Report: Mistaken Reference to Corruption Led to Petraeus FBI Investigation, Intercepted Emails Referred to ‘Sex Under a Desk’

Petraeus Broadwell
Gen. David Petraeus resigned as CIA director Friday after admitting to having an extramarital affair, said to be with biographer Paula Broadwell who wrote this year’s “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.” (Getty, AP photos)

The FBI investigation that cascaded into Gen. David Petraeus’ resignation as CIA director reportedly started after an email Petraeus sent to his girlfriend was mistaken for a reference to corruption, according to Newsmax.

Ronald Kessler, the journalist and author who broke the Secret Service prostitution scandal, reported Friday that the FBI had been investigating Petraeus for “many months” when he abruptly resigned Friday.

The investigation began [late this] spring, but the FBI then pored over his emails when he was stationed in Afghanistan [in charge of U.S. forces from July 2010 to July 2011].

The woman who was having an affair with Petraeus is a journalist who had been writing about him.

Given his top secret clearance and the fact that Petraeus is married, the FBI continued to investigate and intercept Petraeus’ email exchanges with the woman. The emails include sexually explicit references to such items as sex under a desk.

Such a relationship is a breach of top secret security requirements and could have compromised Petraeus.

At some point after Petraeus was sworn in as CIA director on Sept. 6, 2011, the woman broke up with him. However, Petraeus continued to pursue her, sending her thousands of emails over the last several months, raising even more questions about his judgment.

The Wall Street Journal reported that despite the longstanding FBI investigation, Petraeus was not interviewed until recently:

While Mr. Petraeus was still a general, he had email exchanges with the woman, but there wasn’t a physical relationship, the person said. The affair began after Mr. Petraeus retired from the Army in August 2011 and ended months ago, the person said.

Multiple news organizations have identified the woman as Paula Broadwell, a reserve Army officer who co-wrote this year’s “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.” Broadwell has not commented since Petraeus’ resignation and has deleted her website.

The New York Observer pulled some information about Broadwell from her site before it was deleted, including that she spent most of a year in Afghanistan with Petraeus working on the book. It also unearthed her description from a February book talk of how she first met him while a graduate student at Harvard University:

“He came to Harvard University where I was a graduate student and wanted to speak with students about the merits of [the] counter-insurgency approach to fighting the Iraq War, which we were losing at the time….I went up to him and said I’m writing my thesis on negotiating with terrorists and I think it could help your team win and you should really read it and he was kind of enough to indulge me and take the paper and give me his business card. We kept in touch via email for a couple years, and I was still a graduate student. Two years later, I reached out to him if he would speak to students at Harvard…He agreed to do a video teleconference from Baghdad. I asked him if I could use him as a case study in my doctoral dissertation, and he agreed.”

As it happened, Broadwell published an item in Newsweek on Monday titled “General David Petraeus’s Rules for Living,” which included a maxim about making mistakes:

5. We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.