Petraeus let down guard, pants; Broadwell revealed CIA ops as self-appointed mouthpiece

At Wired Danger Room, Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman have an update this morning on the Petraeus/Broadwell mess. The focus: what the hell was Broadwell doing, apparently leaking CIA operational secrets at a public appearance she gave at an October 26 alumni symposium at the University of Denver?

The mistress of former CIA Director David Petraeus publicly discussed sensitive and previously unknown details about the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

In an October 26 alumni symposium at the University of Denver, Paula Broadwell said that the CIA annex at the Benghazi consulate came under assault on Sept. 11 because it had earlier “taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. It’s still being vetted.” (That information was not part of the CIA’s timeline of the Benghazi assault, and Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reports that the CIA has denied any such detention.) “I don’t know if a lot of you have heard this,” Broadwell prefaced her remarks by saying.

It was a surprising disclosure, given the deep classification of the CIA’s detention policies — and the enormous political stakes surrounding the Benghazi assault. But in many ways, it was only natural for Broadwell, given her evolution from Petraeus protegee to biographer to paramour and unofficial spokesperson.

More here, all worth reading, with some juicy details on the sex lives of the military elite.

Also out today, Petraeus says he knew nothing about Broadwell's harassing emails, and was shocked, shocked, to discover the behavior.

Previous reports, citing people involved in the FBI investigation that resulted in Petraeus' ouster, say Broadwell had classified docs on her computer, but that the CIA chief wasn't the source. So who was? And if we're reading this correctly, and Broadwell did leak secrets, will the administration prosecute her with the same zeal it has shown in going after Bradley Manning, Wikileaks and anyone suspected of being a Wikileaks supporter, and other corruption whistleblowers?

Additional questions I'd like to understand: if Petraeus didn't commit a crime, and there was no policy violation, why was he booted out—and in such dramatic fashion? Why did any of this end up going public, once the FBI determined he'd leaked no secrets and broken no laws or conduct codes?

Can the FBI be your private army? Harassing emails are not a crime. How did the FBI get access? If harassing emails are grounds for an FBI investigation, hoo boy, let me take you to my in-box, people.

Jill Kelley, the "other other woman," the unpaid "social liason" for CENTCOM in Tampa, evidently received a handful of "why are you flirting with my man" and "get away from my boo" emails from Broadwell, who used an alias and a poorly-cloaked Gmail account to send the harassing email.

Kelley is said to have contacted a friend who was an FBI agent, who very helpfully launched an official FBI probe to figure out who was sending her these annoying emails, which did not, according to reports, contain threats of personal harm or death.

Since when is the FBI available (for anyone with the right social connections) as a private troll-uncloaking cyber police force?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get the FBI to take action on an actual online death threat case, if the recipient isn't a well-connected "honorary ambassador" in the military social elite? The short version: it simply does not happen. This whole story smells.

As former Wired News reporter Ryan Singel tweeted, "If the Broadwell/Petraeus case doesn't show how ridiculous the FBI's powers are, I don't know what will prove it to you."


  1. The shameful Donald Trump has now hired David Petraeus for his “Celebrity Apprentice: All-Stars” show:

  2. Ryan Singel’s right. The FBI investigation is the real story. 

    For the rest of us, years of harassment, stalking, and death threats aren’t enough reason for the FBI to get involved. If it’s acting as a private police force for the well-connected, I’d damned well like to know why.

    1. Also, the FBI agent that started the “investigation” didn’t like that upper Bureau personnel were keeping things quiet.  He wanted this to be an October Surprise for the election so he called Eric Cantor, Republican House Majority Leader, in late October and leaked the story to him.  Cantor seems to have declined to make a story of it.

  3. Wait a minute. *Is* it the case that Petraeus “broke no conduct codes?” It was my naive understanding that extramarital affairs (assuming that this constitutes a secret that you’d be motivated to keep from your spouse) are a security clearance problem because they constitute a blackmail risk. That’s kind of an issue when you’re director of the CIA.

    1. There is no way that this type of affair would be tolerated, even if the Agency and the spouse knew about it, if it could in any way be used as leverage against the CIA director. And simply the threat of public disclosure which would humiliate him, his wife, etc. is credible as a threat of leverage and blackmail. There is all sorts of fishy stuff going on here, including this new fact that there may actually be some connection with Libya here. I’m sure the Republicans are loving this, while at the same time hating the fact that it didn’t break 2 weeks earlier. This is a weird situation all around.

  4. This is confusing. Wasn’t the ending of the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell supposed to have occurred in early summer (per a former spokesman of Petraeus)? How did she get this information? I have to wonder if she is making this up. Other leaked reports said that the Benghazi consulate was a covert CIA base to try to track down rogue RPGs and surface to air missiles. If that leaked, why wouldn’t detaining prisoners be leaked.

    1. Turning on today’s news might prove informational to you, re: your confusion. Seems more than one General is involved.

  5. I totally agree that we need to understand more about what powers the FBI used to do this investigation.

    But I imagine that harassing e-mails to someone who has actual ties to the director of the CIA accusing her of inappropriate conduct with said director of the CIA is a little different than your average trolling.

    1. So far, I’ve heard that the harassing emails were anonymous and not very specific — did not mention Petraeus by name or job, just said “stop flirting with my guy” and the like.

      Have you heard differently?

      Or are you implying that being in the CIA director’s social circle is by itself enough to make even such a vague “threat” worthy of investigation?

      1. Some news reports have said the e-mails referred to Petraeus.

        For example, the current front page NYT piece says, “The involvement of the F.B.I…. began when Ms. Kelley, alarmed by about half a dozen anonymous e-mails accusing her of inappropriate flirtatious behavior with Mr. Petraeus, complained to an F.B.I. agent who is also a personal friend.”

        Others, however, like this WSJ story, say that the e-mails “appeared to be accusing her of an inappropriate relationship but didn’t name Mr. Petraeus.”

        So it’s kind of unclear, although even if the e-mails didn’t mention Petraeus, if Ms. Kelley mentioned that Petraeus was somehow involved in the matter when she complained to her FBI friend, I would think it would get the FBI’s attention much more than your average troll e-mail.

        1. There are lots of murky details,  contradictory reports, and just plain bizarre stuff (like the business about the harassing emails being sent from an email address shared by both Broadwells — only makes sense to me if it’s an internet connection, not an email account).

          It’ll be interesting to see if anyone can bring all this stuff together into a coherent, believable narrative that connects all the dots. Bonus points if it’s all true and accurate.

          Right now, I just don’t think there are quite enough dots to make it possible to draw a believable, coherent picture.

        2. “if Ms. Kelley mentioned that Petraeus was somehow involved in the matter when she complained to her FBI friend, I would think it would get the FBI’s attention much more than your average troll e-mail.”

          Agreed. But is THAT appropriate?

          1. If somebody contacts the FBI and provides credible evidence that they’re being harassed and the harassment somehow involves the director of the CIA, then yes I think it’s appropriate that the FBI look into it.

            The Secret Service investigates just about presidential (and presidential candidate) death threat that comes its way, no matter how ridiculous.  So a request for help from an individual who is actually close to the director of the CIA and who claims her harassment is related to her relationship with him doesn’t seem out of bounds.

            If, however, the inquiry went further than it otherwise would have because the FBI agent was friendly with the complainant and trying to do her a favor, then that’s starting to look pretty inappropriate.

            And if the FBI “looks into it” via illegally accessing private account information, that’s totally inappropriate.

      2. From what I’ve read she had enough sense to leave out the “my guy” part. The snarky twitters Xeni quotes apparently play a bit loose with the facts in order to sharpen the barbs. Which is perfectly fine and to be expected for any snark, but it doesn’t make snarks reliable sources.

  6. I can only hope that at some point this will involve a sex-tape of a booty call involving black helicopters and/or vans with blacked out windows.

  7. Yeah, If they had a warrant to crack the anonymous account, how did they get a warrant to crack the personal account she would have used to talk to Petraeus with?

    There are just a ton of puritanical crazy assumptions going into the reporting of this story.

  8. “if Petraeus didn’t commit a crime, and there was no policy violation, why was he booted out—and in such dramatic fashion?”

    He wasn’t booted – he resigned. Some say he was moral enough to be appalled at what he’d done to his family. If you don’t buy that, then maybe he just realized what kind of shitstorm was about to fall on him & he wanted to defuse as much as possible.

    “Why did any of this end up going public, once the FBI determined he’d leaked no secrets and broken no laws or conduct codes?”

    Because a whistleblower somewhere started leaking details to Republican Congressmen; it ended up in Eric Cantor’s lap, and he started asking hard questions about why nobody had informed the various Congressional Oversight folks about this investigation – which is actually a fairly reasonable question, all things considered.

    1. He was forced to resign, basically because his security clearance was suspended. It isn’t so much a case of whether he broke any laws as much as there was a potential for blackmail that had to be ruled out, and until it was ruled out he couldn’t have security clearance any more. As a CIA director without security clearance is basically no better than no director at all, he had to go. Cold logic does not care about innocence, alas.

      1. It’s true.  With a former lover out telling stuff to groups of people, passing it off as fact, whether it is or isn’t: that’s a huge security risk.  Petraeus was compromised.  An investigation into what he told or didn’t tell would take time. So would looking into everything Broadwell said.  The only sane thing to do would be to move him aside, get a new leader who isn’t compromised, and take it from there.  Of course there’s a lot more to the story, and we will find out more later, but I can’t see any reason why Petraeus should have kept his job one day longer than he did.

      2. ” He was forced to resign, basically because his security clearance was suspended.”

        Citations, PLEASE.  Otherwise, i call shenanigans.

        1. Well, the official story is that he submitted his resignation, Obama refused, then relented. The tidbit about security clearance is, well, common knowledge (I am working mostly on my own experiences in the US Army, now :) ). ANY element where clearance holder MIGHT be liable to blackmail must be investigated, and while that investigation is ongoing clearance is suspended. Not revoked, suspended.

          So really, my point is that it isn’t so much the nothingburger of a scandal as much as how it impaired the director in performing his duties that triggered his resignation. I honestly feel Petraeus thought he couldn’t work any more with this hanging over him more than that someone pushed him out.

          1.  “Well, the official story is that he submitted his resignation, Obama refused, then relented.”

            coud you provide a citation to this ‘offical story’. Second time I am asking.

  9. The comments by the government that they don’t know who the classified documents on Broadwell’s computer come from can’t be true. She’s been questioned about them, obviously, and they just took “dunno” as an answer? There seems to be more going on here, or it could be way less. It’s always hard to find clarity when the national security types are dicing up truth, lies, rumors and obfuscation to serve their own ends.

    1. If only Mitt Romney had been elected! He would have gotten to the bottom of this right away by authorizing the “enhanced interrogation” of all parties involved. They could have even waterboarded Broadwell’s computer!

  10. Dear me… who was it who liked to prance around in hotel rooms in pretty frocks? I think this simply points out the folly of thinking that it is important to keep secrets. Bushwa!

  11. I don’t understand why everyone disagrees with the General’s decision to step down as Director. Sure, having an affair is a matter in his personal life, but in job’s like his, and especially in today’s age, your personal life blurs with your professional life to such an extent that you can’t separate the two. As far as I’m concerned, we have an integrity issue here; even though the CIA is cloaked in secrecy, everyone in the CIA has to trust their fellow agents to tell the truth, and that goes from the top to the bottom. General Patraeus was not faithful to his wife, and if you can’t trust him to be faithful to his own wife of so many years, how can you really trust him to tell the truth about anything else? Having an affair does not diminish the tactical ability of General Patraeus at all – he still knows how and where to put the pieces to make the play. But having an affair negates to such a large extent his ability to be a leader, because he has not set the example for his subordinates, and he has not demonstrated the high level of character needed for a job like his. People make mistakes, and they need to learn from them and move on. But sometimes, you move past the point where you can be expected to make mistakes, especially one as simple as his in this case. People think General Patraeus is stepping down as part of a conspiracy, but he is still a man of honor, if not of perfect honor. He saw he made a mistake, the kind a man in his position can’t make if he still expects to lead an organization such as the CIA. Other men have made the same mistake and not stepped down – that shows a fault in their character. General Patraeus may be a weakened man, but he is still a stronger man than that.

    1. I don’t have an issue with him resigning. I don’t have an issue with the FBI investigating either, obviously, this woman was moving around without any regard of her position or the CIA director’s. This is why he resigned, because she hacked into his personal email and was basically stalking him, as well as finding out info and using said info. Petraeus lost the respect of everyone under him, because he wasn’t hiding the affair very well either. Now, with news of a second affair, it was best to quit and fix his marriage without being in the public eye, or collecting the public’s dime. As for the Cantor aside, why didn’t Mr. Cantor raise this stuff up to his committee members, or send it up the flagpole? He comes out after the fact, and it smells. I do believe the CIA was entrenched in Libya. Call me crazy, but don’t we respect our spies, and the people risking their lives to give them info? I would think, this is part of the hush hush, until more information could be gathered and strings get tied up. In reality, this woman has caused a global clusterfuck, by her actions. Petraeus couldn’t be forgiven for all the trouble his affair has caused. Time to go. 

      1. “Now, with news of a second affair,”

        What’s that? Are you getting the other affair-having general confused with this one?

        [edit: oh lord, scandals upon scandals. NVM Pat]

  12. Now it’s just getting silly: Fox is reporting that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FBI agent who initiated the investigation of  the e-mails to Jill Kelley “was removed from the case over the summer because of his behavior, which included sending shirtless photos of himself to Kelley….”Read more:

    1. Ha! It is now even worse! Gen. John Allen the commander of Afghanistan forces is being investigated for sending emails to Kelly (apparently 20,000 to 30,000).

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