WASHINGTON – A woman who was apparently aware of the affair between former CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell contacted the FBI, which launched an investigation that led to the end of the four-star general's impressive career, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Three senior law enforcement officials with knowledge of the episode were quoted by The Washington Post as saying that a woman close to Petraeus received threatening emails from the woman he was having an affair with.
The recipient of the emails was so frightened that she went to the FBI for protection and help in tracking down the sender. The FBI launched an investigation and traced the threatening emails to Broadwell, the officials said. The investigation also uncovered explicit emails between Petraeus and Broadwell.
- US plans $6.7B aircraft deal with Saudi Arabia
- Petraeus affair probed due to 'security risk'
- CIA chief says US not involved in Khartoum attack
- CIA chief says US not involved in Khartoum attack
Petraeus, a 60-year-old retired four-star general who earned acclaim for his leadership of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, quit over the weekend after acknowledging an extramarital relationship, abruptly ending a high-profile career that might have culminated with a run for the presidency, a notion he was believed to be considering.
Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the US Military Academy and an Army Reserve officer, is married with two children – like Petraeus.
The officials told the Washington Post that when Petraeus’s name surfaced, FBI investigators were concerned that the CIA director’s personal email account had been hacked and that national security had been threatened. Further investigation, including FBI interviews with Broadwell and Petraeus, led to the discovery that the two were having an affair, the officials said.
The officials said the woman did not work at the CIA and was not Petraeus’s wife, Holly, and added that the emails indicated that Broadwell perceived the woman as a threat to her relationship with Petraeus.
The affair in itself does not constitute a criminal offense despite fears that extramarital affairs can expose senior security officials to extortion. However, the fact that Petraeus would mostly contact his lover through his personal email account, rather than through his CIA account, prompted the FBI investigators to make certain that his account had not been hacked and that state secrets were not revealed.
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 his punishing morning runs around the CIA grounds and often attended public functions as his guest, according to two former intelligence officials.
As a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve, Broadwell had a high security clearance, which she mentioned at public events as one of the reasons she was well-suited to write Petraeus's story.
Punishing morning jogs. Petraeus with his wife, Holly (Photo: AP)
But her access was unsettling to members of the secretive and compartmentalized intelligence agency, where husbands and wives often work in different divisions, but share nothing with each other when they come home because they don't "need to know."
In one incident that caught the CIA staff by surprise, Broadwell posted a photograph on her Facebook page of Petraeus with actress Angelina Jolie, taken in his 7th floor office where only the official CIA photographer is permitted to take photos. Petraeus had apparently given Broadwell the photo just hours after it was taken.
Petraeus' staff in Afghanistan similarly had been concerned about the time Broadwell spent with their boss on her multiple reporting visits to the war zone. Following standard military procedure with senior officers, they almost always had another staffer present when she met with him at his headquarters, though they did have some meetings alone. Military officers close to him insist the affair did not begin when he was in uniform.
Extensive access. Broadwell with book on Petraeus (Photo: AP)
In the preface to her book, Broadwell said she first met Petraeus in the spring of 2006. She was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; he was visiting the university to discuss his experiences in Iraq and a new counterinsurgency manual he was working on.
She had graduated from West Point with academic, fitness, and leadership honors, according to a biography posted on her publisher's website that lists authors available for speaking engagements.
Harvard invited some students to meet with Petraeus, and Broadwell was among them because of her military background, which she wrote included being recalled to active duty three times to work on counterterrorism issues after the Sept. 11 attacks.
After Obama put Petraeus in charge in Afghanistan in 2010, Broadwell decided to expand her research into an authorized biography.
Broadwell has deep ties and friendships throughout the Washington media sphere and often was sought for comment on Petraeus' viewpoints as he proved harder and harder to reach.
The CIA director had lowered his media profile, stopping his practice of emailing reporters and ending once-common background interviews by the agency. That was especially the case after GOP allegations last spring that the Obama administration was leaking sensitive material to burnish its foreign policy reputation ahead of the presidential election, after a series of stories appeared about top secret operations aimed at al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Iran's nuclear program. A White House-ordered investigation of those leaks continues.
Petreaus's resignation comes just before a crucial scheduled appearance before congressional intelligence committees next week 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 Libya on Sept. 11.
Congressional officials said Petraeus' deputy, Michael Morell, will testify instead, as acting director of the CIA.
A senior intelligence source told ABC News that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was made aware of the Petraeus situation on Tuesday evening around 5 pm by the FBI.
After having several conversations with Petraeus that evening and the following day, Clapper advised Petraeus that the best thing to do would be for him to resign, the source said.
Clapper notified the White House the following afternoon that Petraeus was considering resigning, according to the source.
Petraeus then went to the White House Thursday and told the president he thought he should resign, and the following day the president accepted his resignation, the source said.
AP, other agencies contributed to the report