An unusual aspect of the current sex scandal consuming the political world is the volume of information related to the affair that’s available for public perusal. While we’re often forced to make do with a grainy Facebook photo of the non-famous cheater, in this case one can read Paula Broadwell’s biography of David Petraeus, see her discuss how they first bonded on The Daily Show, and watch her declare, “I’m not in love with David Petraeus,” in an interview. (And speculate about a certain Ethicist column, though the Times says it has nothing to do with Petraeus.) Now a video has surfaced that adds fuel to the speculation about whether Petraeus shared classified information with Broadwell. While speaking on October 26 at the University of Denver, Broadwell said in response to a question about the 9/11 attack in Benghazi, “Now I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually — had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So that’s still being vetted.” That sounds to some like Broadwell was referring to an unreported detail about the attack — though it’s also possible that she just misunderstood something she heard on Fox News.
In the beginning of her response (34 minutes into the video) Broadwell references an exclusive Fox News report that had just come out. As the Daily Beast points out, during that report correspondent Jennifer Griffen says, “Those at the CIA annex took into custody three Libyan attackers and were forced to hand them over to the Libyan February 17th forces that came to help at the annex.” Griffen was saying that Libyan attackers were taken into custody for a short time hours after the fighting started, not that their capture sparked the attack. On Sunday the CIA said that Broadwell’s suggestion that prisoners were held in the annex was untrue.
Still, that isn’t the only evidence that Broadwell, a former military intelligence officer, knew more than she should have. The Washington Post reports, “Officers close to Petraeus grew concerned about her posts on Facebook, which they believed sometimes divulged sensitive operational details.” According to the New York Times, when Broadwell was first interviewed by the FBI on October 21 she voluntarily turned over her computer. Agents found several classified documents during the search, but both Broadwell and Petraeus denied that he’d given her the files.
It’s unclear how Broadwell obtained the documents, but investigators concluded that Petraeus hadn’t committed a crime. FBI and Justice Department officials had to decide if the CIA director’s affair was a matter of national security, which by law must be reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees, or merely a personal matter. Since there would be no criminal charges, investigators concluded that sharing news of the general’s infidelity with Congress would needlessly violate his privacy. The decision has incensed lawmakers. “We received no advance notice; it was like a lightning bolt,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, on Fox News Sunday. “We should have been told. There is a way to do it.”
Unsurprisingly, Representative Peter King, chair of the Homeland Security committee, went a step further, suggesting that a conspiracy might be afoot. “It seems this has been going on for several months, but now it appears that they’re saying the FBI didn’t realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved,” he told CNN. “It just doesn’t add up.” Some have even alleged that the information is only coming out now so that Petraeus won’t have to appear before the intelligence committees on Thursday to discuss Libya. While CIA deputy director Michael Morell will speak before the committees instead of Petraeus, Feinstein, Lindsey Graham, and others in Congress have said they may still have the general testify. So much for Petraeus’s ingenious plot to start an affair last year on the off chance that there would be an attack in Benghazi and he’d be asked to testify before Congress.