

    Absolutely no one will contest John F. Kennedy’s insatiable appetite for extramarital skirt, or Bill Clinton, or, or, or  –

    In Europe, this revelation would cause a giant yawn.  General Patreus has made poor choices and will pay the price with his family and marriage.  
    The impact of this on his ability to execute his job is probably negligible.  

    This just in – men placed in positions of considerable power, or wealth attract the wrong kind of attention and some of them stray.  Film at 11.  

    1. But as a retired general and still on the Army list and subject to UCMJ article 134 for adultery. So another source of blackmail would be an army officer that knew of the affair. Silly maybe but it is still the law and as such would be one more reason for him to keep it under the rug. The right’s braying that this is because of Benghazi is silly since he still be called by Congress to testify, regardless.

  9. Let me give you the current right-wing take on this:

    David Petraeus’ wife, a minion of Obama in the CFPB, was sent by Obama (in 1974) to sabotage Petraeus by marrying him, then withholding sex and also placing one of those mind-controlling bugs from The Wrath of Khan into his ear, forcing him to seek out strange pussy.

    For years, Petraeus manfully suppressed his urges, stoically enduring his sexless lot, until finally came the cauldron of Afghanistan. There, in the Swat valley, dodging gunfire, playing polo with tribal lords, he found a woman who truly understood him: a West Pointer, lithe, young, auburn-haired, caring in a way his frigid Obamanoid wife never was. Christ himself would have been unable to resist…

    And so Petraeus, unable simultaneously to endure the machinations of the Global Left, the biological imperative from his loins and the parasite shrieking PUSSY PUSSY PUSSY in his ear, finally gave in, and you’d better believe he was the most sensitive and giving lover in the history of adultery.

    Now the Global Left/Soros/Cloward-Piven/Eric Holder/Mau Mau endgame approaches. Get ready for CIA Director Dennis Kucinich.

    1. Let’s not forget, just in time so Petraeus also can’t testify at next week’s Benghazi hearing. Where Petraeus would  otherwise reveal that Obama not only knew about the insufficient security at various embassies, but Obama actually *demanded* less guards specifically so Muslims could kill white American Christians like the devil commands.

      1. Like his resigning somehow makes him immune from a Congressional subpoena, the right has to grow up. He can still testify.

        1. And if he doesn’t testify this week, that says more about those who were elected as to where their priorities.  

    2. I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.

      — Walt Disney

  10. Let me give you the current right-wing take on this:

    David Petraeus’ wife, a minion of Obama in the CFPB, was sent by Obama (in 1974) to sabotage Petraeus by marrying him, then withholding sex and also placing one of those mind-controlling bugs from The Wrath of Khan into his ear, forcing him to seek out strange pussy.

    For years, Petraeus manfully suppressed his urges, stoically enduring his sexless lot, until finally came the cauldron of Afghanistan. There, in the Swat valley, dodging gunfire, playing polo with tribal lords, he found a woman who truly understood him: a West Pointer, lithe, young, auburn-haired, caring in a way his frigid Obamanoid wife never was. Christ himself would have been unable to resist…

    And so Petraeus, unable simultaneously to endure the machinations of the Global Left, the biological imperative from his loins and the parasite shrieking PUSSY PUSSY PUSSY in his ear, finally gave in, and you’d better believe he was the most sensitive and giving lover in the history of adultery.

    Now the Global Left/Soros/Cloward-Piven/Eric Holder/Mau Mau endgame approaches. Get ready for CIA Director Dennis Kucinich.

  11. I don’t believe the dominant narrative that’s being presented in the Washington Post story. I think it’s reasonable to presume that these two parties (Petraeus and Broadwell) are too steeped in techniques of (direct and indirect) secure personal communications to have conducted an extramarital relationship using Gmail. There are plenty of scenarios that one can imagine in which one or more parties, having independent knowledge of the Petraeus/Broadwell relationship, could have created irresistible pressure on Petraeus that is ostensibly backed up by the Gmail emails that have been referred to in the press thus far. That is, while the reputed emails might exist, their validity as hard-and-fast evidence of an extramarital affair could be factually suspect while still serving as the pretext to challenge Petraeus’s position in the administration. That there is the coincidence with this pressure applied to Petraeus that has occurred in the general (perhaps specific) timeframe during which the Benghazi incident took place can lead one (in the absence of facts to the contrary) to theorize the existence of parties in/out of the Obama Administration whose interests are in the removal of Petraeus as D/CIA.

    1. I would like to walk through this set of ideas in a linear fashion.

      Theory 1). The American embassy deaths in Benghazi occurred due to insufficient security.

      Theory 2). This is Obama’s fault because ….? And he needs to make sure this is secret because …? And this could come out, even though Hillary Clinton has already accepted full blame for the insufficient security, because …?

      Theory 3). Petraeus was about to testify and reveal that this was Obama’s fault, even though Hillary Clinton already accepted responsibility for it, because….?

      Theory 4). So, Obama had the FBI come up with FAKE information that would completely ruin Petraeus’ career AND Broadwell’s career – and Petraeus, who is the head of the CIA (!!) would simply roll over and accept his career being ended by lousy, fake information.

      I’m sorry, I really don’t see how that makes any sense.

      1. We’re talking supportable theories here. I don’t believe that an Obama-initiated outster of Petraeus is the most plausible theory. Also be aware in other news reports today of the longstanding culture within the CIA of extramarital affairs among staff. Given that existence of such culture is plausible, one might not believe that CIA would be source of trouble for Petraeus. Non-CIA parties who have trouble of some kind with Petraeus and who have independent knowledge of this affair (also assuming that the affair is a true fact) could see to it that the pretext emails are created and brought to attention of FBI, as “independent” investigating body. For Obama or high Obama administration parties to have initiated this kind of trouble for Petraeus is also not as plausible as perhaps a non-administration (political antagonist). Obama could summon Petraeus at any time on his own to deal with him upon receiving word of serious enough indiscretion. (That sequence of events supposedly did not happen; supposedly Petraeus offered resignation first.) My guess now is that this is sign of dissension re Petraeus in high or near-high administration layer, or an Obama political antagonist with independent knowledge of the supposed affair put this sequence of supposed events into motion. Another given is that resignation of Petraeus does not preclude his testifying in any subsequent hearing on Benghazi events. (His testimony that isn’t supported by official/internal documents would be held in abeyance regardless of his subsequent status in the administration.) I also don’t find it plausible that the consequences of the Benghazi incident were serious enough per se to cause top Obama administration parties to initiate these events, though perhaps they did so in response to some as yet unidentified political/military party/ies elsewhere in Washington. The entire set and sequence of events are subject to substantial scepticism up to Obama’s acceptance of the resignation. Beware of unsourced info given to the press.

        1. Isn’t the FBI famous for wanting to top the CIA? Ousting the director would be a major score in that game of office politics. Shouldn’t we be looking in the Hoover building for plausible parties?

          1. I would say even, all older males in power. There’s a certain need for validation that they’re still bull of the herd and can command a harem if they want to, just like the younger bulls.

    2. I believe that the idea that our precious little meritocracy is infallible in creating faultless super-humans seems suspect.

      1. I read a textbook that outlined the detailed rules produced by the US federal government decades ago for secure operating systems. Shortly after I read that, there was a story on how the Air Force workstations for controlling drones were infected with malware. In the discussion of that story, people from the military talked about the shift in policy towards using commodity hardware and operating systems.

        The upshot of this that it seems that everyone takes shortcuts for convenience, even those with the most serious security concerns, and it’s really not surprising that the director of the CIA would use Gmail for personal email.

  12. And here I thought a certain Thursday night TV show was entirely made up.  Guess Petraeus didn’t know enough to hire a ‘fixer.’

  13. Dennis as CIA Director. That is hilarious. There is no way the criminal POTUS would put one of the few honest ones in that position.

    Look to John Brennan, the author of the Kill List Murder Program… bringing the program home to roost.

  14. Amazing that someone in such a sensitive position would use Gmail instead of something untraceable like ThreadThat. Everything shared using TT is encrypted end-to-end and is never transmitted through an email relay. Need to erase everything ever shared? It takes about 10 seconds to log in and delete your account, which deletes every shred of info ever posted.

  15. Actually, if the admin was trying to protect itself, wouldn’t they have hung on to this information and used it to force Petraeus to testify in a way that they wanted and then let him “retire” to “be with his family”?

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