WASHINGTON: The career of David Petraeus, the CIA director and a renowned military general, was derailed by allegedly vicious emails his paramour sent to another woman. Now the CIA, FBI and White House face questions from Congress about Petraeus’ love life and how his emails came under investigation.
Petraeus quit his post on Friday after acknowledging an extramarital relationship.
He had been scheduled to appear before congressional intelligence committees on Thursday to testify on what the CIA knew, and what it told the White House, before, during and after the attacks that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11. His former deputy, Michael Morell, will now have to answer lawmakers’ questions about the Islamist militant attack on a US Consulate and CIA base in Libya.
Morell, and FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, will also face tough questions the day before. Both are scheduled to meet with House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md, who want to know how the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’ downfall came about, according to a senior congressional staffer who spoke anonymously because he was not authorised to discuss the investigation publicly.
Members of the Senate intelligence committee have similar questions, added another congressional aide. Also at question is when the White House was first made aware of the investigation.
Petraeus’ sudden departure made news before House and Senate intelligence committees were briefed, catching lawmakers who oversee the intelligence community off guard, officials said.
FBI officials have explained the committees weren’t informed, one official says, because the matter started as a criminal investigation into harassing emails sent by Paula Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the US Military Academy and an Army Reserve officer, to another woman.
The identity of the other woman and her connection with Broadwell were not immediately known, but that probe led agents to Broadwell’s email, which uncovered the relationship with Petraeus, a 60-year-old retired four-star general, according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press on Saturday.
Concerned that the emails he exchanged with Broadwell raised the possibility of a security breach, the FBI brought the matter up with Petraeus directly, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to publicly discuss the investigation.
Petraeus decided to quit, though he was breaking no laws by having an affair, officials said.
“He decided he needed to come clean with the American people,” said Steve Boylan, a retired army officer and former Petraeus spokesman who talked with him on Saturday.
In a phone call, Petraeus lamented the damage he’d done to his “wonderful family” and the hurt he’d caused his wife, Boylan said. Petraeus has been married for 38 years to Holly Petraeus.
“He screwed up, he knows he screwed up, now he’s got to try to get past this with his family and heal,” said Boylan.
Broadwell interviewed the general and his close associates intensively for more than a year to produce the best-selling biography, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” which was written with Vernon Loeb, a Washington Post editor, and published in January.
The CIA did not comment on the identity of the woman with whom Petraeus was involved.
Broadwell is married with two young sons. She has not responded to multiple emails and phone messages. She’d planned to celebrate her 40th birthday in Washington this weekend, with many reporters invited. Her husband emailed guests to cancel the party.
CIA officers long had expressed concern about Broadwell’s unprecedented access to the director. She frequently visited the spy agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va, to meet Petraeus in his office, accompanied him on morning runs around the CIA grounds and often attended public functions as his guest, according to two former intelligence officials.