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Why Was Petraeus Fact-Finding While CIA Was Spinning “Facts”?

The WSJ has a story that captures a lot of what I’ve been pointing to in Petraeus Surge-Out. It explains how the investigation played out even as career CIA people objecting to Petraeus’ regimented management style. It describes Petraeus’ intent to stay on nevertheless. And it shows–as I have–how Petraeus was dealing with the investigation even as CIA was attempting to push back on claims it had botched the Benghazi response.

It describes how this all played out in the weeks before Petraeus resigned:

At CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., officials began debating whether the CIA should be more active in countering the criticism. Mr. Petraeus, in particular, advocated a more aggressive defense.

As questions mounted, a Fox News report Oct. 26 alleged that the CIA delayed sending a security force to protect U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others who were under attack. Mr. Stevens and three other Americans died.

The CIA denied the report, then began pulling together its own timeline of events.

The Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies objected to Mr. Petraeus’s decision to mount a solo defense. “We conveyed our objections. Multiple agencies did,” a senior military official said.

Mr. Petraeus’s decision to release the CIA’s timeline to the press didn’t sit well with Mr. Clapper, who was unaware it would be made public, officials said. Other agencies saw Mr. Petraeus’s decision as a step aimed at presenting the CIA and Mr. Petraeus in the best light and forcing them to accept the brunt of the criticism.

At CIA headquarters, officials believed it was important to make their case. “Clearly, when people are insinuating things about a situation that just aren’t true, there has to be a response,” a senior U.S. official said. The official added that the briefing was considered effective. “The record was corrected,” he said.”Smart people can disagree on the best way to do this, while at the same time agreeing that something must be done.”

Meanwhile, one week after the turf fight over the CIA’s release of its Benghazi timeline, the FBI told Mr. Clapper about Mr. Petraeus’s extramarital affair, said officials familiar with the timeline. [my emphasis]

But this account misses some crucial details of the timeline, which are all important as the Benghazi hearings play out this week.

First, remember that Paula Broadwell made one of the first responses to the Fox story, though she seemingly confirmed their report that (among other things) the CIA delayed its response because it had prisoners.

Consider Petraeus’ actions two weeks ago. The FBI interviewed him in a scandal he believed he could survive. And then–seemingly almost immediately–he hopped on a plane for a “fact-finding” trip in anticipation of this week’s testimony. That conveniently put him out of the country as CIA conducted the spin campaign that–as WSJ reports–top officials and DOD, DNI, and State objected to.

But here’s the most important bit: The CIA put out information at a time and in a manner the rest of the national security establishment objected to. It claimed–and WSJ’s sources still claim–that “the record was corrected,” implying that the CIA offered the truth in its spin on November 1.

If so, then why was Petraeus on a fact-finding trip at all? If they knew enough to know what the record showed, then why did Petraeus have to fly to Libya to find out what the record showed?

The answer may be as simple as Petraeus was just getting out of town to avoid any responsibility for a spin campaign that other NatSec officials objected to.  It may be he went on a junket (ha!) to reflect on whether his diddling might sully his pristine image.

But I doubt that. Given the importance the Intelligence Committees have placed on the report from Petraeus’ trip, and the reluctance CIA has shown in turning over that report, and Petraeus’ initial reluctance to testify to Congress about what he learned on his fact-finding trip,  it seems highly likely that “the record” as reflected in that trip report does not match “the record” the CIA is so satisfied that it fed to reporters (to the WSJ team’s credit, they were by far the least credulous about the CIA’s so-called record).

One of two possibilities must be correct: The CIA deliberately put out a timeline it knew to be incomplete–if not deceptive–at a time and in a way that the rest of the NatSec establishment objected to (which might explain why it is so reluctant to give the now-revised timeline to Congress, because it will be caught in deception). Or, Petraeus’ trip to Libya and other countries had nothing to do with what he claimed it did, fact-finding on Benghazi in anticipation of this week’s hearings.

The reporters who attended the November 1 briefing appear to have been suckered into reporting on CIA’s claimed timeline even while Petraeus was actively trying to learn what that timeline really was. They really ought to ask CIA why that timeline was presented as settled fact, then.

The Sexy-Time Exception to Retaining Classified Information

Last night, WaPo reported that the FBI is still trying to figure out how Paula Broadwell got classified information they found on her computer and–it looks like–in her home.

The FBI is making a new push to determine how a woman who had an affair with retired Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was CIA director obtained classified files, part of an expanding series of investigations in a scandal that also threatens the career of the United States’ top military commander in Afghanistan.

Senior law enforcement officials said that a late-night seizure on Monday of boxes of material from the North Carolina home of Paula Broadwell, a Petraeus biographer whose affair with him led to his resignation last week, marks a renewed focus by investigators on sensitive material found in her possession.

“The issue of national security is still on the table,” one U.S. law enforcement official said. Both Petraeus and Broadwell have denied to investigators that he was the source of any classified information, officials said.

The surprise move by the FBI follows assertions by U.S. officials that the investigation had turned up no evidence of a security breach — a factor that was cited as a reason the Justice Department did not notify the White House before last week that the CIA director had been ensnared in an e-mail inquiry.

As the WaPo correctly points out, this new investigative push is surprising, because the FBI has already been blabbing for several days that no charges would be filed.

Which is why I find it strange that Matthew Miller made this claim in a column arguing the FBI has handled the Petraeus investigation properly:

In this case, it appears the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the matter entirely in keeping with those rules and precedents. And, importantly, they passed the most crucial test faced whenever the department investigates a senior member of the existing administration: They conducted the entire investigation without playing favorites and without a hint of political interference.

While it’s not the central thrust of Miller’s piece (whether or not Congress should have been informed is), it’s too soon to know whether DOJ is playing favorites or not. But up until this latest report from WaPo, it appeared they were playing favorites.

After all, DOJ charged people–like Thomas Drake–for retaining unclassified information, information he had been directed by the Inspector General to retain. DOD charged Bradley Manning with retaining classified information.

Retaining classified information improperly is a crime, even if you have clearance to view the information.

Sure, it’s usually used as a proxy for other crimes for which no evidence exists. Or, in the case of Drake, in an effort to get him to plead guilty to other crimes.

But if DOJ is going to use it as a tool to persecute leakers, there is no reason it should exempt General Petraeus’ one-time mistress.

I’m not saying I want Broadwell to be charged, nor am I saying I think DOJ’s use of such charges in the past is proper. But that’s the problem with witch hunts, isn’t it? They either stick out as arbitrary political prosecutions, or they set a standard that few in the national security establishment could meet.

Update: Ut oh. Broadwell might get herself in trouble after all.

A computer used by Paula Broadwell, the woman whose affair with CIA director General David Petraeus led to his resignation, contained substantial classified information that should have been stored under more secure conditions, law enforcement and national security officials said on Wednesday.

The contents of the classified material and how Broadwell acquired it remain under investigation, said the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly.

But the quantity of classified material found on the computer was significant enough to warrant a continuing investigation, the officials told Reuters.

Though it sounds like they’re only contemplating stripping her security clearance.

Law enforcement officials also have said that they believe the continuing FBI probe into the matter is likely to end without criminal charges. If Broadwell is found to have mishandled classified information, she could face action under administrative security regulations.

Which would mean they’re striking a middle ground between treating her as they’ve treated others and retaliating against her for getting the sainted Petraeus in trouble (because of course grown men never get themselves in trouble).

Update: CNN now reporting that Broadwell has had her security clearance revoked.

While Washington Sniffs the Generals’ Panties, Afghan Peace Talks Begin to Show Progress

With General John Allen now floating in some sort of purgatory where he has been tainted by figures in the Petraeus scandal, the “orderly” transition planned for Allen to step up to commanding NATO and General John Dunford to move up to replace Allen in Afghanistan is stalled at least in part. And while Washington has come to such a complete halt over this scandal that Howard Kurtz may well have taken an interest in a penis or two that may have voted Republican, leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken advantage of the distraction in Washington to take concrete steps toward the kind of political reconciliation that will be essential once US forces have been (at least mostly) withdrawn from the area.

From the AP story carried by the Washington Post:

Pakistan freed several Taliban prisoners at the request of the Afghan government Wednesday, a move meant to facilitate the process of striking a peace deal with the militant group in neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said.

The release of the prisoners — described as mid- and low-level fighters — is the most encouraging sign yet that Pakistan may be willing to help jumpstart peace talks that have mostly gone nowhere, hobbled by distrust among the major players involved, including the United States.

/snip/

Wednesday’s release of the Taliban militants came in response to a personal request by Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of an Afghan government council for peace talks with the Taliban, said a Pakistani government official and an intelligence official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media about the release.

We get more from Reuters:

Afghan officials have suspected that Pakistan has been holding Afghan Taliban members in jail to retain some control over peace efforts and have a say in any settlement.

Those in detention include former Justice Minister Mullah Nooruddin Toorabi and Mullah Jahangirwal, former secretary of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Allahdat Tayab, an ex-deputy minister, Afghan High Peace Council officials say.

“We have asked Pakistan to release them because they were the policy makers of the Taliban and close aides to Mullah Omar,” Habibullah Fawzi, a senior member of the Afghan peace team, told Reuters.

Their release could encourage a number of Taliban commanders and fighters to join peace efforts, he said. Afghan embassy officials in Islamabad said the names of about 10 Afghan Taliban militants had been floated.

We learn from Dawn that the talks will continue today:

Talks between the peace delegation led by Mr Rabbani and Pakistani officials would continue on Wednesday when the two sides are expected to come up with a joint statement on the progress made by them.

A Pakistani official, who had been briefed on the talks, told Dawn that “significant progress has already been made”.

The release of Taliban detainees in Pakistan has been a longstanding Afghan demand for catalysing the slow moving process.

A keen follower of the negotiations, who didn’t want to be named, said the release of prisoners was a positive step, which would provide the right environment for reconciliation.

Who could have guessed that getting all of Washington distracted by a tawdry sex scandal could have set just the right conditions for significant peace talks to break out? There are even hints from Khaama that this breakout of peace talks might even expand to include the Haqqani network.

The old adage that “fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” seems to have been turned on its side here. Even though it may have been under his desk, David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell appear to have been fucking for peace, since their affair has disengaged the US war machine long enough that those who must make peace once we are gone have decided to start the process ahead of schedule.

General Dynamics: The Digital Tale of John & Jill and Dave & Paula

DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO TAMPA BAY??

Another giant shoe has dropped in L’Affaire Petraeus. Not simply more specifics, but yet another General:

Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was “inappropriate communication’’ with Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.

In a statement released to reporters on his plane en route to Australia early Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the F.B.I. had informed him on Sunday of its investigation of General Allen.

Mr. Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct its own investigation into what the defense official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married with children.

Really, at this point, what can you even say about the secret storm soap opera that roils within the rarified brass air of the US Military? This was just the last hit for a night that saw the emergence of the Shirtless FBI Guy (now under investigation himself by the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ) to a nightime search of Paula Broadwell’s home by the FBI.

There are too many tentacles, evolving too quickly, to go too deep on all the facts that have rolled out even in the last twelve hours. But the General Allen/Jill Kelley bit is fascinating. Remember, the handful of emails Paula Broadwell sent to Kelley reportedly did not mention Petraeus by name. This latest report at least raises the possibility Broadwell was referring to an inappropriate relationship between Kelley and Allen, and not Kelley and Petraeus. I am not saying such is Read more

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).

The February 17 Brigade Liberates the Prisoners

I’ve got a half-done post backstage talking about the conflicting evidence regarding the February 17 Brigade’s behavior the night of the Benghazi attack. Suffice it to say that, while they had been reliable in the past, and while CIA and State timelines differ about what kind of help they provided the night of the attack, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest they had allowed the attack, if not participated themselves.

Thus, it seems another “friendly” force potentially trained by David Petraeus’ people turned on the Americans.

But as Josh Gerstein notes, in an update to his post on Paula Broadwell’s apparently classified comments on October 26, Fox actually tied the February 17 Brigade to the prisoners at the annex.

Later in her remarks, Broadwell, said some of her information had come from a Fox News report. Fox said Monday that it’s “original” Oct. 26 report did mention three Libyan militia members being turned over by the CIA to Libyan authorities. That detail does not appear in the version of the story now posted online, but Fox reporter Jennifer Griffin did include it in at least one report.

“We’re also told, those at the CIA annex took into custody three Libyan attackers and were forced to hand them over to the Libyan February 17th forces that came to help at the annex approximately 4:00 in the morning. They handed these three Libyans over. It is not clear from U.S. officials what happened to the libyans and whether those Libyan attackers were in fact released in in the end by the Libyans,” Griffin reported.

Now, this syntax seems to suggest the prisoners were not–as Fox is now reporting–more general detainees, but people tied to the attack taken prisoner. Here’s what Fox currently says.

In the original Oct. 26 Fox News report, sources at the annex said that the CIA’s Global Response Staff had handed over three Libyan militia members to the Libyan authorities who came to rescue the 30 Americans in the early hours of Sept. 12.

Read more

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. Read more

Broadwell’s Denver Appearance: Did She Cover Petraeus’ Bad Briefs?

Update: Sadly, it appears that the University of Denver has become cowardly and withdrawn the video, but I’m leaving the embed language in the post just to show the folly of their action.

Update 2: And now it’s back, but at a new URL. Embed should be restored (for the video, not Broadwell…)

There was a lot of discussion last night of the YouTube you see here, which shows Paula Broadwell in an October 26 appearance at the University of Denver. One of the better analyses of the appearance, along with a transcription of Broadwell’s comments on the Behghazi incident, was written by Blake Hounshell of Foreign Policy.

I will leave it to others to discuss whether Broadwell disclosed classified information with her reference to the CIA holding two militia members or if she might have been confused on that point as Marcy suggests. I want to concentrate on two other points that jumped out to me regarding the appearance and what Broadwell said.

First, the appearance is at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. As the school points out, it is named after Madeleine Albright’s father and has a history of producing prominent graduates in international relations. However, this school also came to my attention early last year when I was researching Raymond Davis. I found that Davis had a history of previous addresses where he had lived in close proximity to university programs such as the Josef Korbel school. In fact, I found that one of Davis’ “business” operations even had a corporate officer who appeared to be a student at Josef Korbel. The information I found led me to believe that whatever his duties overseas, it seemed likely that Davis’ duties while in the US may have been to recruit for the CIA and that graduate programs like this one were seen as prime recruiting grounds.

The second point I want to hit is how Broadwell described Petraeus’ response after the Behnghazi attack. From Hounshell’s transcript (around 35 minutes into the video, as Hounshell points out): Read more