Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Petraeus Scandal: Where Will Investigations Take Congress?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Petraeus Scandal: Where Will Investigations Take Congress?

Article excerpt

Conspiracy theorists are offering all kinds of dark and convoluted guesses for why President Obama was not informed of the extramarital affair that brought down former CIA director David Petraeus until two days after the Nov. 6 elections.

But in the end the explanation may lead back to Watergate, and steps taken after the 1970s scandal to build a protective wall between the Justice Department criminal investigations and the White House.

Congress is likely to be reminded of that wall as it probes the national security ramifications of the Petraeus scandal with a series of closed-door hearings this week.

On Thursday, the Senate and House intelligence committees will meet with the acting CIA director, Michael Morell, and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to try to clarify any link between General Petraeuss actions and the CIA response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

In particular, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D) of California says she wants to know what Petraeus learned from a trip he took to Libya in late October.

But first on Wednesday, House intelligence leaders will sit down with the FBIs deputy director, Sean Joyce, and Mr. Morell to try to answer some of the basic questions left unanswered in the wake of Petraeuss resignation. The celebrated four-star general stepped down last Friday after an FBI investigation into a case of cyberharassment led to evidence of the spy chiefs affair with a former military intelligence officer who was also his biographer.

The House intelligence leaders want to know who knew what when, and in particular why it took so long for investigators to inform the White House and congressional leaders of a matter involving the CIA director with possible national security implications.

The FBI is said to be establishing a timeline to present to members of Congress. To explain why a probe that is said to have begun in May as a criminal investigation did not come to Mr. Obamas attention until Nov. 8, FBI officials are likely to cite policies dating from the 1970s that prohibit the Bureau from sharing such information with the White House.

According to those policies, the FBI, as part of the Justice Department, is not supposed to share information about its criminal investigations with the White House. The FBI began its investigation into possible criminal activities after a woman, now identified as Jill Kelley, a family friend of David Petraeus and his wife Holly, reported receiving threatening e-mails.

The investigation revealed that the e-mails were from Paula Broadwell, who was subsequently identified as the woman carrying on an affair with Petraeus.

One problem with the Watergate explanation for why the FBI did not take what it discovered to the White House and intelligence leaders in Congress is that it conflicts with another requirement of federal law, which is that the executive branch keep Congresss intelligence committees informed about important intelligence activities. …

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