FBI Suppressed Petraeus Scandal to Protect PresidentSunday, 11 Nov 2012 09:25 PM
By Ronald Kessler
Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C. — FBI agents investigating CIA Director David Petraeus's affair were shocked when told by bureau officials that despite the national security implications, no action would be taken on their findings until after the presidential election: Only then would President Obama ask for Petraeus’ resignation.
The White House claims President Obama and his national security advisors were first informed of the Petraeus' affair on Thursday, two days after the election.
But the official timeline strains credulity. Senior FBI officials suppressed disclosure of the highly sensitive case, apparently to avoid embarrassment to Obama during his re-election campaign.
On Oct. 10, I was contacted by a longtime FBI source who told me that a bureau investigation had uncovered Petraeus’ affair with a journalist and that it could potentially jeopardize national security.
The veteran agent related to me that FBI agents assigned to the case were outraged by what were they were told by senior officials: The FBI was going to hold in limbo their findings until after the election.
“The decision was made to delay the resignation apparently to avoid potential embarrassment to the president before the election,” an FBI source told me. “To leave him in such a sensitive position where he was vulnerable to potential blackmail for months compromised our security and is inexcusable.”
My source said the FBI had been investigating the matter since last spring and the probe was considered among the most sensitive investigations the bureau was handling.
Both FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and the Justice Department were aware of the investigation, according to my source. The source did not specifically know whether Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder or FBI Director Mueller had given the order to delay taking action until after the election.
However, Mueller meets at least once a week with the president and routinely informs him of highly sensitive investigations and threats. An FBI investigation of the CIA director should have been at the top of that list.
In fact, it would have been a scandal if the FBI had not informed the president or the attorney general of an investigation of the CIA director.
Last Friday, the White House announced that Petraeus had resigned over an extramarital affair. At the time, I was completing my own investigation into the matter based on what my source had told me.
On the same day, my report for Newsmax, "FBI Investigation Led to Petraeus Resignation," revealed for the the first time that an an FBI investigation of Petraeus' emails had triggered his resignation.
Since then, the White House has claimed that the president was surprised when told of the FBI investigation two days after the election.
If the president genuinely did not know about the probe, it would constitute malfeasance by the White House. But my FBI sources doubt the order to suppress the probe’s findings until after the election — while taking a chance with the nation’s security — was made by the bureau.
For my recently published book, “The Secrets of the FBI,” FBI Director Mueller gave me unprecedented access to the bureau, including to agents who told me normally classified details of how FBI agents break into homes and offices to plant bugging devices in terrorist, espionage, Mafia, and political corruption cases.
In my opinion, Mueller is a man of impeccable integrity. He would not have acquiesced to delaying action on the bureau’s findings unless ordered to do so by the attorney general or by the president.
Since this was not a criminal matter, Mueller may have justified his decision by saying it is up to the government agency who employs the individual or the White House to take action. But the decision to delay action on the Petraeus case — when the fact that he had placed himself in a compromising position was known by the FBI for months — clearly created a security risk.
As FBI agents and CIA officers tell me, such a delay could have meant that foreign intelligence service officers or criminals who may have learned of the affair could have blackmailed Petraeus into giving up the country’s most sensitive secrets. Given his position, those secrets would have included penetrations of Russian communications, bugging of foreign embassies, identities of assets risking their lives to give the U.S. valuable information on terrorists, and identities of terrorists who are about to be killed by drones.
My source told me that the investigation into Petraeus’ affair began when FBI agents mistook a reference in one of his emails to “under the desk” to mean corruption, as in payments under the table.
While the source’s information was correct, news reports later said the broader FBI investigation began last spring when Paula Broadwell, with whom Petraeus was allegedly having an affair, allegedly began sending threatening emails to another woman she viewed as a potential threat to her relationship with Petraeus.
It turned out that “under the desk” was a reference to having sex under the desk with Petraeus, who is married.
Broadwell, who is married to a radiologist, was “embedded” with Petraeus while writing a book about him when he was stationed in Kabul. A triathlete, she has degrees from West Point and Harvard and holds the rank of major in the Army Reserve. She has not commented on her role in Petraeus’ resignation.
Michael Kortan, the FBI's assistant director for public affairs, had no immediate comment.