FBI "stumbled" across Petraeus affair

The latest on the CIA Director's resignation

By Jillian Rayfield
November 11, 2012 9:00PM (UTC)
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Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus’s biographer, inadvertently tipped off the FBI to her affair with David Petraeus after she sent "harassing" emails to another woman, according to FBI officials.

The New York Times reports that the FBI came across information about the affair after the woman, who knows Petraeus and Broadwell, complained:


"When F.B.I. agents following up on the complaint began to examine Ms. Broadwell’s e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Mr. Petraeus that revealed that they were having an affair, said several officials who spoke of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. 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. No leak charges are expected to be filed as a result of the investigation."

A Congressional official who was briefed on the affair told the Times that the FBI said the investigation  “started with two women," but “it didn't start with Petraeus, but in the course of the investigation they stumbled across him."

Broadwell, who wrote “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” was embedded with him in Afghanistan, and often referred to Petraeus as her "mentor" in various media appearances. In a 2012 interview, she had to defend her book from charges that it was a little bit too gushing. "It’s not a hagiography, I’m not in love with David Petraeus, but I think he does present a terrific role model for young people, for executives, for men and women. No matter what, there’s a great role model there.," she told Arthur Kade of the New York Observer.

The Daily Princetonian reports on an exchange with Broadwell in September, that "hinted at an undefined and unclear relationship between her and Petraeus," in that Broadwell "first acted [as] a spokesman for Petraeus."


“Gen. Petraeus is going to send some thoughts which I’ll pass along to you this afternoon,” she said in an email.

More from the Princetonian:

Even once the ‘Prince’ clarified that it sought independent comment from Broadwell herself as an author – rather than asking her to speak for Petraeus as a spokesman, because the ‘Prince’ had already contacted the CIA press office – Broadwell emailed responses that suggested that she had been in touch with him.

“He is not interested in the Princeton job that I know (though I know he knows it is open)” she said in response to one question.

“When he responds to your below email,” Broadwell said, referring to the email sent to the CIA press office, “I’ll share what I can.”

In another strange twist, though neither the White House nor members of Congress on the Intelligence Committee knew of the link to the former CIA Director until last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says that he was contacted by a whistleblower in late October. “I was contacted by an F.B.I. employee concerned that sensitive, classified information may have been compromised and made certain Director Mueller was aware of these serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security,” Cantor said in a statement.


Meanwhile, some members of Congress are still questioning why Petraeus is no longer testifying over the Administration's handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. “David Petraeus testifying has nothing to do with whether or not he's still the CIA director, and I don't see how the CIA can say he's not going to testify,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said on CNN today.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said there does not appear to be a link between Petraeus' resignation and the attack. "On the events in Benghazi and his resignation, absolutely not," she said on Fox News Sunday. "And I think if you really think this thing out everybody will come to that same conclusion."

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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Barack Obama Cia David Petraeus Dianne Feinstein Fbi Paula Broadwell Peter King