L'affaire Petraeus: second woman identified, and Gmail metadata outed Broadwell and Petraeus

David Petraeus, L, used a pseudonymous Gmail account to sext biographer/lover Paula Broadwell, R. They were outed in part by Gmail metadata.

Well, that didn't take long.

On Friday, CIA chief and retired general David Petraeus, 60, resigned after an FBI probe stumbled on evidence of an extramarital affair, and hinted at possible security violations. The other woman was soon identified as Paula Broadwell, 40, his protegé, biographer, and paramour. The FBI encountered news of their liasons, the narrative went, after a woman who'd received threatening and harrassing emails from Broadwell complained to the FBI.

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal identified that "other other woman" as being based in Florida, and specified that she was neither a government employee nor a member of Petraeus' family. Some of the defense/intelligence journalists I spoke to over the weekend theorized that Florida might mean Tampa, where the US military's Central Command and Special Operations Command is based, and that the as-yet-unidentified "other other woman" might be either a member of the press, or someone who works in a non-official capacity with CENTCOM, and may or may not have had any romantic connection with Petraeus.

They were right.

Today, the Associated Press broke the news the second woman was Jill Kelley, 37, of Tampa, FL. She serves as an unpaid volunteer "social liaison" to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, home of CENTCOM. Like Petraeus and Broadwell, Kelley is married, with children. She and her husband were regular guests at events he held at CENTCOM, and have been friends with Petraeus and his family for more than five years. The New York Times quotes a close friend of the Petraeus family as saying that Kelley is “a very well-known person of influence in the Tampa community,” who volunteers with "community organizations that support military causes." Like Broadwell, she is attractive (see thumbnail), and more than 20 years younger than Petraeus. No word yet on whether she, too, was bonking him.

The government source who spoke to the AP about Kelley did so under condition of anonymity, and got a little bitchy:

A U.S. official said the coalition countries represented at Central Command gave Kelley an appreciation certificate on which she was referred to as an "honorary ambassador" to the coalition, but she has no official status and is not employed by the U.S. government.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly, said Kelley is known to drop the "honorary" part and refer to herself as an ambassador.

Meow. Not the implied "invisible eye-roll" in that last line.

The Wall Street Journal published more details this afternoon, and identified Kelley's role with CENTCOM in Tampa as "a State Department political adviser." [Update: The WSJ issued a correction, and now identifies her as "a social planner," which echoes the AP and NYT reports].

The FBI began by pursuing "what they thought was a potential cybercrime, or a breach of classified information," the WSJ reports, but stumbled on "sexually explicit emails between two lovers, from an account Mr. Petraeus used a pseudonym to establish." Judging from previous reports, that would have been a Gmail account.

Initially, the FBI's investigation began with "five to 10 emails" received by Kelley from Broadwell, the first of which was sent "around May" 2012.

What's notable for those of us who use Gmail: metadata Google's email service stores by design may have been instrumental in revealing the identities of both Broadwell and Petraeus. America's spy-in-chief may have been narc'd out by Gmail. Snip:

The precise nature of Ms. Kelley's relationships with Ms. Broadwell and Mr. Petraeus, who ran the Tampa-based U.S. Central Command from 2008 to 2010, weren't known Sunday. Attempts to reach Ms. Broadwell and Ms. Kelley were unsuccessful. Neither had given a public statement as of Sunday evening. Ms. Kelley didn't know who sent the emails. Some appeared to be accusing her of an inappropriate relationship but didn't name Mr. Petraeus. Agents determined the emails were sent from an account shared by Ms. Broadwell and her husband, who live in North Carolina, the officials said.

But the agents spent weeks piecing together who may have sent them. They used metadata footprints left by the emails to determine what locations they were sent from. They matched the places, including hotels, where Ms. Broadwell was during the times the emails were sent. FBI agents and federal prosecutors used the information as probable cause to seek a warrant to monitor Ms. Broadwell's email accounts.

They learned that Ms. Broadwell and Mr. Petraeus had set up private Gmail accounts to use for their communications, which included explicit details of a sexual nature, according to U.S. officials. But because Mr. Petraeus used a pseudonym, agents doing the monitoring didn't immediately uncover that he was the one communicating with Ms. Broadwell.

The Wall Street Journal report continues with a tick-tock of what happened next. The FBI questioned Broadwell, asked for and received her computer, found classified documents, and determined that they hadn't come from Petraeus—so, there had been no national security breach involving the CIA chief, they deduced, and no criminal charges were filed.

Efforts to keep secret the probe (and the sex scandal it stumbled into) were unsuccessful. News leaked to lawmakers: Rep. David Reichert (R—WA), who then tipped off House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R—VA), who spoke with the FBI about it in October.

In the New York Times this evening, a detailed account of how pissed off other lawmakers are that they weren't informed of the long-running investigation into the Petraeus hanky panky, and questions about the timing of his ouster: just days after Obama was re-elected, and less than a week before he was due to testify about the attack on a US embassy in Benghazi that left multiple Americans dead. But if the investigation ruled out any criminal activity or security breaches on Petraeus' part, did the FBI owe it to anyone to share details of the probe?

A chronology of the email forensics in the New York Times matches the WSJ's, and begins with Kelley complaining of "about half a dozen anonymous e-mails accusing her of inappropriate flirtatious behavior with Mr. Petraeus." She reached out to an FBI agent who was also a personal friend; the yet-unidentified agent-pal launched an investigation. Snip:

Agents working with federal prosecutors in a local United States attorney’s office began trying to figure out whether the e-mails constituted criminal cyber-stalking. Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques — including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been accessed from the same computer address — to identify who was writing the e-mails.

Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus’s account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.

Eventually they determined that Mr. Petraeus had indeed sent the messages to Ms. Broadwell and concluded that the two had had an affair. Then they turned their scrutiny on him, examining whether he knew about or was involved in sending the harassing e-mails to Ms. Kelley.

By then, in summer 2012, "lower-level Justice Department officials" alerted higher-ups that the case had become more complex, and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section was called in to assist. More:

It remains unclear whether the F.B.I. also gained access to Mr. Petraeus’s personal e-mail account, or if it relied only on e-mails discovered in Ms. Broadwell’s in-box. It also remains uncertain exactly when the information about Mr. Petraeus reached Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director. Both men have declined to comment.

And separately in the New York Times, an odd profile piece about Broadwell. Neighbors say she was a "soccer mom" who "cooks dinner by candlelight" for her family and hands out Halloween candy for neighborhood kids, when she's not busy promoting her hagiography on Jon Stewart's show, or sending sexmail to Petraeus and threatmail to Kelley.

At Foreign Policy, Blake Hounshell blogs about "a bizarre twist" in the saga: Broadwell "gave a talk at the University of Denver on Oct. 26 in which she appeared to reveal sensitive, maybe even classified, information about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi."

The most interesting revelation is her claim that the CIA was holding two Libyan militia members prisoner, which may have prompted the attack. (Though she also sought to explain the Obama administration's initial view that the attack was linked to the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islam polemic that sparked riots across the Muslim world.) She also said flatly that forces at the CIA annex had requested backup from a special Delta Force group she called the CINC's in extremis force. It was not clear whether she was basing her comments on an Oct. 26 Fox News report by Jennifer Griffin, or whether her information came from elsewhere. (Griffin refers to it as "Commanders [sic] in Extremis Force," but does not mention Delta Force or any Libyan prisoners.)
Read the rest here. Hounshell's report cites this Israeli news report.

At the New Yorker, Jane Mayer asks why any of this ended up becoming public, if Petraeus broke no rules. "In this instance, evidently, there were no crimes. So why again did this blow up as it has?," she writes. Were politics involved?

(HT: @KMBTweets + @BWJones)