Answering your questions on the Petraeus scandal

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 13, 2012 


January 30, 2010, from left: Natalie Khawam, Gen. David Petraeus; Scott and Jill Kelley; and Holly Petraeus watch the Gasparilla parade in Tampa, Florida.

AMY SCHERZER — Tampa Bay Times/MCT

— A guide to the growing scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Q: Who’s involved?

A: So far, there are four key players:

David Petraeus, 60, the highly respected retired general who was tapped to lead the Central Intelligence Agency last year. He resigned last Friday after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Paula Broadwell, 40, a graduate of West Point. Her book, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” was published this year. She’s been accused of sending threatening emails to another woman.

Jill Kelley, 37, a socialite in Tampa, Fla., who often organized parties around MacDill Air Force Base and was an honorary ambassador to U.S. Central Command. Kelley and her husband, Scott, were family friends with Petraeus and his wife, Holly, and with another military leader.

Gen. John Allen, 58, the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. Allen and his wife, Kathy, were frequent guests of the Kelleys.

Q: How did Petraeus and Broadwell meet?

A: Broadwell met Petraeus six years ago when he gave a speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she was a graduate student. Her biography is an expansion of her graduate thesis about Petraeus’ leadership. (The book was co-written by Washington Post local editor Vernon Loeb, who said he was dumbfounded by the revelation of the affair.)

Q: How long did the Petraeus affair last?

A. Petraeus and Broadwell began their affair about two months after he became the CIA director in September 2011, said retired Army Col. Steve Boylan, a former Petraeus aide who’s acting as his unofficial spokesman. They agreed to end it about four months ago, Boylan said.

Q: How did the FBI case began?

A: Kelley reported to an FBI agent friend last spring that she was receiving threatening emails.

Q: What was the nature of the investigation?

A: The FBI began investigating in the late spring or summer whether Kelley was the victim of a possible cybercrime. It soon learned that the threatening emails came from Broadwell, who is married. As agents dug deeper, they found sexually explicit emails between Petraeus and Broadwell. The Associated Press reported that the pair used a trick known to terrorists to try to hide their conversations: Instead of sending emails over the Internet, they saved unsent messages in an account that each could log on to and then read.

Q: How did a member of Congress first learn about the case?

A: Kelley’s FBI friend was removed from the case this summer when the bureau became concerned that he was “obsessed with the matter,” according to The Wall Street Journal. FBI officials found that he’d sent shirtless pictures of himself to Kelley.

That agent, worried that his bosses would cover up the matter, then contacted Washington state Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, the Journal reported. Reichert called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., on Oct. 27 about “a friend in the FBI who has a colleague in the FBI” who wanted to discuss the matter, Cantor’s staff told McClatchy.

Q: Then what happened?

A: The whistleblower warned Cantor that national security may have been compromised because of the Petraeus affair. Cantor reported the allegations to the office of FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Q: When did the president learn about the affair?

A: President Barack Obama learned of it last Wednesday, the day after the election, from James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Petraeus submitted his resignation a day later at Clapper’s urging, and Obama accepted it Friday.

Q: Why did Petraeus resign?

A: Some members of Congress, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, initially questioned whether Petraeus had to resign. The CIA doesn’t consider infidelity a firing offense, but experts say the director having an affair can be a security risk because of the potential for blackmail or leverage against the agency and him. Questions also have been raised whether Petraeus gave Broadwell any classified information. He’s denied this.

Q: Did Broadwell have any classified information?

A: In a speech Oct. 26 at the University of Denver, Broadwell said Libyan fighters might have attacked the American consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11 as part of an effort to free fellow militants who’d been taken prisoner at the nearby CIA annex. Such claims hadn’t previously been reported. The CIA dismissed them.

Q: What has the FBI learned from Broadwell?

A: Broadwell spoke to the FBI on Oct. 21 and acknowledged the affair, according to The New York Times. She also gave the agency her computer. Agents discovered several classified documents, but Broadwell said Petraeus didn’t give her the classified information. On Monday, about eight to 10 FBI agents returned to Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, N.C., shortly before 9 p.m. They left after 1 a.m. with about a half-dozen file boxes, a Dell PC, an iMac, a briefcase and a printer, McClatchy’s Charlotte Observer reported.

Q: How did Gen. Allen get involved?

A: The FBI uncovered some 20,000 pages of emails between Allen and Kelley. A senior defense official told The Associated Press that some of the emails were "flirtatious." The four-star general has been nominated to lead NATO in Europe, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked that the nomination process be put on hold. Panetta announced Tuesday morning that Allen now is under investigation after FBI agents discovered the email exchanges with Kelley. Allen has denied wrongdoing.

Q: How well do Allen and Petraeus know Kelley’s family?

A: Well enough that both wrote letters on behalf of Kelley’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, to a judge who was ruling in a custody case involving her child.

Email:; Twitter: @francoordonez

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