Situation Report

New scrutiny on the F.B.I. investigation of Petraeus

Paula Broadwell’s singular focus; The biographer’s athletic reputation, Mansoor: Petraeus will rise again, and more.

On Petraeus, new scrutiny on the F.B.I. investigation. As the story about the abrupt resignation of David Petraeus from the CIA unfolded over the weekend, members of Congress grew angry they had not been informed there was an investigation into his extramarital affair because of potential national security implications. Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, came to light after Broadwell allegedly sent threatening e-mails to another woman, Jill Kelley, seemingly out of jealousy. Kelley, a volunteer for social events at MacDill Air Force Base, and a Petraeus family friend, began receiving the e-mails in May from Broadwell. As they grew increasingly threatening, Kelley reportedly told a friend, an FBI agent, which triggered the investigation. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who heads the Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday she should have been informed. "I think we should have been told," she said on Fox News.

But as the NYT reports this morning, the bureau’s history "would make the privacy question especially significant," given the improper investigations of the sex lives of public figures directed by J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I. As a result, the agency was more circumspect. "There are a lot of sensitivities in a case like this," a senior law enforcement official told the Times. "There were hints of possible intelligence and security issues, but they were unproven. You constantly ask yourself, ‘What are the notification requirements? What are the privacy issues?’"

Why a link between Petraeus leaving and Benghazi is unlikely: Although the timing of his departure remains a subject of curiosity for a reasonable person, removing him from the equation does nothing to help the Obama administration in the scrutiny over the Benghazi situation — he can and may still be subpoenaed by the committees with oversight. And although Feinstein has been critical of the administration’s handling of the scandal, she said on Fox yesterday there is "absolutely not" a connection between his resignation and Benghazi.

Welcome to the day after Veteran’s Day edition of Situation Report, where we see some irony in the fact that everyone in the national security sphere instinctively knew who the CIA director would be having a secret affair with when news of the affair first popped: her effusive praise for the man during her book tour was over the top, even for a biographer touting her subject. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list.

But as Washington consumed the salacious details of the unfolding story, questions remain over why Petraeus resigned. It’s still not clear why the disclosure of the extramarital affair necessarily resulted in Petraeus — a Republican darling in an administration now needing to strike a more bipartisan tone — having to resign. There are at least two threads of thought on the issue. One is that Obama accepted Petraeus’ resignation unwillingly but recognized that Petraeus’ emphasis on personal integrity meant that he could not lead the CIA any longer. Another is that some administration officials, who never quite trusted Petraeus in the first place and didn’t like his instincts on the use of drones and other policy matters, were looking for an excuse to get rid of him.

 The Petraeus house on a cul-de-sac in North Arlington has been quiet, we’re told. But Pete Mansoor, a retired colonel who was part of Petraeus’ inner circle in Iraq in 2007-08 and who has exchanged e-mails with Petraeus since the news broke, said he "knows for a fact that he will try to repair his relationship with Holly and his kids." Mansoor said: "He’s remorseful." Petraeus has long been thought to be interested in leading Princeton, from which he graduated... "I don’t think we’ve seen the last of General Petraeus," Mansoor said. "He will eventually land on his feet."

Meanwhile, Broadwell has been cast as the hyper-ambitious villain in the tawdry story, a woman whose singular focus on the prize and, to people around Petraeus, her dishonesty, should have rung more warning bells but didn’t. After meeting Petraeus, Broadwell — bright, accomplished and attractive — sought his help as she wrote her dissertation. But as she gained more access to the general known as "P4," her PhD project turned into a book deal that reportedly gave her an advance in the mid-six figures. "And when she turned her supposed dissertation to a trade book that would make her a lot of money, it didn’t sit well with me, frankly," Mansoor told Situation Report. "I should have said something to General Petraeus but I didn’t," he said, figuring Petraeus was "savvy enough" to figure it out for himself.

Petraeus’ inner circle at the time included Mansoor, Steve Boylan, his public affairs officer, and Everett Spain. They routinely advised Petraeus on a number of things, and each had the kind of access to tell truth to power. Speaking generally, Mansoor said of advising Petraeus: "Any one of us could have said, hey, this isn’t going to look good, general, you may want to back off here."

Broadwell was the type of woman who called meetings and then abruptly left them when "the general" called. Broadwell’s reputation as an over-achiever who would perhaps stop at nothing to get what she wanted was clear. One professional acquaintance of Broadwell’s told Situation Report that "her aggression and ambition is so front-and-center that it’s off-putting," and told a story in which Broadwell requested a meeting at one point several years ago but then in the middle of the meeting got a phone call. She abruptly ended the meeting. "Oh, it’s the general, we’re going for a run," she said. "It was drop everything, I gotta go, it was weird from the very beginning," the individual told Situation Report. Broadwell’s ambition and narcissism was disconcerting: "Paula didn’t strike me as someone who was going to slit your throat in the middle of the night, but maybe someone who would be capable of outing someone," the individual told Situation Report.

The endurance community doesn’t think Broadwell is equal to some of her claims about her physical feats. Over the weekend, many weighed in, suggesting that while Broadwell is clearly a strong athlete, she has embellished her reputation. Broadwell’s relationship with Petraeus grew in part because of her reported ability to keep up with his fast running pace and her love of physical fitness.

"The race results simply are not there. She is a good athlete, she is not the athlete she reports herself to be," wrote GoJoMo in the Slowtwitch triathalon forum.

Still intriguing: The letter to the NYT Sunday magazine’s Ethicist columnist, which has been making the rounds on the Internet since Saturday when it was published online, has a creepy similarity to the Petraeus scandal. But a Times editor Tweeted over the weekend that it is not about Petraeus.

The Tweet: This ?@theethicist column ?  (2nd Q) is NOT about the Petraeus affair, based on our factchecking. Strange, I know.

The letter: "My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.) I have met with him on several occasions, and he has been gracious. (I doubt if he is aware of my knowledge.) I have watched the affair intensify over the last year, and I have also benefited from his generosity. He is engaged in work that I am passionate about and is absolutely the right person for the job. I strongly feel that exposing the affair will create a major distraction that would adversely impact the success of an important effort. My issue: Should I acknowledge this affair and finally force closure? Should I suffer in silence for the next year or two for a project I feel must succeed? Should I be "true to my heart" and walk away from the entire miserable situation and put the episode behind me? NAME WITHHELD."

The Ethicists’s advice? Don’t expose the relationship. "…The fact that you’re willing to accept your wife’s infidelity for some greater political good is beyond honorable. In fact, it’s so over-the-top honorable that I’m not sure I believe your motives are real. Part of me wonders why you’re even posing this question, particularly in a column that is printed in The New York Times…"


The Fallout

Twelve Years and Counting




 Twitter: @glubold

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