Petraeus hoped affair would stay secret

 

CIA Director David Petraeus did not intend to resign from his position until it became clear that his extramarital affair with his biographer would become public after a federal investigation of his e-mail accounts, according to two longtime military aides who admire the retired general.

In a farewell letter last week to CIA staff members, Petraeus described his affair with Paula Broadwell as behavior that is "unacceptable both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours." The statement and others from his allies in the days that followed created an impression that he had stepped down of his own volition, and out of a sense of moral obligation.

But some of his closest advisers who served with him during his last command in Iraq said Monday that Petraeus planned to stay in the job even after he acknowledged the affair to the FBI, hoping the episode would never become public. He resigned last week after being told to do so by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on the day President Barack Obama was reelected.

"Obviously, he knew about the relationship for months, he knew about the affair, he was in it, so yes, he was not going to resign," said Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel and Petraeus's executive officer during the Iraq "surge," who spoke Monday with the former general for about half an hour. "But once he knew it was going to go public, he thought that resigning was the right thing to do. There is no way it would have remained private."

Steven Boylan, who served as Petraeus's public affairs officer during that same 2007-2008 period in Iraq, said the retired four-star general "felt he had to [resign] once he knew it would be made public. He didn't feel he could lead the organization with this being out there."

A more detailed timeline of the events that upended the career of one of the nation's most accomplished military officers emerged from interviews with former Petraeus advisers, people close to Broadwell, law enforcement officials, and people close to Petraeus family friend Jill Kelley, who received harassing e-mails from Broadwell that triggered the FBI investigation and exposed the affair.

The new information shows that Petraeus told Broadwell last summer to stop sending the harassing e-mails after Kelley told him about them. Law enforcement officials said the e-mails indicated that Broadwell was jealous of Kelley's friendship with Petraeus. His warning came about the same time Petraeus ended the affair with Broadwell.

In an interview on Monday, Kelley's brother said his sister, a volunteer military liaison in Tampa, Fla., who is friends with Petraeus and his wife of 38 years, Holly, had no idea that her complaint to the FBI would lead to the end of Petraeus's career.

There are still unanswered questions about the sequence of events. Over the weekend, Kelley hired Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell and Broadwell hired longtime Washington defense lawyer Robert Muse. Attempts to reach Broadwell have been unsuccessful and Muse declined to comment. Petraeus has responded to inquiries only through associates. A spokeswoman for the Kelley family asked for privacy.

Although Petraeus has left his post and his biography has been removed from the CIA website, congressional leaders continued Monday to demand that he be prepared to testify in hearing this week on the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. How quickly a CIA force responded to calls for help from the mission is among the questions that Petraeus, who has received broad Republican and Democratic support on the Hill for years, probably would face.

Petraeus met Broadwell in 2006 at Harvard, where she was a graduate student writing a dissertation on leadership. They began corresponding and when he moved to Tampa in 2009 as head of the U.S. Central Command, she became a frequent visitor.

At the same time, Petraeus and his wife became friends with Kelley and her husband, Scott. They attended parties with the Kelleys, and Jill Kelley spent time at the military base as a volunteer. Petraeus's posting was cut short when Obama tapped him in June 2010 to become commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was forced to resign.

Broadwell, a West Point graduate like Petraeus who had spent more than a decade as an Army officer before leaving, visited him several times for extended stays. She had decided to turn her dissertation into a biography of the general, which was published earlier this year as "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."

Several of Petraeus's aides said they were surprised — and concerned — by how much access the general granted Broadwell during her visits. But Mansoor and others say the affair began only after Petraeus left the military in mid-2011 to become CIA director.

"It began as a mentor-mentee relationship," Mansoor said. "At some point, it morphed into a more personal relationship. But the physical aspects of the relationship happened a couple months after he got to the agency."

Beyond the military, the two shared an interest in fitness and the study of leadership. When they were apart, e-mail served as their communication method of choice, with hundreds of messages passing between them through various and sometimes anonymous accounts.

By late spring of this year, however, the relationship appeared headed for trouble.

In Tampa, Kelley began receiving a series of what she described to a friend as bizarre e-mails from an anonymous account. They did not specifically cite Kelley's connection to Petraeus, but warned that her friendship with him would have to stop or she would be exposed. Associates of Petraeus and Kelley have said they have been nothing more than social friends.

"They attended events together. They spend Christmas at each other's homes," Boylan said. "There was nothing torrid. No affair-like thing between them. They were strictly friends."

Kelley was alarmed enough by the e-mails that in June she told a friend who worked as an FBI agent in Tampa about them. The agent took her concerns to the bureau, where investigators traced the messages to Broadwell, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.

In examining her e-mail account, investigators found messages from Petraeus of a highly personal nature. The FBI suspected the communications were being sent by someone who had hacked into the CIA director's personal account.

The mistake apparently came in part from steps Petraeus and Broadwell took to conceal their relationship. According to the Associated Press, instead of sending e-mails to each other's accounts, the two composed the messages, then left them in a "draft" folder where they could be accessed with a shared user name and password. The method, often used by terrorists, makes it harder to trace e-mail traffic. But in this case, it may also have fueled law enforcement concerns that a hacker was accessing the accounts.

The FBI informed Kelley that Broadwell was the sender and Kelley said she did not know her, according to a person close to Kelley.

At some point this summer, Kelley told Petraeus about the e-mails and named Broadwell as the person who had sent them. Apparently in response, the CIA director sent e-mails to Broadwell telling her to stop the harassment, two law enforcement officials said.

Mansoor, who during his last tour in Iraq spent 15 months in a bedroom adjacent to Petreaus's, said the affair ended four months ago. That roughly coincides with the time Petraeus discovered that Broadwell was sending the e-mails to Kelley, although Mansoor would not say who ended the relationship.

"This is someone who spent his entire career in the military and he is used to having people around him who have shared bonds and experience," Mansoor said. "He had that with her and she made herself available to him."

When confronted by FBI agents about the e-mails, Broadwell, 40, acknowledged the affair with Petraeus and turned over her computer to investigators. Petraeus, 60, also acknowledged the relationship in his interview with the FBI.

Kelley's brother said that his sister dined and shopped regularly with Holly Petraeus, and that she had no idea her complaint would eventually reveal an extramarital affair.

David Khawam, a lawyer in New Jersey, said his sister called him Sunday morning and told him to turn on the news, which featured her role in the unfolding investigation.

" 'I've done nothing wrong,' " Khawam said his sister told him. " 'I'm the victim here. But it still feels awful.' "

In late summer, the FBI informed senior Justice Department officials about the case. A department spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, declined to say when Attorney General Eric Holder was informed.

After reviewing the investigation, federal prosecutors decided there was no evidence that warranted charges against Broadwell or Petraeus.

Broadwell was interviewed the week of Oct. 21 and Petraeus was interviewed on Oct. 29. During his interview, he was told that he would not be charged and the FBI did not suggest that he resign, law enforcement officials said.

What remains unclear is why, after it was decided that criminal charges would not be filed, Clapper was informed about the investigation. Another question is why the notification was made on Election Day about a case the Justice Department had declined to pursue weeks earlier.

At some point during the summer, the Tampa FBI agent Kelley had first approached for help was taken off the investigation. Frustrated and concerned that an inquiry into what he thought may be a possible national security breach had not progressed, he got in touch with the Washington, D.C., office of Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. Reichert passed on the information to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

"I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee concerned that sensitive, classified information may have been compromised and made certain Director Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security," Cantor said in a statement.

Cantor contacted FBI Director Robert Mueller on Oct. 31 and a week later, Clapper told Petraeus he needed to resign.

"I don't know if it would have taken this course without Cantor," a person close to the investigation said.

Over the weeks, Petraeus had repeatedly opted not to disclose his transgression, even to his CIA inner circle. As the investigation unfolded, he went about his business as if nothing were amiss. On Oct. 27, he attended a black-tie gala in Washington, where he mingled with Broadwell at the VIP reception. Mansoor said the two maintained contact for professional reasons even after the breakup.

After his final meeting with the FBI on Oct. 29, Petraeus headed overseas for meetings in Egypt, Libya and Jordan.

Even Deputy Director Michael Morell was left in the dark until after Petraeus had been confronted by Clapper, who learned of the matter on election night from the Justice Department.

"He conducted himself as if almost nothing was wrong," a former senior Defense Department official said.

Speaking about Petraeus's resignation, the official said, "There's no evidence that he would have done it on his own."

---

Karen DeYoung, Carol D. Leonnig, Julie Tate and Greg Miller contributed to this report.

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