FBI Dedicated Enormous Resources to Taking Down Petraeus

"In retrospect, Ambassador Chris Stevens would have gotten more attention sending snotty e-mails to random citizens"

Lost in all the prurient noise is some interesting signal about just how many resources the FBI had to pile into its takedown of Petraeus and the the loose justifications for, what Kate at Small Dead Animals calls a department of "Someone Sent Me a Nasty Email".

Marc Armbinder at The Week looks into just how much the FBI had to do to get to the point where Petraeus would resign and the media would spend weeks gleefully tearing through his personal life while burying Benghazigate beneath a mountain of their own sleaze.

Prosecutors in Tampa readily gave the FBI a subpoena to look at the meta-data headings associated with Jill Kelley's incoming email. From there, though, the FBI also had to collect the collateral information needed to identify Broadwell, which apparently included hotel guest registers, something that a hotel chain just doesn't give up because the FBI asks it to. The standard here is that the "facts" have to be "relevant" and "material" to an ongoing investigation. The issuance of a subpoena (for email content 180 days old or older) or a warrant (for email content that is more recent) would have to be accompanied by some sort of notification to the "subscriber," i.e, the person whose email is being tapped into, unless the FBI can justify to a court that there is a valid and pressing reason not to notify. These so-called "2705" exemptions include a fear that the person in question will hide evidence, flee, or jeopardize the investigation if they're notified.

The FBI read Broadwell's email, and perhaps a lot of Kelley's email (with permission). In order to get the content of the email, the stuff you write in the body of an email, the FBI needs a judge to issue a warrant, which requires that old chestnut, probable cause.

The scope of the FBI's investigation is quite large, and that has civil liberties advocates and journalists like myself concerned about how the agency was able to justify such an expansive collection of email based on the fairly trivial accusations and what we know of the investigation. Maybe this means that the FBI always goes full-on, so to speak, or perhaps, once again, the insinuation that generals were involved with questionable activities was enough to devote unusual resources and collect an unusual amount of data.

For some reason, the FBI was able to search through years worth of Kelley's email and found a lot of communications to and from Gen. John Allen. Maybe Kelley's consent was obtained to read the content of the email, or maybe the FBI found some reason to be suspicious about her and obtained a warrant to read the contents of her email. Either way, some of it was apparently flirtatious in nature, and for some reason, the FBI found it necessary to inform the Department of Defense about that fact.

The takeaway? From Small Dead Animals. "In retrospect, Ambassador Chris Stevens would have gotten more attention sending snotty e-mails to random citizens"

The other takeaway, the FBI was extremely "motivated" to devote enormous resources to investigating emails that apparently consisted of, "Stay away from my man". Most people in this trade get much nastier emails on a regular basis.

Has Eric Holder become the new J Edgar Hoover?  All signs point to yes.