Click here for the latest few updates. Or read on for essential background to this astonishing and confusing saga, or jump to select highlights:
- Jill Kelley dined at the White House two days before the presidential election
- The “shirtless” PHOTO: The fabled shot of the FBI agent emerges
FBI agent Humphries reportedly tipped off “a friend” who went to GOP lawmaker
- Investigators find “substantial classified information” on Paula Broadwell’s computer
- National security? Jill Kelley requests diplomatic protection, dabbles in diplomacy
- Kelley’s sketchy cancer charity, her sister’s bankruptcy, and the generals’ intervention
- No, Gen. Allen didn’t send Kelley 30,000 emails—but did they exchange pictures?
- Petraeus and Allen both helped Khawam with a messy child-custody battle
- The FBI “whistleblower” with an anti-Obama agenda—and shirtless photos
The start of this crazy scandal:
Last Friday, David Petraeus—a retired Army general revered for his roles in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency after revealing that he’d had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. It soon emerged that the FBI had been investigating Petraeus’ paramour for months, eventually stumbling across their relationship.
Wait—who did what, now?
Petraeus, who at different points in the past decade oversaw the Iraq War, Afghanistan, and the CIA’s drone program, engaged in an affair with Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer and commentator on military affairs. The two met in 2006, when Petraeus addressed Broadwell and her graduate school colleagues at Harvard. Two years later, she began a Ph.D. in war studies and started to compose a book-length analysis of Petraeus’ wartime leadership. He eventually granted her unfettered access, including lodgings on his Kabul base when he took control of the war in Afghanistan in 2010.
Broadwell’s access continued after Petraeus retired from the Army and took over at the CIA in late summer of 2011. Her research culminated in an glowing biography titled All In: The Education of David Petraeus, which was released earlier this year. According to news reports, sources close to Petraeus insist that the affair began after he left the Army; if it began before then, he (and Broadwell) could potentially be prosecuted for adultery under the military’s legal codes.
How did all this come to light?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the affair was discovered several months ago by FBI agents investigating harassment allegations against Broadwell. She reportedly used an anonymous email account last May to send threatening emails to a Florida woman, Jill Kelley. Kelley is a family friend of Petraeus who volunteers as an event planner at MacDill Air Force base, the Tampa installation where Petraeus was based when he ran the US Central Command from 2008-10. The emails reportedly accused Kelley, 37, of an inappropriate relationship with Petraeus. Kelley voiced her concerns to a personal friend who was an FBI agent, according to the New York Times, and the FBI began an investigation of the emails.
That inquiry quickly led agents to suspect Broadwell of sending the messages, and they secured a warrant to search her personal email, discovering intimate details of her affair with Petraeus. By late summer, they had learned that the CIA director had been using a Gmail account under a pseudonym to communicate with Broadwell, and they informed Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller of the probe. Law enforcement officers began to investigate whether any sensitive or classified information had passed between the two lovers. (According to the Journal, federal agents are obligated by Justice Department policy not to share information with Congress and the White House on criminal investigations until they are completed.)
In late October, FBI officials interviewed Broadwell and Petraeus, and both separately admitted to the affair, though they stressed that they hadn’t shared any classified data. Satisfied, the agents briefed James Clapper, the director of national intelligence and a friend of Petraeus, on the probe at 5 p.m. on November 6, Election Day. Clapper reportedly advised Petraeus to resign the next day. President Obama was informed of the matter Thursday, and Petraeus offered his resignation in the Oval Office. Obama accepted it the following day.
Is this part of an Obama administration conspiracy to cover up what happened in Benghazi?
Probably not, although the timing has prompted a full-blown eruption in the right-wing fever swamp, as this New Republic compilation shows. Here’s a sample tweet of the Petraeus-Benghazi hysteria from conservative pundit Laura Ingraham:
COINCIDENCE?! Petraeus is set to testify NEXT week at a closed door session on Capitol Hill abt Benghazi. Did BHO push him out? This stinks!
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) November 9, 2012
Petraeus was slated to testify before a congressional panel later this week on what the CIA knew about the September 11 attack on US installments in the Libyan city of Benghazi, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel. Now Petraeus reportedly will not be testifying; acting CIA Director Michael Morell will go in his place.
There is, however, an odd Libya-related twist in the story: In late October, Broadwell gave a lecture at the University of Denver in which she asserted that the CIA “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.” She added, “That’s still being vetted.” It’s possible that she had gotten this info from Petraeus—she noted in the same breath that “the challenging thing for General Petraeus is that in his new position he’s not allowed to communicate with the press. So he’s known all of this.” The CIA, however, denies that it ever held any prisoners at Benghazi. The CIA could be expected to deny such an assertion even if it was true. Hence it’s unclear whether Broadwell was sharing privileged intelligence or merely passing on bum info from another source, though Fox News today reported that her assertion might have some credence.
What is Petraeus so famous for, anyway?
Perhaps no single American came out of the “war on terror” with as stellar a public reputation as David Petraeus, a Princeton Ph.D. whom the media credited with “saving” the debacle in Iraq, revolutionizing the military, and giving interviews while running six-minute miles at age 60. But the general cultivated much of this legendary status with shrewd moves—distancing himself from negative news and strategic setbacks, limiting media access to only preferred journalists, and taking credit for popular wartime trends. Military officers and reporters perpetuated what some are in hindsight calling the “cult of Petraeus,” one that was used by successive presidential administrations to give their own strategic decisions greater sway with the public.
“[A]ll the profiles, stage-managed and controlled by the Pentagon’s multimillion dollar public relations apparatus, built up an unrealistic and superhuman myth around the general that, in the end, did not do Petraeus or the public any favors,” writes Buzzfeed‘s Michael Hastings, whose reporting got Afghanistan War General Stanley McChrystal fired two years ago and who has been critical of Petraeus in the past.
Who is Paula Broadwell?
Broadwell, 40, is a married mother of two, a fitness fanatic who graduated from West Point (Petraeus’ alma mater) and holds an Army Reserve commission as an intelligence officer. She has two master’s degrees and is currently working towards a doctorate in war studies from King’s College London. A successful writer and lecturer, Broadwell has garnered criticism for her sunny portrayal of the military’s operations in Afghanistan while working there with Petraeus. Most notably, in 2011 she praised the actions of a Petraeus subordinate who ordered the complete leveling of a village called Tarok Kolache, offering chilling before-and-after photos as evidence of the operation’s success.
Joshua Foust, an expert on Afghan counterinsurgency with the American Security Project, wrote months before the affair was revealed that Broadwell’s take on Tarok Kolache invalidated her bio of Petraeus. “[W]hen the one tiny bit of Broadwell’s story that I’m aware of is riddled with such half-truths, spin, and outright deception about what really happened, how can I possibly trust her and her co-author to tell the rest of David Petraeus’ career (and his vaunted leadership skills) honestly?” he stated last February.
Nevertheless, in their zeal to sympathize with Petraeus, the media and military officers are now pushing a negative portrayal of Broadwell as an unbalanced femme fatale. One unnamed officer close to Petraeus said the biographer “got her claws into him,” conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain has called her “The Slut Paula Broadwell,” and even the Washington Post made hay of Broadwell’s supposed “tight shirts and pants,” concluding that Petraeus “let his guard down” around the younger woman.
What’s the big deal? Washington bigwigs cheat all the time. Why should Petraeus lose his job over it?
There is still the possibility that Broadwell got previously secret CIA info via her relationship with Petraeus. (See the Benghazi-related question above for more details on those allegations.) But even if that’s not the case, it’s an astonishing breach for the man hired as America’s top secret-keeper. As the editors of Wired‘s Danger Room blog put it, “not only did Petraeus conduct an affair that could conceivably open up the CIA director to blackmail, he exhibited poor data security, setting up a pseudonymous email account to correspond with his paramour—one that the FBI easily traced back to him using the breadcrumb trails of Gmail metadata.”
Does this have anything to do with that New York Times advice column?
Soon after news of Petraeus’ resignation broke last week, rumors spread that Broadwell’s husband, a prominent North Carolina doctor, had written a letter to Chuck Klosterman’s “The Ethicist” column published in the July 13 issue of the New York Times Magazine. “My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership,” the letter’s author wrote, seeking advice on how to discuss the affair with his wife.
Tantalizing though it may be, the letter is unrelated to Broadwell, according to Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren. The Ethicist column “is NOT about the Petraeus affair, based on our factchecking,” Lindgren tweeted last Saturday night. “Strange, I know.” (For his part, Klosterman gives some more background on the letter here.)
So the FBI can read your email based on a harassment complaint?
One eyebrow-raising aspect of the case is that, based on Kelley’s complaints about harassing emails, the FBI undertook a sophisticated probe of the address from which the emails originated, traced that account to Broadwell, and secured a warrant to investigate her other email accounts. (Though Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum points out that the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act permits federal agents to surveil your transmissions even without a warrant.) As Business Insider‘s Nicholas Carlson puts it:
The lesson (other than that you should not have an affair and that you should not spend lots of time alone with someone you find attractive) is one all of us already know, but everyone seems to forget: Your emails are not as private as you think, and as soon as you send them, they exist forever, waiting to be discovered by someone you do not want reading them. The same goes for your text messages, by the way. Just ask Tiger Woods.
Kelley’s volunteer role as an event organizer at MacDill Air Force base hardly qualified her for routine federal protections, so it’s unlikely that the FBI ever would have tracked down her email harasser if she hadn’t had a friend in the bureau. Perhaps the lesson is not to cross anyone who’s got those kinds of connections.
UPDATE, 12:00 a.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: In a twist straight out of a Coen brothers movie, it now appears that the FBI agent who originated the inquiry is being investigated for his own bizarre actions. As the Wall Street Journal first reported, the as-yet-unnamed agent took up Kelley’s complaint with an ardor partly explained by the fact that he had previously sent her pictures of himself, shirtless.
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 official said the agent in question sent shirtless photos to Ms. Kelley well before the email investigation began, and FBI officials only became aware of them some time later. Eventually, supervisors told the agent he was to have nothing to do with the case, though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the official said.
But it gets worse. According to the New York Times, that agent later went above his superiors and brought the issue to Congress, perhaps because of his political convictions:
The agent, who was not identified, continued to “nose around” about the case, and eventually his superiors “told him to stay the hell away from it, and he was not invited to briefings,” the official said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday night that the agent had been barred from the case. Later, the agent became convinced—incorrectly, the official said—that the case had stalled. Because of his “worldview,” as the official put it, he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama. The agent alerted Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who called the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, on Oct. 31 to tell him of the agent’s concerns. [Emphasis added]
The FBI’s questionable performance to date did not stop it from searching Broadwell’s house this evening.
UPDATE 2, 1:21 a.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: In a truly Pentagon-rocking development, the Washington Post reports that the scandal has now engulfed Marine General John R. Allen, the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of “potentially inappropriate” emails between Allen and Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa woman whose close friendship with Petraeus ultimately led to his downfall. Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. The FBI first notified the Pentagon of its investigation into Allen’s communications with Kelley on Sunday evening, according to the senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the ongoing case. In response, Pentagon chief Leon E. Panetta referred the investigation to the Defense Department’s Inspector General for further review, according to a statement released by Panetta early Tuesday as he was traveling to Australia. [Emphasis added]
Where to begin? Allen had been tapped by the White House to take over as chief of the military’s European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander. That’s likely not happening now. And then there’s the scandal itself. If the allegations of an affair between Allen and Kelley turn out to be true, is it likely that Broadwell knew of it? And that Kelley knew who the harrassing emails she received likely came from? And was “shirtless agent” (as he’s now called on Twitter) just a dupe in what sounds like something out of a Days of Our Lives or Gossip Girl episode? All we know is what started out as a love triangle has now got so many sides we can’t even call it a love pentagon. Love dodecahedron? Developing…
UPDATE 3, 10:14 a.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta released a statement late last night confirming that the FBI “referred to the Department of Defense a matter involving General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.” Panetta kicked that “matter” over to the military’s inspector general for further action; in the meantime, he stated, Allen would keep his job in Afghanistan, though he “delayed” the general’s pending promotion to Europe and requested “that the Senate act promptly” on the nomination of Allen’s proposed replacement in Afghanistan, the presumably inappropriate-email-free Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, updated its story on Allen this morning, quoting an unnamed official at US Central Command as saying Allen and Kelley had exchanged “a few hundred emails over a couple of years” when Allen was stationed there, mostly “about routine stuff”—and “nowhere near” the 20,000 to 30,000 messages reported by the FBI. “He’s never been alone with her,” the senior official said. “Did he have an affair? No.” Kelley was well-known for throwing parties that included senior leadership at the base.
However, AP reporter Kasie Hunt reports on Twitter this morning that there may be more than meets the eye to Allen’s emails:
WASHINGTON (AP) – Senior Defense official: Emails between Gen. John Allen and Jill Kelley were ‘flirtatious’ .
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) November 13, 2012
For more background on the Kelley family, their tony South Tampa home, and their popular Gasparilla gatherings—which drew the likes of Petraeus and notable state politicians—read this fantastic piece of reporting from the Tampa Bay Times.
UPDATE 4, 11:02 a.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: Generals David Petraeus and John Allen assisted the sister of Tampa socialite Jill Kelley in a messy child custody battle, according to the New York Post. Both generals wrote letters of support for Natalie Khawam, Kelley’s twin sister, in September when she separated from her husband and took the couple’s four-year-old son to Florida.
“[I]t is unfortunate, in my view, that her interaction with her son has been so limited by the custody settlement,” Petraeus wrote as part of an effort to get Khawam custody of the child. In a similar letter, Allen stated: “I humbly request your reconsideration of the existing mandated custody settlement.”
The letters, which are available on the Post website, suggest Petraeus and Allen were deeply involved with the Kelley family even while the FBI investigated the harassing emails sent to Jill Kelley; they also portray two generals who were willing to throw their public reputations behind a friend’s cause.
UPDATE 5, 4:15 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: Did General John Allen really send 20,000 to 30,000 emails to Jill Kelley? No. As we’ve noted in earlier updates, that’s actually an estimate of the number of pages of “inappropiate” emails the FBI turned over to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. A military official told the Washington Post that there were actually only “a few hundred emails over a couple of years” in question.
So how does that amount to 20,000 or more pages, a stack of paper as tall as a man? In fact, there are at least three ways. First, the emails could have had very long footers and headers; it’s altogether possible that a general of Allen’s stature had a long title, contact info, and a disclosure policy at the end of each transmission that could take up a page or more by itself. Another explanation is that the printed pages include hundreds of duplicates that were repeated in email threads, a problem that’s familiar to anyone who’s suffered through a long thread on their Outlook inbox at work.
There’s an intriguing third possibility, however: The printed pages could include text-based computer coding of images or videos. When you send an image by email, that image is encoded in a text block that looks something like this. As one tech-savvy MoJo reader concluded from an informal test, a 550-kilobyte JPEG image file is translated into roughly 170 “pages” of text. Which leaves open the tantalizing possibility that Allen and Kelley exchanged pictures in their communications.
UPDATE 6, 5:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: Jill Kelley twin Natalie Khawam was once romantically linked to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the Telegraph of London reports. In a far-ranging story on the twins at the center of the Petraeus/Allen imbroglio, reporter Jon Swaine quoted “a Republican source” as saying Khawam had once dated the moderate GOP governor, who left the party in 2010 after losing his senatorial bid to up-and-coming conservative Marco Rubio. It should be noted that Crist—who campaigned for President Obama’s reelection last week and is currently spearheading moves to make voting easier in the Sunshine State—is on the outs with the conservative establishment, and unnamed GOP sources might be motivated to cast aspersions on the resurging politician.
In other developments, US News reported Tuesday afternoon that Paula Broadwell’s North Carolina driver’s license was found recently in a Washington, DC, park. Broadwell’s attorney confirmed that his client had recently lost her license; he did not comment on her current whereabouts, however.
UPDATE 7, 7:15 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: Jill Kelley and her husband, Scott, founded a questionable charity for cancer patients, reported the Huffington Post: “While the origins of the seed money used to start the charity in 2007 are unclear, financial records reveal that the group spent all of its money not on research, but on parties, entertainment, travel and attorney fees. By the end of 2007, the charity had gone bankrupt, having conveniently spent exactly the same amount of money, $157,284, as it started with—not a dollar more, according to its 990 financial form.”
Meanwhile, Jill Kelley’s sister, Natalie Khawam—who was listed as the only other officer of the charity—filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April, listing more than $3.6 million in liabilities, including $53,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service and $800,000 owed to her sister and brother-in-law, according to HuffPo. Were Petraeus and Allen aware of this when they personally intervened in September to support Khawam in a child custody battle?
UPDATE 8, 7:26 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 13: In case you’re wondering how any of this increasingly bizarro story might relate to US national security—beyond Paula Broadwell’s potentially explosive but unverified claim that the CIA held prisoners in Benghazi—here are a couple of answers:
Steven Portnoy, a correspondent for ABC News Radio in Washinton, DC, reports that just this past weekend Jill Kelley requested diplomatic protection based on the fact that she is an “honorary counsul” of South Korea:
The Korean Embassy confirms Jill Kelley is actually an “honorary consul” of his country, as of August of this year.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) November 13, 2012
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) November 13, 2012
“Her title as ‘honorary consul’ to South Korea grants no protection, but that didn’t stop Jill Kelley from claiming it,” Portnoy also tweeted. He included audio of her 911 call to Tampa police on Sunday, obtained via a public records request, in which she suggests the deployment of “diplomatic protection” to her residence. Here’s the relevant clip:
The South Korean official who confirmed Kelley’s honorary status was quite surprised that she requested “diplomatic protection” from police.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) November 13, 2012
Apparently Kelley has a history of dabbling in international diplomacy. According to the Washington Post: “A military officer who is a former member of Petraeus’s staff said Kelley was a ‘self-appointed’ go-between for Central Command officers with Lebanese and other Middle Eastern government officials.”
UPDATE 9, 1:47 a.m. EST, Wednesday, November 14: There’s an interesting detail in the Washington Post report published Tuesday night: Jill Kelley apparently first learned about threatening emails against her from General Allen himself. It could be a further indication of their relationship—what prompted Allen to pass them along to Kelley? From the Post:
Kelley, 37, a close friend of Petraeus and Allen, inadvertently triggered the investigation that led to Petraeus’s resignation after Allen forwarded her anonymous e-mails he had received from someone using the handle ‘kelleypatrol.’ The messages warned Allen to stay away from Kelley, calling her a ‘seductress’ and suggesting that Petraeus was having an intimate relationship with her, according to a source close to Kelley.
Kelley subsequently received additional e-mails in a similar vein, sent to the account she shared with her husband. The source close to Kelley said they were sent under four anonymous names, some apparently from Internet cafes. Kelley shared the initial e-mails forwarded from Allen with a friend who is an FBI agent, and eventually turned over all the missives to the bureau, which determined that Broadwell had sent them.
UPDATE 10, 10:29 a.m. EST, Wednesday, November 14: David Petraeus will indeed testify before the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees Friday regarding the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, according to multiple news reports. In closed-door sessions, he is expected to explain the CIA’s involvement in rescue efforts at the Libyan consulate…and to field questions about the affair that abruptly ended his career. Meanwhile, suspicions about a Benghazi cover-up involving Petraeus continue apace in the right-wing fever swamps.
UPDATE 11, 2:55 p.m. EST, Wednesday, November 14: Since scouring Paula Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday evening, investigators have found “substantial classified information” on a computer of hers, according to Reuters. It remains unclear what the specific contents are or how she acquired the material. Both she and Petraeus denied to FBI investigators previously that Petraeus had supplied her with any classified information. [Update, 10:15 a.m. EST, Friday, November 16]: More from the AP: “The FBI found a substantial number of classified documents on Broadwell’s computer and in her home, according to a law enforcement official, and is investigating how she got them.”
UPDATE 12, 6:54 p.m. EST, Wednesday, November 14: The New York Times has identified the “shirtless FBI agent” as Frederick Humphries. Here’s an excerpt:
The F.B.I. agent who helped start the investigation that led to the resignation of David H. Petraeus as C.I.A. director is a “hard-charging” veteran counterterrorism investigator who used his command of French in investigating the foiled “millennium” terrorist plot in 1999, colleagues said on Wednesday.
Colleagues and news reports described the role of Mr. Humphries, in just his third year at the F.B.I., in building the case against Ahmed Ressam, who was detained as he tried to enter the United States from Canada in 1999 with a plan to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.
In May 2010, after he had moved to the Tampa field office, Mr. Humphries was attacked outside the gate of MacDill Air Force Base by a disturbed knife-wielding man. He fatally shot the man, and the shooting was later ruled to be an appropriate use of force, according to bureau records and colleagues.
Two former law enforcement colleagues said Mr. Humphries was a solid agent with experience in counterterrorism, conservative political views and a reputation for aggressiveness. “Fred is a passionate kind of guy,” said one former colleague. He’s kind of an obsessive type. If he locked his teeth onto something, he’d be a bulldog.”
That description would appear to fit his involvement in the current investigation.
A.k.a. his eagerness to inform Eric Cantor when he thought the investigation had stalled? The Times piece also quotes a friend of Humphries explaining that the shirtless photos Humphries sent to Kelley were evidently of him “posing with a couple of dummies” meant as a “joke” and not sexual in nature. But wait, “used his command of French”? For more detail, let’s turn to the Seattle Times’ epic report on the millennium terrorist plot:
Agent Patrick Gahan, calling from Port Angeles, Wash., across Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, was calling about an arrest Humphries had heard a bit about earlier that evening. U.S. Customs officers had detained a suspicious man coming by ferry from Canada. In his trunk were bags of white powder, mysterious chemicals and homemade timing devices. The detainee, Benni Noris, seemed to speak only French. Gahan didn’t, so he was calling Humphries—who had learned French as a high-school student in Ontario, Canada—to help… Humphries read Noris his rights in French. Then he asked, “Voulez-vous parler de ce qui est arrivé?” Do you want to talk about what has occurred?
“Non monsieur, je ne veux pas en parler.” No sir, I do not want to talk about it.
That single sentence told Humphries plenty. He asked that Gahan turn off the speaker and get on the line. What ID does this guy have? Humphries asked. A Canadian passport and baptismal certificate from Montreal, with the name Benni Antoine Noris, came the reply.
“There is no way this guy is who he says he is,” Humphries said. “There’s no way he’s from Montreal.”
The agent knew Quebecois French—and this wasn’t it. The accent, he thought, sounded like that of a language instructor he had in the Army—a man from Algeria.
Blame Canada. Developing….
UPDATE 13, 12:34 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 15: In a move that will do absolutely nothing to quell the conspiracy theories, Petraeus told Kyra Phillips at CNN sister channel HLN that his resignation did not have anything to do with the Benghazi embassy attacks. Petraeus is scheduled to to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday.
UPDATE 14, 3:05 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 15: According to the Washington Post, an unnamed source “close to” FBI agent Frederick Humphries is now denying that Humphries acted as a whistleblower and took the case to GOP lawmakers. One could see how the source talking to the Post might be from the Department of Ass-Covering, but nevertheless he or she adds a significant detail—apparently there was another person, identity unknown, who acted as a go-between:
Humphries knew little about the status of the FBI’s investigation, the person close to him said, and had only remarked about the intriguing focus of the case to a friend. That friend, who has not been identified, contacted Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who then arranged for Humphries to speak with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
If accurate, this is significant because it goes to essential questions about the scandal: Exactly why and how did the FBI pursue an investigation of the emails to Jill Kelley in the first place? And why was the case leaked to Republicans on Capitol Hill? We now have some indications of Humphries’ political leanings; what about those of the “friend” he reportedly tipped off?
According to the Seattle Times, that friend was apparently Humphries’ former boss, retired Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Mandigo. Humphries also told the Times that his motives were not political.
UPDATE 15, 3:45 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 15: The fabled shirtless pic that FBI agent Frederick Humphries sent to Jill Kelley (and others) is now online, thanks to the Seattle Times:
Via the Seattle Times, here is the “shirtless photo” that the FBI agent sent Jill Kelley. twitter.com/BuzzFeedAndrew…
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) November 15, 2012
The Times also confirms in an phone interview with Humphries that he did, in fact, reach out to Congress regarding the Kelley-Broadwell emails, through a former boss. According to their story:
Humphries, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, acknowledged he sought out Reichert, through his former boss, retired Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Mandigo, but declined to elaborate…
Humphries, 47, confirmed the photograph exists and was sent to Kelley and dozens of other friends and acquaintances in the fall of 2010, shortly after Humphries had transferred to the Tampa office from Guantánamo Bay, where he had been an FBI liaison to the CIA at the detention facility there…
A Seattle Times reporter was among those who received an email containing an attachment of the shirtless photo. The subject line read: “Which one is Fred?”… The joke—over which was the dummy—has now backfired in ways he couldn’t have imagined on Sept. 9, 2010, when it was first sent… Humphries said that, at one point, his supervisor posted the picture on an FBI bulletin board as a joke and that his wife, a teacher, has a framed copy.
UPDATE 16, 12:20 p.m. EST, Friday, November 16: Gen. Petraeus snuck into a closed-door Capitol Hill hearing on Friday morning via underground hallways, where he denied that his departure from the CIA had anything to do with the debacle in Benghazi. “He was very clear his resignation was tied solely to his personal behavior. He was apologetic and regretful but still Gen. Petraeus,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, according to the AP.
UPDATE 17, 2:19 p.m. EST, Friday, November 16: Aaaaaand yet another eyebrow-raising twist: Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite at the center of the scandal, visited the White House three times in the last two months—including two days before the presidential election—according to Politico, which attributes the info to an unnamed White House official.
Jill Kelley visited the White House complex three times, once for a tour with her family and children and twice for courtesy meals at the White House mess with her sister and a White House staffer who met the Kelley family while visiting MacDill Air Force Base.
Kelley’s sister, recall, is also deep in this whole tangle. The story does not identify the White House staffer with whom they dined, but at the rate bizarre details around this story have been emerging, we may well know soon… perhaps also noteworthy here: Jill Kelley is apparently a collector of honorifics; not only did she recently invoke her “honory consul” status with South Korea, but according to CNN she was also given the essentially “meaningless” title of “honorary ambassador” by the US Central Command.
UPDATE 18, 3:15 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 20: At what point will Paula Broadwell’s allegedly threatening emails to Jill Kelley get leaked publicly? According to the New York Daily News today, the emails “were far more sinister than previously reported.” (Or, they were nothing more than “kind of cat-fight stuff.”) An unidentified “close friend” of Kelley’s told the Daily News that Kelley perceived them to be “death threats” and that she was “afraid for her life.” Spin or score-settling via tabloid newspaper? Quite possibly, but whatever the case, a real look at what was in those emails could go a long way toward answering key questions about how and why the FBI pursued the investigation in the first place.
Meanwhile, Slate’s Emily Yoffe joins the chorus of those arguing for Petraeus to get back on the job: “Now that revelations about the Tampa twins and Broadwell’s mean-girl threats to her perceived romantic rival have been aired, mocked, and already forgotten, we’re left wondering why we got our pants in such a twist over Petraeus dropping his.”
UPDATE 19, 10:05 p.m. EST, Tuesday, November 27: Is it still just an overblown sex scandal if the Pentagon has a small army working around the clock on an investigation of Gen. Allen’s emails with Jill Kelley? From the New York Times (emphasis added):
Two and a half weeks after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced an inquiry into email exchanges between Gen. John R. Allen of the Marines and a Tampa socialite, some 15 investigators working seven days a week in the Pentagon inspector general’s office have narrowed their focus to 60 to 70 emails that “bear a fair amount of scrutiny,” a defense official said.
The official did not disclose the content of the emails, but senior Pentagon officials have described the voluminous correspondence between Gen. Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, and the socialite, Jill Kelley, as potentially “inappropriate communication.” Law enforcement officials say the emails number in the hundreds and cover a period of two and a half years starting in 2010, when Gen. Allen was the deputy commander of Central Command, based in Tampa.
The investigators are looking for possible military misconduct, including misuse of government property or security breaches, according to the Times. So far they’ve found none of the latter (potentially the most serious problem). But in all likelihood this story remains far from over.