- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is preparing a timeline of its criminal investigation that brought to light CIA Director David Petraeus‘ extramarital affair so the bureau can respond to members of Congress asking why they and the White House weren’t notified of the probe months ago.

Meanwhile, FBI agents on Monday searched the home of the woman with whom Petraeus had the affair. And the Pentagon began investigating alleged “inappropriate communications” between the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and a second woman involved in the case.

The White House wasn’t informed of the FBI investigation that involved Petraeus until Nov. 6, Election Day, although agents began looking at Petraeus‘ actions months earlier, sometime during the summer. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that she first learned of the matter from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call to the then-CIA director on Friday.

That was the same day President Barack Obama accepted Petraeus‘ resignation, and the 60-year-old retired Army general, who headed U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking charge of the CIA, acknowledged an affair with his 40-year-old biographer, Paula Broadwell, and expressed regret.


Defending the notification timing, a senior federal law enforcement official pointed Monday to longstanding policies and practices, adopted following abuses and mistakes that were uncovered during the Nixon administration’s Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. The Justice Department — of which the FBI is part — is supposed to refrain from sharing detailed information about its criminal investigations with the White House.

To the extent there is any Justice-White House contact on sensitive criminal investigations, the interaction is supposed to take place between the White House counsel’s office and the office of the Deputy Attorney General, Justice’s second-ranking official. Direct White House contact with the department’s criminal division and its investigators on sensitive probes is out of bounds.

But lawmakers are also asking whether White House national security executives and senior members of Congress should have been notified earlier because the FBI, in addition to its criminal investigation of an alleged email harassment case, also looked into whether a separate set of emails between Petraeus and Broadwell might involve any security breach. That will be a key question Wednesday in meetings involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

The federal law enforcement official said the FBI had concluded relatively quickly — and certainly by late summer at the latest — that there was no security breach. Absent a security breach, it was appropriate not to notify Congress or the White House earlier, this official said.

Feinstein said she didn’t understand why the FBI didn’t give her a heads-up as soon as Petraeus‘ name emerged in the investigation. “We are very much able to keep things in a classified setting,” she said.

Extramarital affairs are viewed as particularly risky for intelligence officers because they might be blackmailed to keep the affair quiet. For military personnel, adultery is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

As this debate began to crank up in the nation’s capital, part of the FBI investigation was still under way in North Carolina, where FBI agents conducted a search of Broadwell’s Charlotte home Monday night.

Also, the Pentagon said Monday that the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is under investigation for alleged “inappropriate communications” with a woman who is said to have received threatening emails from Broadwell.

According to two federal law enforcement officials, the FBI initially began a criminal investigation of unsigned, harassing emails that were sent, beginning last May, to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. She and her husband, Scott, were longtime friends of Petraeus and his wife, Holly. FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell and during that process discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private Gmail account. Further investigation revealed that account belonged to Petraeus, under an alias.

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other’s inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic “dropbox,” the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier for outsiders to intercept or trace.

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