While the Petraeus/Broadwell affair makes for lurid reading, it tends, by accident or design, to obscure the larger picture of the story both the mainstream media the Obama administration have been eager to avoid: the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The major inconsistencies in the administration’s story remain unreconciled, yet we now have one more to add to the list: we are supposed to believe that Eric Holder was aware of this affair as early as last summer, but that intel guidelines developed during the Bush administration precluded Holder from notifying the White House or congressional intelligence committees about it. Scrutiny of a particular timeline says otherwise.
First, the guidelines. According to one source developed by Fox News, “it is long-standing FBI policy for the FBI not to brief Congress or the White House in the middle of a criminal probe that does not involve a security threat.” Fox continues: “The law states that intelligence officials ‘shall’ notify the congressional intelligence committees of ‘all intelligence activities.’ It could be argued that this didn’t rise to such a level, technically. After all, Fox News confirms that when mistress Paula Broadwell’s second and final interview with the FBI was conducted the Friday before the election, they were able to formally conclude no crimes had been committed…Further, according to the Wall Street Journal, a 2007 memo from then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Justice employees were not supposed to tell the White House or Congress about pending criminal investigations.”
Note the aforementioned time of Broadwell’s “second and final interview with the FBI.” The Friday before the national election was November 2, and the FBI ostensibly concluded that nothing Broadwell told them constituted either a crime, or was in any way related to “intelligence activities.”
Yet on October 26, exactly one week before that interview, Paula Broadwell gave a speech about her biography of Petraeus at the University of Denver. “Now, I don’t know if a lot of you have heard this but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner, and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try get these prisoners back, so that’s still being vetted,” Broadwell said in response to a question posed by an audience member after her speech. Broadwell also confirmed that the Fox report claiming the CIA chain of command told CIA operators twice to “stand down” during the attack on the U.S. consulate (and subsequent attack on the CIA annex approximately four hours later) constituted “insightful information.”
How did she know about that information? Far more importantly, how could anyone who interviewed her either claim to be completely unaware of a public speech she gave at a major university, or be aware of it and yet still determine that her dissemination of such information did not constitute anything resembling a “security threat” and/or “intelligence activities”?
Broadwell certainly wasn’t one of Fox’s sources. A story the news outlet ran Monday confirms this. “Biographer Paula Broadwell could be facing questions about whether she revealed classified information about the Libya attack that she was privy to due to her relationship with then-CIA Director David Petraeus,” the opening paragraph states. Yet even more damning for Broadwell, Fox not only confirmed her contention that there were Libyan militiamen being held, and that their imprisonment may have been a motive for the attack, but expanded upon it. They reported that “multiple intelligence sources who have served in Benghazi” revealed that “prisoners from additional countries in Africa and the Middle East were brought to this location.”
Writing for the Washington Times, security policy expert Frank Gaffney illuminates the implications. If Benghazi were being “used to detain and interrogate jihadists from around the region,” it would seemingly violate President Obama’s 2009 executive order eliminating CIA authority to engage in such activities. “Team Obama would have had plenty of reason to worry about the damage Gen. Petraeus could do to its hopes for reelection,” Gaffney concludes.
The story gets even more intriguing. On Sunday, the New York Times acknowledged that when F.B.I. agents first interviewed Ms. Broadwell during the week of Oct. 21, she admitted to the affair and “voluntarily gave the agency her computer,” on which “agents discovered several classified documents.” Both she and Petraeus denied he had given them to her. Politico reports that Broadwell “told an audience this summer that she routinely had access to classified information while researching a book on Petraeus’s work as the commanding general in Afghanistan.” And yesterday, it was revealed that FBI agents spent four hours Monday night searching Broadwell’s family home in Charlotte, NC. They confiscated a half-dozen file boxes, a Dell PC, an iMac, a briefcase and a printer.
Once again, does any of this sound like something the FBI should have defined as “a criminal probe that does not involve a security threat,” seemingly for the purpose of keeping congressional intelligence committees, the White House and/or Congress completely in the dark?
Like other aspects of the Benghazi story, irreconcilable inconsistencies have been disseminated. On November 11, Fox reported that White House Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan was aware of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair “as early as the summer of 2011.” Yet the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that the FBI told only Attorney General Holder and a small number of his subordinates “last summer.” Furthermore, the Journal reported yesterday that “authorities were able to eventually rule out a security breach,” even as they noted an FBI spokesman “declined to say” why they were searching Broadwell’s house.
Yet one of the bigger twists in this story was aired on Monday’s “CBS This Morning.” Reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed that “General Petraeus visited Libya at the end of October, and called several members of Congress the week before he resigned, saying that surveillance video of the Benghazi attack supports an element of spontaneity, as the administration first claimed.”
Petraeus resigned on November 9, long after the “spontaneous uprising” story had been thoroughly debunked. He pushed the same story on September 14, in a Congressional briefing, when no one knew any better, but now that it has been revealed to be a lie and that the CIA itself had immediate information that it was a terrorist attack, why continue the fiction?
More importantly, if Petraeus is apparently lying about this, how can the FBI be so positive he wasn’t lying about giving Broadwell access to classified information?
Former Chief Counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice Victoria Toensing cuts through the fog of deceit being perpetrated here. “Something is rotten in Benghazi-Petraeus. But we cannot find the rot in these two tragedies because the information is classified and the administration remains silent at the pleasure of the press,” she writes.
Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton is equally blunt. “The idea that the White House didn’t learn of this potential problem until Election Day, I just find incomprehensible. Did the attorney general sit on this information for two months?” he asked.
Until David Petraeus is compelled to testify, we may never know. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is seemingly determined to make that happen, saying the former four-star General “will likely” be called to do so. Feinstein said congressional leaders would also question FBI officials about why they weren’t briefed on the inquiry that triggered Petraeus’s resignation.
An unnamed federal law enforcement official reiterated the “guideline” excuse. “It was an ongoing criminal investigation,” the official said. “There are intelligence issues that, if they become matters of national security, they are shared. You don’t brief (administration and congressional officials) if they’re only concerns about an intelligence issue.”
How such high-level potential security leaks wouldn’t be considered a “concern” should be one of the first issues addressed during upcoming congressional hearings.
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