Petraeus Rules

While the Beltway is slowly coming around to the logic that it’s not a good thing if the CIA Director has a pseudonymous Gmail account he uses to conduct an affair, it has yet to consider some other factors that may have forced David Petraeus to quit.

As a threshold matter, it appears that both Petraeus and Paula Broadwell did things that have gotten others–people like Thomas Drake–prosecuted and stripped of their security clearance. Obama can’t continue his war on leakers if he goes easy on Petraeus after compromising his own email account. In addition, it appears that as the FBI closed in on Petraeus, he and Broadwell may have pushed back by revealing (or claiming) CIA had prisoners in Benghazi. That is, in some way Petraeus and Broadwell’s response to the investigation appears to have colored how they treated the Benghazi pushback going on at precisely the same time.

Here’s a decent timeline of Petraeus’ demise (though many of these details–from the start date of the affair, the investigation, and Petraeus’ FBI interview have been reported using different dates, suggesting different anonymous stories may be offering different timelines). I’d like to concentrate on the following, which include a few additions.

[Week of, possibly day of] October 21 [alternately reported as September]: Paula Broadwell first interviewed by FBI. She agrees to turn over her computer, which will lead to the FBI finding classified information on it.

October 24 (written the day before): Petreaus applauds the guilty plea of John Kiriakou, who passed the identity of torturers to lawyers representing Gitmo detainees who have been tortured. Those lawyers have clearance, and they did not publicly reveal the most sensitive name. In his second-to-last statement as CIA Director, he writes,

This case yielded the first IIPA successful prosecution in 27 years, and it marks an important victory for our Agency, for our Intelligence Community, and for our country.  Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.

October 24: Benghazi suspect killed in Cairo.

October 26: Fox reports that CIA security in annex were twice told to stand down by “CIA chain of command.”

October 26: At an appearance at DU, Paula Broadwell says,

Now, I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually, um, had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So that’s still being vetted.

The challenging thing for General Petraeus is that in his new position, he’s not allowed to communicate with the press. So he’s known all of this — they had correspondence with the CIA station chief in, in Libya. Within 24 hours they kind of knew what was happening.

Update: See this post, which makes it clear Fox had the detail about prisoners but then took it out.

October 27: Petraeus and Broadwell hobnobbing at black tie event.

October 29: FBI interviews Petraeus.

October 31: Acting after speaking to FBI “whistleblower,” Eric Cantor’s Chief of Staff calls Robert Mueller about investigation.

October 31- November 1: Petraeus in Cairo for security discussions.

November 2 [based on a briefing held November 1 while Petraeus was still in Cairo]: CIA releases timeline rebutting Fox report–mentioned by Broadwell–that CIA chain of command told security to stand down.

November 2: FBI interviews Broadwell a second time.

November 2: Scott Shane writes odd article on demise of Petraeus’ image, blaming his absence from media for Benghazi blowback, in part repeating a point made by Broadwell on October 26. It includes the following:

But since an attack killed four Americans seven weeks ago in Benghazi, Libya, his deliberately low profile, and the C.I.A.’s penchant for secrecy, have left a void that has been filled by a news media and Congressional furor over whether it could have been prevented. Rather than acknowledge the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi, Mr. Petraeus and other agency officials fought a losing battle to keep it secret, even as the events there became a point of contention in the presidential campaign.


But the Benghazi crisis has posed an extraordinary test for Mr. Petraeus. After the killings, intelligence officials concerned about exposing the extent and methods of the large C.I.A. presence in the city would say little to reporters for publication.


On Thursday, hoping to subdue the gathering public relations storm, intelligence officials invited reporters to a background briefing to, in their view, set the record straight. They offered a timeline of C.I.A. actions on the night of the attack, countering the idea that the besieged Americans were left alone under fire, and explaining why some would-be rescue efforts discussed in news reports were never feasible.

Notably, they also sought to rehabilitate Mr. Petraeus from some of the negative speculation that has surrounded him. The C.I.A. director, said one intelligence official, “has been fully engaged from the start of the agency’s response, particularly in the rescue mission that was swift and aggressive.”

The article also included a paragraph that sounded like a bid to spin issues that have gone haywire in good light.

Mr. Petraeus has managed the delicate task of supporting rebels in Syria’s civil war while trying to prevent the arming of anti-American extremists. But when his C-17 Globemaster touched down in Turkey in September for consultations on Syria, the trip went all but unnoticed by the news media. He worked for months to address the complaints of Pakistani officials about drone strikes against militants, while keeping State Department officials abreast of likely future strikes, a policy called “pre-concurrence” that has prevented interagency squabbles. In his travels to the tumultuous post-Arab Spring Middle East this week, only a brief mention of his arrival in Cairo surfaced in local news reports.

November 5: Based on second interview with Broadwell, FBI “tentatively” rules out charges.

November 5: Broadwell publishes General David Petraeus Rules for Living, including these.

4. There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and poli­cy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to ex­plain why they made them.

5. We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

6. Be humble. The people you’ll be lead­ing already have on-the-ground conflict experience. “Listen and learn.”

7. Be a team player. “Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.” Take ownership of both.

November 6: Having reportedly determined the facts of the case, FBI informs James Clapper of the investigation. Clapper talks to Petraeus, urges him to resign. (Note that public integrity investigations allow for the resignation of a public figure in lieu of charges.)

November 7: Clapper again urges Petraeus to resign. Clapper informs Obama.

November 8: Petraeus meets with Obama, reportedly asks to be allowed to resign.

November 9: Obama accepts Petraeus’ resignation.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect dates reported in this story.

39 replies
  1. kd says:

    I don’t understand how charges were “tentatively” ruled out if classified information was found on Bodwell’s computer? Based on the diligence exhibited by the Government in such case I would have thought they would have hunted down whoever supplied her with that information. Make me wonder if the charges were “tentatively” ruled out because of the stature of the parties involved?

  2. orionat says:

    thanks ew for placing this matter in a context of politics and policy.

    it’s now in a context that makes what i think are the real concerns about this matter much clearer to think about and discuss.

  3. Arbusto says:

    EW; at least one of your prior blogs, referencing Scott Shane articles, suggest a biased reporting based on CIA sources, if I remember correctly. Coupled with a supposed FBI whistle-blower to Cantor(who many consider a weak sister) and not some other heavy weight or on an intel committee makes me wonder what politics are going on inside the intel community.

  4. DonS says:

    Moon of Alabama’s take, with special reference to Bengazi, timing, and black-hole sites. Cites Foxnews which, before the election, could be reasonably assumed to want to skewer Obama with Bengazi coverup. But in Fox story cited today the thrust seems to be toward the black hole angle, with reference to “multiple intelligence sources” impliedly closely linked to CIA, as well as military involvement:

    Still, a black hole operation might not hurt O’s image though, especially during election frenzy, lying about it could.

  5. geoff says:

    After speaking with P this weekend: affair “began months after he retired from the army and ended about four months ago. “

  6. mcville says:

    Haven’t followed emptywheel too much recently, but thought I would check here for latest on Petraeus upheaval.

    Agree with orionat. Originally, thought this was mostly about personal indiscretions. But it’s beginning to look like someone did stick a shiv in Petraeus.

    Your timeline is very helpful in that regard.

  7. guest says:

    I still can’t even understand what 90% of the the issues are in this whole Benghazi affair are, either from the Fox/Romney angle, or the other perspectives provided at emptywheel. I think we have really become so compromised as a nation that it’s nearly impossible for ordinary people to follow what level of nuanced evil has crossed the line into illegality, and what hasn’t. Or what rules apply to everyone, and what rules apply only to the little people. This stuff makes Paul Krugman’s wonkish posts seem like Sesame Street by comparison.

    I don’t even think most Fox viewers understand the Fox/Romney spin that they parrot.

    Basically, I think this whole thing will go down the same memory hole as every other scandal from Iran-Contra to the Cheney/Plame treason. But thanks to Marcy and Bmaz, anyway. Maybe I will be able to wrap my head around this before they hit the reset button.

  8. DonS says:


    Gotta have someone of ‘stature’ to be counted as a serious whistleblower? Blowing the whistle on Betraeus (which Cantor doesn’t mind one little bit) also blows the whistle on Bengazi, i.e., the repubs ‘huge’ foreign policy scandal against O — they wished. They tried. Just a few days too late?

    So who is the coordinator? The FBI says the investigation was going on months before Bengazi. Does the timeline still make sense with the political dirty tricks hypothesis. Implicit threats to Betraeus: you sell out Obama or the whole affair thing crashes into the public arena?

    Enough speculating for a while.

  9. SebastianDangerfield says:

    @emptywheel: Indeed. The pictures, the opportunities provided by location (far, far away from spouses and friends) and situation, and one’s basic sense of human nature all rebel at the idea that the affair started after Petraeus left the Army. They started the affair not when they were connected at the hip in a foreign land, but instead when he was ensconced at Langley and she back in the Charlotte nest (when not off promoting the book)? This is Boylan covering for Petraeus, since it is famously (and ridiculously) a criminal offense for military personnel to have extra-marital affairs. And Boylan is surely the then-anonymous Petraeus friend cited in the previous article.

  10. ryan says:

    Is it clear that the threatening emails to Kelley from Broadwell were relationship-oriented? Could she have been telling Kelley to “stay away” from Petraeus because Kelley was trying to undermine Petraeus in some way?

    I think there’s more going on in Tampa than is being acknowledged. Kelley the “socialite” is the identical twin of a women with a masters in health care and a law degree from Georgetown. Yes, identical twins can develop in different directions, but this woman seems rather unlikely to be a mere social climber. In retrospect, my comment that they came to the Tampa area in 2006 seems to have been incorrect – that may be when the twin returned from Georgetown, but they were already in Tampa by 2003, when they made a Food Network appearance. I continue to wonder whether at least this woman of Maronite descent may have been recruited to JSOC in the wake of 9/11 or in the run-up to the Iraq war.

  11. mcville says:


    And it is still not clear how Broadwell’s adventures in Afghanistan were paid for. If federal money paid for her expenses, it would cast entirely different light on her book-writing project.

  12. SebastianDangerfield says:

    @mcville: Ooooh. Hadn’t even thought about that. I suppose she might have had a healthy advance — Petraeus hagiographies are always considered to be good box office — but it’s kinda hard to fathom that as much access as she had would not involve some serious extra government expenditures, even if her publisher paid her way there.

  13. SebastianDangerfield says:

    @bmaz: All is well, albeit busy as hell. Feels good to be back at the old haunt. But with a mystery unfolding based on fragmentary information from lots of unreliable narrators, where else would I go?

  14. prostratedragon says:

    All of Broadwell’s appearances in which she interprets for us the current doings of the brain of Petraeus in its official capacity come across oddly to me —maybe she just lacks that Woodward touch— but is it possible that by October 2- they still thought they were enough in the clear that the Denver remarks wouldn’t ring the wrong kind of bells? Especially Broadwell herself, who had been interviewed and turned over her computer by then?

    There is something Boris-and-Natasha about them that must have helped their underminers no end. And that timeline on the affair itself does still need some work.

  15. ryan says:

    To follow up on my question of whether the Broadwell/Kelley dispute was personal or political, I wonder what exactly led the FBI to the fact that Broadwell had access to Petraeus’s email account. It seems likely that Kelley was emailing Petraeus about something, and that Broadwell intercepted it. Emailing about what? Nothing so far suggests a romantic relationship there, and I can’t see why the FBI would be willing to call him out on one affair but not another.

    Did Kelley have back-channel access to Petraeus related to things she could read or glean for him from Arabic sources?

  16. ryan says:

    The Raimondo piece claims that Broadwell was sending harassing emails to several people, not just Kelley. To think she was fighting a multi-front war against perceived romantic rivals would suggest she was utterly unhinged, and I don’t really have that sense of her.

    I think there’s more and more to suggest Broadwell was trying to fight a political battle for Petraeus when she harassed Kelley and others; that Kelley has some role that we need to know; that the various people Broadwell and Petraeus were fighting notified friendly FBI agents who, when nothing happened, pursued their political contacts (Reichart/Cantor) to make sure Petraeus went down.

    I want to know who the FBI agent was.

  17. mcville says:


    Interesting take. The original Daily Mail piece yesterday that named Jill Kelley seemed cast some doubt on the “jealous” nature of Broadwell.

    I would like to know a lot more what exactly Jill Kelley did at MacDill AFB, and why the original reports that she was a State Department liaison were quickly changed to “unpaid social liaison.”

  18. Phoenix Woman says:

    @klynn: Maybe the FBI agent who first handled Kelley’s complaint lives in Cantor’s district?

    But yeah, Peter King needs to STFU when he whines about Congress in general (or King’s committee in particular) not being notified. In a Congress run by political hacks, Intel’s the committee where the GOP dumps the truly hackariffic twits it doesn’t trust in places like Appropriations. If you were Bob Mueller, would you trust Pete King or Michele Bachmann with anything like this?

  19. bmaz says:

    @Phoenix Woman: The FBI friend by all appearances is of the Tampa Office and he first contacted Dave Reichart, whose district is in Washington State. He was then sent to leadership, i.e. Cantor.

  20. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    @bmaz: Well, ‘leadership’ might logically have been Boehner.

    However, “House Leadership, Big Friend of Likud-Bibi” would be Cantor. And that’s the direction Raimando points, so perhaps we should expand the timeline back into late summer?

    Missing from this post’s timeline are dates in Aug, Sept, and Oct 2012 when the US was reining in Bibi Netanyahu, who kept harping on about ‘red lines’. or ‘lines in the sand’, or some such, because – it was clear to a novice and civilian like myself, merely reading daily news reports – Bibi was insisting on ‘dates certain’ to bomb the sh*t out of Iran. He thought his best chance was before the US election, but I had the sense that Obama continued to outmaneuver him.

    During those months, the New Yorker published a prominent interview with the former head of Mossad, who went on record implying that Bibi is jonesing for (nuclear) war with Iran. Bibi’s desires seemed to produce extreme consternation in the upper management of Israeli defense and intel services; Bibi appears to be a rather High Maintenance kinda guy. Also, vindictive.

    Also during this period, the Guardian had a number of articles on the effects of economic sanctions and their role in tanking the economy of Iran. These reports were interspersed with numerous articles about Bibi Netanyahu’s determination to ‘nuke’ Iran. PM Cameron sent some high level mucky-muck to tell Bibi to back off, and the head of the US Joint Chiefs seems to have made a similar foray to Israel. All the while, Syria was spiraling into chaos.

    Also during those months, Sheldon Adelson was throwing mega-millions of his casino wealth at Romney, who seemed chillingly blasé about taking his marching orders from Sheldon/Bibi, via the old neocon GWBush advisors left knocking about in DC with too much time on their hands. You could almost hear Romney on the phone to Bibi: “War in Iraq? Sure, no problem… Lemme just ask Dan Señor and John Bolton, two of the more prominent neocons on my staff, about the timing… Whatever you want, Bibi, you just call the shots, buddy…
    Romney = loathsome.

    Who knows what really happened in this incident with Petraeus?

    If Raimondo is correct, then Bibi and Cantor must figure they’ve won this round. Time will tell.

    I have no idea what it all means.
    But the fact that DiFi was not told is certainly a juicy little detail.

  21. orionatl says:


    dear ROTeaL ,

    i have been having similar thoughts:

    “…Missing from this post’s timeline are dates in Aug, Sept, and Oct 2012 when the US was reining in Bibi Netanyahu, who kept harping on about ‘red lines’. or ‘lines in the sand’, or some such, because – it was clear to a novice and civilian like myself, merely reading daily news reports – Bibi was insisting on ‘dates certain’ to bomb the sh*t out of Iran…”

    what should i do to get rid of them?




  22. orionatl says:


    a theory in the sciences can be either a compilation of proven
    hypotheses that explains why things happen,

    or a guess laid out in general terms to be proven over time.

    i think the netanyahoo involvement is a good theory, though it may prove untrue.

    while all attention has been focused on the benghazi attack, for the specific republican purpose of undermining pres obama’s diligent four-years-old national security efforts – which is not to say i agree with those efforts, but the republicans sure as hell did-

    there is the unasked question of why the attack on the consulate occurred in conjunction with sudden attention
    majically drawn to a blasphemous video about the prophet mohamned released earlier.

    and the further unasked question about how or whether the american-dwelling coptic christian who made that video, the goofball florida minister who promoted it, karl rove, any manifestation of the republican national party, or any
    manifestation of the netanyahoo gov’t bore some responsibility for the attack on the consulate and attacks in 21 other nations?

    where is the execreble senator diane feinestein on that question?

  23. SebastianDangerfield says:

    @ryan: Very good question. It is not very clear that the “harassing e-mails” are, as they are widely assumed to be, in the nature of “stay away from my guy” warnings. To be sure, the law enforcement sources are framing their descriptions of the messages in their leaks so as to create that impression, but if you read the descriptions carefully — and broad characterizations are all that is being conveyed to the reporters, not even snippets from them — you won’t see anything that clearly points to the clash being relationship-oriented; they go up to the line and it seems rely on the dirty minds of the readership to make the inference. This of course raises many interesting questions, among them: Are these leaks “official leaks” — unlike the ur-leak by the disgruntled (and likely partisan) Tampa agent — that are designed to keep attention on the salacious story with a rival-paramours angle? If so, why and what is the nature of Boradwell’s beef with Kelley?

  24. smoke says:

    A detail for the timeline perhaps. The Petraus “friend” says that the affair ended about 4 months ago. That might coincide with the reported timing when lower level investigators confirmed the Petraus emails found with Broadwell’s account. According to NYT, “sometime in late summer -… lower level Justice Dept officials notified supervisors that the case had become more complicated …”

    Did Petraus receive a (dis?)courtesy tip at sometime in late summer? Or when did he wake up and how?

  25. Frank33 says:

    Jill’s friend, the initial FBI Whistleblower, sent her shirtless pictures of his shirtless torso. Why? I can only guess with my profane imagination.

    What is the FBI becoming? A shirtless CIA? This is a comic book graphic novel, Bizarro World meets Spy vs Spy.

    The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.

    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.

    And, some covert hanky panky by Jill and the General, may have been observed by Paula.

    One asked if Ms. Kelley’s husband was aware of her actions, according to officials. In another, the anonymous writer claimed to have watched Ms. Kelley touching “him” provocatively underneath a table, the officials said.

    I may need a cold shower to cool off!

  26. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    @bmaz: I’m not sure that I do, myself.
    But wow, some of the pre-election reports about Netanyahu were mighty eyebrow-raising.

    I find it a bit weird that some of the things I’ve landed on are all up-in-arms about the FBI.
    There’d really be hell to pay if the FBI had ignored reports of a family friend of Petraeus raising a red flag about weird emails related to him. So the FBI did its job, and now there’s a hullaballoo. Why am I not surprised…?

    But I still find it just absolutely weird that Cantor has found his way into the story. Whether his presence Stage Left is sinister, or merely comic, I neither know nor particularly care.
    Life is often ‘stranger than fiction’, and this may be one of those cases.
    Who knows?

    I do find Raimondo’s commentary intriguing.
    We certainly live in interesting times.

  27. readerOfTeaLeaves says:


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

    If true… well… this is a good reminder that I read wayyyyyy too much stuff that I can’t verify. Mamma mia.

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