Threatening emails sparked Petraeus probe

 

Washington

The collapse of the impressive career of CIA Director David Petraeus was triggered when a woman with whom he was having an affair sent threatening e-mails to another woman close to him, according to three senior law enforcement officials with knowledge of the episode.

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' name surfaced, FBI investigators were concerned that the CIA director's personal e-mail account had been hacked and that national security had been threatened. The officials said further investigation, including FBI interviews with Broadwell and Petraeus, led to the discovery that the two were engaged in an affair.

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

Attempts to reach Broadwell and her relatives have been unsuccessful, and she has not made a public statement since she was linked with Petraeus on Friday.

All three senior officials who described the impetus for the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because aspects of the inquiry are ongoing.

Petraeus, a retired four-star Army general who was once seen as a potential presidential candidate, said Friday that he was resigning as CIA chief because he had been involved in an extramarital affair. He has been married for 37 years and has two grown children.

Broadwell is married and has two young children.

In an e-mail sent to a longtime friend Friday night, Petraeus expressed regret for letting down his family and the nation. The friend, who described the contents of the message on the condition of anonymity, said Petraeus conveyed profound remorse in the message.

"He was deeply sorry for the pain he has caused his family," the friend said. "He also noted how much he loved his job at the agency. He said he really relished the intellectual challenge there."

Other details emerged Saturday indicating that the Petraeus allegations became a secret election-night drama for the Obama administration. That evening, the Justice Department informed the director of national intelligence, James Clapper Jr., that their investigation had unearthed compromising information about the CIA director, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.

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.

The law enforcement officials did not provide an exact timeline for the investigation, but they said the inquiry started several months ago. They said investigators thought they were dealing with a routine harassment case until some communications were traced to a private e-mail account belonging to Petraeus.

The sexually explicit nature of the communications caused investigators to suspect that someone had broken into Petraeus' e-mail account, leading to concerns about potential national security breaches, according to the officials. As the investigation proceeded and more evidence emerged, including Broadwell's role, FBI investigators realized they had uncovered an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell, the officials said.

The e-mails from Broadwell indicated that she thought the other woman was becoming involved with Petraeus, according to the officials. They said the e-mails were "threatening and harassing" but not specific enough to warrant criminal charges.

One of the officials said that the recipient of the e-mails complained to Petraeus about them and that the FBI later obtained e-mails between Petraeus and Broadwell in which they discussed the harassment.

The investigators first interviewed Petraeus about two weeks ago, the officials said. They reviewed the evidence with him but did not suggest that he should resign or that he would be charged with a crime, according to the officials.

One of the officials said Justice Department officials were unclear on what steps to take after they concluded that there would be no charges against the CIA director or Broadwell and that there had been no breach of national security.

"What was our responsibility?" said one of the officials. "We were in an area where we'd never been before."

The notification finally came Tuesday evening, while polls were still open across the country in an election that would return President Barack Obama to office for four more years.

"Director Clapper learned of the situation from the FBI on Tuesday evening around 5 p.m.," a senior U.S. intelligence official said. "In subsequent conversations with Director Petraeus, Director Clapper advised Director Petraeus to resign."

The official declined to say whether Petraeus had considered resigning at that point, but he said it was quickly clear to Clapper that stepping down was "the right thing to do."

The official said that Clapper has been fully briefed on the FBI investigation and has not called for his office or CIA to conduct a follow-up probe or damage assessment — indicating that Clapper does not see the case as a security threat.

"There are no investigations beyond" that initiated by the FBI, the intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The official would not address why the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and others were not notified earlier of the FBI investigation and its link to Petraeus.

The emerging details suggest that Petraeus was not involved in the decision to notify the White House that he had been ensnared in an FBI probe.

Instead, it was Clapper who told the White House late Wednesday, with Obama learning about it a day later. A senior administration official defended the decision not to notify the president earlier, saying that staff "needed to get their arms around" the matter before briefing Obama, who had returned from his election trip to Chicago on Wednesday night.

Obama summoned Petraeus to the White House on Thursday and "made the decision alone overnight" to accept his CIA director's resignation, the official said.

"Petraeus was pretty clear in his intent to resign," the official said. He "wasn't looking to be talked out of it." Friday morning, Obama notified his senior staff, then made two calls, first to Petraeus and then to the man now serving as acting CIA director, Michael Morell.

CIA officials declined to discuss how events unfolded inside the agency's headquarters, but a senior U.S. intelligence official said that "this was a sudden announcement internally as well as externally."

Petraeus has already stopped duties as director and begun a transition process that will determine, among other things, how much personal security he will keep as a private citizen.

White House and intelligence officials said again Saturday that there was no connection between Petraeus' resignation and the controversy surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Libya in September.

Still, the timing of Petraeus' departure, and the apparent decision by the FBI to withhold information about its probe, is already coming under question and criticism from Capitol Hill.

Senior Senate aides said that the Senate intelligence committee did not learn of the matter until Friday, just hours before the Petraeus resignation was announced. Even then, the first word came from news reports, prompting the committee to press the White House and CIA for answers.

By law, agencies are required to notify the committees of significant intelligence developments. Some questioned how a probe that turned up compromising information about the CIA director did not qualify.

"This is a very personal matter, not a matter of intelligence," the senior U.S. intelligence official said. "There are protocols for this. I would imagine things have to cross a certain threshold before they are reportable."

- - -

Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Communications and External Affairs Assistant

£24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Communications and External Affairs As...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness