Scandal Surge: The Mid-Summer Adjustment

These NYT, WaPo, and WSJ reports go a long way to clarifying some problems with the early chronology of the David Petraeus scandal

The NYT states the investigation started in June with Jill Kelley’s complaints to an FBI agent friend (note, earlier reporting had said the investigation started as early as February). WSJ says it began in May.

WaPo states that at some point FBI informed Kelley that Paula Broadwell was the one who had been sending the emails, though the story doesn’t say who at the FBI told her.

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

For the record, I’m betting Kelley is lying when she claims she didn’t know Broadwell.

WaPo further suggests that after being informed by the FBI, Kelley told Petraeus that Broadwell had sent the emails, and in response he asked Broadwell to stop. It also implies that’s why Petraeus ended the affair.

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.

And NYT makes it clear all this happened before FBI interviewed Broadwell for the first time (there’s some dispute about when this first interview happened, September or October).

Before Ms. Broadwell spoke to the F.B.I. agents, Mr. Petraeus had learned that she had sent offensive e-mails to Ms. Kelley and asked her to stop, another official said.

Here’s what this would seem to suggest: the FBI, during an ongoing investigation that was continuing because they had found evidence of Petraeus’ involvement and potential national security exposure, told Kelley the preliminary results of their investigation: that Broadwell was the culprit.

And Petraeus almost immediately told Broadwell he knew about the email (it’s unclear whether he told her he knew about the investigation).

That story doesn’t make any sense!

By telling Kelley, the FBI tainted the investigation and may well have alerted the target of the investigation, Broadwell, to it.

Which is where this batshit crazy story from the WSJ seems to come in. It reveals that the FBI agent to whom Kelley first complained–the same guy who later told Eric Cantor about the investigation in late October–also sent Kelley a picture of himself shirtless.

However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.

The FBI officials found that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley, according to the people familiar with the probe.

That same agent, after being barred from the case, contacted a member of Congress, Washington Republican David Reichert, because he was concerned senior FBI officials were going to sweep the matter under the rug, the officials said. That information was relayed to top congressional officials, who notified FBI headquarters in Washington.

Now, WSJ doesn’t say it. But I bet you good money this guy told Kelley–whom he was apparently trying to seduce himself–the preliminary results of the investigation back in July, which led to Broadwell being tipped (perhaps) to the investigation. Along the way Petraeus and Broadwell had plenty of opportunities to get their stories straight, up to and including an October 27 black tie event just before FBI interviews Petraeus.

Which–if I’m right–would explain why the FBI took him off the investigation and is now conducting an investigation (though not in the proper investigative body, the Inspector General, but rather in DOJ’s cover-up specialty, Office of Professional Responsibility).

This investigation turned into a clusterfuck back in July, when the principles all started acting in response to the investigation.

Nevertheless, it continued for four more months (continues even this evening, as FBI searches Broadwell’s house).

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

39 replies
  1. ryanwc says:

    The NYTimes version has the shirtless photo from the agent predating the whole investigation. Doesn’t necessarily contradict your theory, but it’s worth noting.

  2. Michael Cromer says:

    (cross-posted from Kevin Drum’s blog)

    I believe it will turn out that this whole thing was really a CIA black operation.

    I’m not kidding. CIA careerists don’t like Petraeus. Furthermore, I think they blame him for the f-ups at Benghazi and were tired of taking heat for him. They wanted him out. They already knew he was diddling Paula Broadwell. Somehow, they engineered an FBI investigation that would ultimately lead to exposing the affair. They did it through two levels of indirection (Kelley, FBI) to cover their own butts.

    The good news? When the CIA acting director testifies before Congress, he may be willing and able to tell us what REALLY happened in Benghazi.

  3. Casual Observer says:

    Gotta say this one is tons weirder than the story involving GOP senator with diapers. and I never thought I’d ever be able to say that.

  4. orionatl says:

    the fbi’s involvement was inappropriate.

    a romantically hopeful agent took up jill kelley’s cry
    for help – does she sendout these vibs to every guy she meets?

    the fbi had no reason to continue that investigation – except that the initial agent or a well-wired
    republican operative took the matter to reichert.

    this is florida, don’t forget.

    kelley, i would guess, is well connected, republican-wise.

    trivia ?:

    is kelley “state dep’t” liason to centcomm, as reported,

    or is she “state of florida” rep to centcomm?

  5. Jeff Kaye says:

    Now, who will be prosecuted for obstructing an investigation or even lying to the FBI?

    Or will this all descend (if it hasn’t already) into tales of ever-deeper adulterous ties and obsessive behaviors?

    As for Kelley knowing Broadwell, that would depend on the meaning of “knowing”…

    Meanwhile, each revelation takes us farther away from any real discussion of U.S. policy in Libya, about the murderous legacy of Petraeus and the police commando “counter-terror” units he helped train when he brought the “Salvador Option” to Iraq, etc.

    But that’s politics in America. Not allowed to have a sustained conversation about real topics, it loses itself in smarmy details. The “shirtless FBI guy” is the latest but perhaps not the last actor to strut and fret his hour on this stage.

    Meanwhile, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel lost their suit against Rumsfeld for torture. But most Americans will never even know their names.

    The decision ultimately conveys near-blanket immunity on all levels of military command up to the defense secretary, plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Kanovitz said in a telephone interview Thursday criticizing the finding.

    “What comes out is an opinion that’s far broader than what was argued before the court,” Kanovitz said. “It’s a sweeping action.”

    Kanovitz said he believed the issue was likely at some point to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, but added that his clients hadn’t yet decided whether take their case to the next level.

  6. lizard says:

    The sex scandal is the shiny object you are supposed to be distracted by. Seems to be working.

    I agree there is a CIA black op here, but it isn’t an affair, or even the revelation thereof. This is a CIA secret prison story.

    But Look! Over There! SEX!

  7. Jeff Kaye says:

    @Jeff Kaye: I wrote only hours ago, “The “shirtless FBI guy” is the latest but perhaps not the last actor to strut and fret his hour on this stage.” — Little did I know how prescient I was.

    From the Washington Post:

    Scandal probe ensnares commander of U.S., NATO troops in Afghanistan

    he FBI probe into the sex scandal that led to the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced early Tuesday.

    According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of “potentially inappropriate” emails between Allen and Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa woman whose close friendship with Petraeus ultimately led to his downfall. Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011.

    Allen is staying on (for now) as commander, but his nomination “by the White House to take over as chief of the military’s European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe” is “on hold”.

    Wow! You couldn’t make up this stuff!

  8. Sparkles the Iguana says:

    Cue the “withdrawal” from Afghanistan jokes….

    30,000 pages of emails? When did Allen, you know, actually do HIS JOB? Is this part of why we ain’t doing so well over there?

  9. Garrett says:

    I was laughing at the shirtless stuff. Trying to keep away knowledge of the death squads lurking behind the story.

    But yikes now.

    This country is in trouble.

  10. Sparkles the Iguana says:

    If I’m having a 30,000-page email affair with the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, I don’t invite the FBI into my email. But that’s just me, evidently….

  11. Arbusto says:

    @10 Jeff Kaye: Wow talk about multitasking. General Allen running a full time war on the one hand and writing volumes to Ms(?)Kelley while thinking with his Johnson. Semper Fi!

  12. ryanwc says:

    @Sparkles the Iguana: As I’ve said before, there’s no reason at this point to be certain Kelley’s involvement in any of this is romantic as opposed to political and/or intel. From a Maronite immigrant family, meaning a family with horses in CentComm’s race, a likely native Arabic speaker, a highly intelligent woman with no known career. It’s pretty old-fashioned to assume it’s all about sex. It might be. But I think “30,000 pages” is another piece of evidence against that. He couldn’t have written 30,000 pages of love letters. But 30,000 pages of attached documents? Some of which are classified?

  13. ryanwc says:

    And whatever was involved, it tells you something about the effectiveness of the vaunted email dragnet. Allen’s emails aren’t running on the wide internet. They’re heading out on limited secure connections out of friggin’ Kabul. The army rations time online to troops in theater because there’s so little bandwidth, and is open about monitoring content. But no one noticed a stream of 30,000 emails going to some woman in Tampa?

  14. Sparkles the Iguana says:

    @ryanwc: Okay, I won’t assume a sexual relationship then. “Inappropriate” usually means that but I supposed it can mean other things as well.

    How do you know this woman is “highly intelligent”? Do you know her?

  15. Sparkles the Iguana says:

    And anyway, if it’s not sexual but intel-related, again, why would she invite the FBI into her email? If espionage is going on there’s even less reason why that makes sense.

  16. Citizen92 says:

    Dave Reichert. All indications are that he is/ was basically owned by Rove. From his voting record reliably supporting Bush, hands out for dark money of yore (DeLay, Blunt, Boehner), and even the ol Turd Blossom showed up for a funder dinner this year.

    And then there is Karl. Other sources have a photo that Karl Tweeted where he and Ms. Broadwell are together at a meeting, circa May?

    I smell a Texas rat.

  17. Citizen92 says:

    Presumably, “volunteer social liaison to military families” is codeword for “honeypot?”

    I’ve seen reports that Kelley and husband are trying to claw back after major real estate losses. Next thing we need is a phony nonprofit to appear… Standing by.

  18. Citizen92 says:

    Kelley has hired Abbe Lowell and crisis manager Judy Smith. That seems a bit sudden and extreme, getting pangs of Lucienne Goldberg from Clinton days.

    Crisis manager Smith appears to be a relic fromIran Contra days and she also worked for Pappy Bush (White House, not CIA days). What an odd selection. Were all the Tampa crisis managers busy?

  19. Sponson says:

    EW, which is more likely, that Fox News is lying now (claiming that they reported prisoners in Libya on the 26th when the archived story shows they did not) or telling the truth then but covering up now (really did report on the 26th of October on their site that the CIA was keeping prisoners in Libya, then edited it out of the story some time between then and today). I contend the former is more likely, because they would run a big risk of someone noting a change and producing a screenshot of their October 26th version of the story. More importantly, why tell such a lie, unless you were trying to obfuscate Broadwell’s source? Is Fox News actually trying to provide Broadwell with a “cover” in which she says “I was only repeating a false story from lying Fox News?”

  20. guest says:

    @ryanwc: 20 or 30 thousand pages of emails might not be that much. Unless they were deleting all the prior emails, the page count grows geometrically. A one page email becomes 2 with the reply, 3 with the re-reply, and so on. Not to mention long-ass “signatures” for self important folks, with icons and security disclaimers repeated throughout. Also, if each previous email got indented, then that 1 page emails at the beginning can turn into 1 inch columns that run for 10 pages.

    I’m confused, though. I thought they said Paula broke it off and there were lots of emails from St David trying to get her back. Now it sounds like they broke it off when they realized they screwed the pooch and were under investigation.

    I also find it very strange that so many of Betrayhiswife’s “friends” and former acolytes are gabbing to the press about the affair. I would have expected more tight lipped responses.

  21. guest says:

    I just read where Petraeus likened his wife to a pit bull during his confirmation hearings. Given that she looks like a Jonathan Winters munchkin in church lady drag, and Paula basically says he married her mainly for her daddy’s connections, I assume it was just a marriage of convenience (I would have thought the marriage was a mutual bearding arrangement for pair of military brat closet cases. But I guess David might be a hetro, since Paula is a confirmed biological woman, virago physique notwithstanding).
    I hope she really lives up to that pit pull remark and tears his creepy spy vs spy face and phony hero facade to ribbons.

  22. scribe says:

    A couple questions/observations (written as I read the post and w/o reading upstream comments):
    1. Small world in those circles. Fer sher Kelley knew who Broadwell was, regardless of the context being personal or professional.
    1. How did Kelley get Petraeus to take her call? Out of the blue someone calls the DCI and says “please have your mistress stop emailing me”? There are a lot of people wearing tinfoil hats who would like the radio signals stopped and surely would love that number to call.

  23. joanneleon says:

    @scribe: The Kelleys were friends with the Petraeus family and socialized together. There are pictures of Petraeus and his wife at the Kelley home.

  24. ryanwc says:

    @Sparkles the Iguana: She’s got a high-performing identical twin with a masters in health policy and a Georgetown law degree. I’m not saying she’s a genius who is inventing new supercomputing techniques as we speak. Just that she’s unlikely to be the ditz she’s been painted as.

  25. klynn says:

    @Jeff Kaye:

    Hope they continue the suit. Hope they take it to the world.

    This decision is so wrong on so many levels in so many ways. Thank you for posting about the decision. It is a case I have followed for a long time.

  26. OtE says:


    I’ve misplaced the citation, but I read “Florida State Department” liason to Centcom. I’m thinking it was in a media report local to Tampa Bay.

    I’ll keep looking for it.

  27. Sponson says:

    @OtE: Thank you EW. If you or anyone here can point me to the “original Fox News story” published on October 26th that was ostensibly Broadwell’s source for saying that the CIA was holding prisoners at their annex in Benghazi, I’d like to see it, because I can’t find it anywhere. I know that they referenced it yesterday in a newer story on their site, but that’s not the same thing.

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