TAMPA, Fla. – CIA Director David Petraeus was shocked to learn last summer that his mistress was suspected of sending threatening emails warning another woman to stay away from him, former staff members and friends told The Associated Press Monday.
Petraeus told these associates his relationship with the second woman, Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, was platonic, though his biographer-turned-lover Paula Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival. Retired Gen. Petraeus also denied to these associates that he had given Broadwell any of the sensitive military information alleged to have been found on her computer, saying anything she had must have been provided by other commanders during reporting trips to Afghanistan.
The associates spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matters, which could be part of an FBI investigation.
Meanwhile, FBI agents appeared at Broadwell’s Charlotte, N.C., home Monday night and appeared to be conducting a search. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the agents’ presence but did not say what they were doing.
Petraeus, who led U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned his CIA post Friday, acknowledging his extramarital affair with Broadwell and expressing deep regret.
New details of the investigation that brought an end to his storied career emerged as President Obama hunted for a new CIA director and members of Congress questioned why the months-long probe was kept quiet for so long.
Kelley, the Tampa woman, began receiving harassing emails in May, according to two federal law enforcement officials. They, too, spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The emails led Kelley to report the matter, eventually triggering the investigation that led Petraeus to resign as head of the intelligence agency.
FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell, the officials said, and discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private Gmail account. Further investigation revealed the 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 to trace.
Broadwell had co-authored a biography titled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, published in January. In the preface, she said she met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.
But the contents of the email exchanges between Petraeus and Broadwell suggested to FBI agents that their relationship was intimate. The FBI concluded relatively quickly – by late summer at the latest – that no security breach had occurred, the two senior law enforcement officials said.
Petraeus, 60, told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, 40, a couple of months after he became the director of the CIA late last year. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding U.S. troops overseas, the associate said.
FBI agents contacted Petraeus, and he was told that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders in the field there. The FBI concluded there was no security breach.
One associate also said Petraeus believes the documents described past operations and had already been declassified, although they might have still been marked as secret. Broadwell had high security clearances on her own as part of her job as a reserve Army major working for military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the Petraeus biography.
A Petraeus associate said the retired general was shocked to find out about Broadwell’s emails to Kelley. Petraeus was not shown the messages, but investigators told him the emails told Kelley to stay away from the general in a threatening tone.