The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Paula Broadwell, General Petraeus's biographer and mistress, had sought access to his e-mail and that the e-mail account was apparently his personal Gmail, not his official CIA e-mail. ABC's Martha Raddatz reported that Petraeus' associates had received "anonymous harassing emails" that were then traced to Broadwell, which suggests Broadwell may have found their names or addresses in his e-mail.
The New York Times reports today that the FBI investigation began several months ago when Jill Kelley, who serves as a social liaison to the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) (but sometimes holders herself out as an "ambassador") filed a complaint about receiving harassing e-mails from Broadwell. When the FBI began to examine Broadwell's e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Petraeus that revealed an affair. The affair didn't set off alarm bells, but the possibility of security breaches stemming from his use of a personal e-mail account did because of vulnerabilities to hacking.
I first wrote about this story on Saturday morning after it broke the night before, specifically the possibility that Petreaus appears to have leaked classfied information at a time when he's been driving Justice Department espionage prosecutions of two CIA whistleblowers, Jeff Sterling and John Kiriakou, for "leaking." Here's what the New York Times had to say today:
They also discovered that Ms. Broadwell possessed certain classified information, one official said, but apparently concluded that it was probably not Mr. Petraeus who had given it to her and that there had been no major breach of security.But even when the government spent years trying to find a way to punish National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou with alleged mishandling of classified information, we are already being told there will be no charges for Petraeus or his biographer/mistress:
No leak charges are expected to be filed as a result of the investigation.The rank hypocrisy (Petraeus minced no words in condemning Kiriakou and warning his staff about the sacrosanct nature of secrets) combined with the convenient timing of Petraeus' announcement - after the election, but before he was set to testify on the major security failure in Benghazi - might explain the government's complete inability to give a straight answer as to how Petraeus' affair and the corresponding suspected security breaches came to be the subject of an FBI investigation.
No doubt more of the story and the truth will trickle out once the bright shiny object of an affair dims.
It doesn't help that - as per usual - the media and the public are stuck relying on inept and contradictory spin from "anonymous government officials" rather than officials statements.
First the anonymous government officials had to explain why the FBI didn't bother to tell anyone about the FBI investigation. From NYT:
The decisions on when to notify various administration officials, including Mr. Clapper on Tuesday, were “a judgment call consistent with policies and procedures,” according to one of the government officials who had been briefed.But that's contradicted by an FBI agent - described as a "whistleblower" - who contacted Congress precisely about security breaches associate with the scandal.
If the investigation had uncovered serious security breaches or other grave problems, he said, the notifications would have been immediate. As it was, however, the matter seemed to involve private relationships with little implication for national security.
Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, said Saturday an F.B.I. employee whom his staff described as a whistle-blower told him about Mr. Petraeus’s affair and a possible security breach in late October, which was after the investigation had begun.
It will be interesting to see how the administration treats this FBI whistleblower, especially considering government officials have already said that Petraeus and Broadwell won't be punished.
Still, though, government officials insisted on doth protesting too much that the FBI investigation did not involve media leaks or national security:
On Saturday, the two government officials who had been briefed on the case dismissed a range of media speculation that the F.B.I. inquiry might have focused on leaks of classified information to the news media or even foreign spying. “People think that because it’s the C.I.A. director, it must involve bigger issues,” one official said. “Think of a small circle of people who know each other.”This begs the question of why the FBI was digging around in an extra-marital affair involving a "small circle of people" that involved the CIA Director, and that's where the spin comes full circle leaving anyone looking for a straight answer dizzy and disoriented:
The F.B.I. investigators were not pursuing evidence of Mr. Petraeus’s marital infidelity, which would not be a criminal matter, the official said. But their examination of his e-mails, most or all of them sent from a personal account and not from his C.I.A. account, raised the possibility of security breaches that needed to be addressed directly with him.(emphasis added).
“Alarms went off on larger security issues,” the official said. As a result, F.B.I. agents spoke with the C.I.A. director about two weeks ago, and Mr. Petraeus learned in the discussion, if he was not already aware, that they knew of his affair with Ms. Broadwell, the official said.
To sum up, anonymous government officials are telling us that the FBI investigation:
(1) uncovered "little implication of national security" but was about "larger security issues;"
(2) was not "pursuing evidence of Mr. Petraeus's marital infidelity" but was about "a small circle of people who knew each other;" and
(3) was not "focused on leaks of classified information" but that it uncovered that "Ms. Broadwell possessed certain classified information."
We are not even getting one straight story, let alone getting the full story, but there are undeniable issues with what we already know. The Obama administration has relentlessly pursued so-called leakers, who are usually whistleblowers, under the Espionage Act, but when Obama's own CIA director is implicated in a security breach and the Director's mistress/biographer ends up with classified information, the government is quick to assure us that no one will be criminally charged.
Moreover, "leaks" aside, the security risks of the CIA director having a G-mail account not lost on anyone with more than half-a-brain's worth of technical savvy. Washington Post's Max Fisher explains:
But access to the account could have provided telling information on, for example, Petraeus’s travel schedule, his foreign contacts, even personal information about himself or other senior U.S. officials. . . . Private e-mail services like Google’s, though considered significantly more secure than most, still have susceptibilities to foreign intrusion.Let's hope we know more of the truth and less contradictory spin as the story "evolves."