The federal agent who launched the probe that eventually led to David Petraeus’ resignation as director of the CIA was taken off the case indefinitely over the summer after his superiors became concerned that he may be personally involved in the case, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing “officials familiar with the probe.”
The unidentified FBI agent still passed along his concerns to a member of Congress even after he was barred from taking part in the investigation, afraid that the case would be covered up.
And while the FBI was looking into a number of harassing emails from Petraeus’ alleged mistress Paula Broadwell to a family friend of the former four-star general and delving into the head of the CIA’s personal life, the federal agency was also forced to deal with allegations of inappropriate conduct by one of its own agents. The agent in question allegedly sent “shirtless photos” of himself to a woman involved in the case before the investigation began, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI, is investigating the agent, officials familiar with the case said.
FBI officials declined to identify the agent, so he couldn’t be reached to give his side of the story. The agent is now under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI, according to two officials familiar with the matter.
The revelations address how the investigation first began and ultimately led to Mr. Petraeus’s downfall as director of the CIA. The new developments also raise questions about the role played by the FBI and the adequacy of notification to administration and congressional leaders about the scandal.
The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.
However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.
One possible explanation is emotional involvement with Kelley. The agent apparently sent shirtless photos to Kelley before the initial email investigation ever began, however, FBI officials didn’t immediately discover them. Once they did, he was ordered to remove himself from the case, even though he never had a formal role in the investigation, according to officials.
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This is when the agent contacted Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.) because he was reportedly afraid the matter was going to be “swept under the rug,” according to the report. The information was then passed along to “top congressional officials” who ultimately contacted FBI headquarters in Washington.
The FBI agent who contacted Reichert was the same one who first received the allegations from Tampa socialite Jill Kelley that she was receiving threatening emails, a federal law enforcement official said Monday night. FBI agents eventually traced the alleged harassment emails warning Kelley to stay away from Petraeus to Broadwell.
Petraeus has told associates his relationship with Kelley was platonic, though Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival. Kelley served as a sort of social ambassador for U.S. Central Command, hosting parties for the general when Petraeus was commander there from 2008-2010.
As the WSJ points out, the emails allegedly sent by Broadwell via an anonymous account took a minor cyber harassment investigation and turned it into a full blown national security investigation.
One of the emails asked Kelley’s husband if he was aware that his wife had touched “him,” later discovered to be Petraeus, under the table provocatively.
An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the Virginia congressman first heard about CIA Director David Petraeus’ extramarital affair on Saturday, Oct. 27, from an FBI source he didn’t know.
Communications director Rory Cooper told The Associated Press Monday that Cantor notified the FBI’s chief of staff of the conversation, but did not tell anyone else because he did not know whether the information from an unknown source was credible. Petraeus resigned last week as the nation’s top spy because of the affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
The Cantor spokesman said the Oct. 27 conversation was arranged by Rep. Reichert.
Congress will now investigate why the FBI didn’t notify lawmakers of its investigation.
But by late October, the FBI had concluded there was no national security breach and was only pursuing a criminal investigation of the harassing emails and whether Petraeus had played any role in them, according to two federal law enforcement officials. They demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing controversy on the record.
In response to criticism from members of Congress that they should have been told about the matter earlier, one of the officials pointed out that long-standing Justice Department policy and practice is not to share information from an ongoing criminal investigation with anyone outside the department, including the White House and Congress.
For a matter to fall in the category of notifying the Hill, national security must be involved. Given the absence of a security breach, it was appropriate not to notify Congress or the White House, this law enforcement official said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.