A former head of U.S. counterintelligence is questioning President Obama’s claim there has been, so far, no evidence of any release of damaging classified information from the sex scandal that prompted David H. Petraeus to resign as CIA director last week.
The president’s carefully worded comments Wednesday “don’t square with what we know about the case,” said Michelle Van Cleave, who served in the George W. Bush administration as the nation’s top spy catcher.
FBI agents this week searched the Charlotte, N.C., home of Paula Broadwell, Mr. Petraeus‘ biographer, whose affair with him was exposed after she sent anonymous emails to another woman, accusing her of being a seductress and warning her to stay way from Mr. Petraeus.
Mr. Petraeus, in his first public comment since the scandal broke, told CNN on Thursday that he never passed classified information to Mrs. Broadwell. He also said he is eager to testify about his knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. He is scheduled to appear Friday before the House and Senate intelligence committees.
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday said that FBI investigators “felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist.” He said he would have informed Mr. Obama and members of Congress if investigators had discovered such a threat.
Leads being checked
Christopher Swecker, a former FBI assistant director, said, “Investigators are by now probably focusing on the issue of the potential mishandling of classified information.
“The leads are being run out” and any loose ends are being tied up as investigators seek to finish their work, said Mr. Swecker, now an independent security consultant.
“As someone who has done damage assessments for the U.S. government, I can tell you that it would be standard practice to assume that classified material on an unclassified computer in a situation like that has already been compromised,” she said.
Home computers can easily be accessed by foreign hackers, and spies have long chosen and cultivated targets known to have access to senior officials.
“She was [Mr. Petraeus‘] official biographer, and she was widely known to have a close personal relationship with him. … You have to assume that foreign intelligence services would have an interest in her,” said Ms. Van Cleave.
The case would have had serious counterintelligence implications long before the search of Mrs. Broadwell’s home and computer, she asserted.
The investigation began after Mrs. Broadwell sent anonymous email messages in May to and about Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite who acted as a kind of volunteer social liaison at the McDill Air Force Base near Tampa.