Gen. David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell Saved Draft Emails in the Same Account and Deleted Them to Avoid a Data Trail

Gen. David Petraeus shakes hands with biographer Paula Broadwell. David Petraeus resigned from his post on November 9, 2012, citing an extra-marital affair with Paula Broadwell. The FBI began an investigation after it was tipped off by Jill Kelley, a long-time friend of the Petraeus family, who received threatening emails from Broadwell. (Photo by ISAF via Getty Images)

Given that it was intimate emails that helped lead to the uncovering of the affair between Gen. David Petraeus and mistress Paula Broadwell, one might have expected the former director of the CIA — a title Petraeus held until he resigned last week — to take steps to cover their electronic communications. It turns out they did, but the email trick they used just wasn’t sophisticated enough.

In fact, the Associated Press wrote that it’s one “known to terrorists and teenagers alike.”

Here’s what they did according to the AP:

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 for outsiders to intercept or trace.

The Washington Post noted that there was even a PBS special in January 2005 that included this tactic and labeled it as a “terrorist trick.” Here’s what PBS wrote:

One terrorist drafts a Web-based e-mail and instead of sending it, saves it to the draft folder, accessible online from anywhere in the world. The other terrorist can open the same account, read the message, and delete it. The e-mail has never been sent, and cannot be tracked.

The Post also stated that it was used in the 2008 film “Traitor.”

Petraeus resigned as the director of the CIA Friday when he admitted involvement in an affair.