ROBERT LAHSER/The Charlotte Observer/Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Former CIA director David Petraeus will likely be called to testify during upcoming congressional hearings into the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, despite his abrupt resignation last week over an affair with his biographer, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Monday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., expressing deep concern about the need to hear from Petraeus, also threatened to subpoena records detailing a trip that the former CIA director made to Libya in the weeks before his resignation. Feinstein said congressional leaders have been blocked from reviewing the report. House and Senate committees open a series of hearings into the Benghazi matter this week.
“That’s unacceptable,’’ she said in an interview on MSNBC. “We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate on a subpoena we will do just that … It may have some very relevant information to what happened in Benghazi.”
Meanwhile, details about the FBI investigation that revealed Petraeus’ affair with Paula Broadwell – and ultimately prompted his resignation – continued to be disclosed Monday.
FBI agents were searching Broadwell’s Charlotte home late Monday, FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said. Lynch would not say what prompted the search. Earlier Monday, Feinstein said the FBI concluded that no classified material had been compromised. In addition to personal e-mail accounts, Broadwell and Petraeus took pains to disguise some of their personal communications, sometimes leaving messages for each other in joint electronic accounts that only they could access, a federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY. The official has been briefed on the matter, but is not authorized to speak publicly. Broadwell also allegedly used electronic accounts, other than her personal e-mail accounts, to send a series of harassing messages to a Petraeus family friend, the official said. That friend, identified as Jill Kelley, 37, of Tampa, later reported the communications to the FBI, launching the broader inquiry that revealed the Petraeus-Broadwell relationship and concerns about whether classified information held by the then-CIA director might be at risk. No sensitive information was found to be compromised, Feinstein said. Kelley, an unpaid social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, shared her initial concerns about the messages with an acquaintance at the FBI, the federal law enforcement official said. That agent then passed the information to the bureau’s cybercrime investigators who began the inquiry. Apparently concerned that the investigation was not being handled properly, the agent expressed his concerns in late October to Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. Reichert then referred the agent to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who spoke to the agent and then instructed his staff to alert FBI Director Robert Mueller. The federal law enforcement official said that Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder had been informed of the investigation in the summer. In another development, the FBI is reviewing the behavior of that agent because he allegedly sent a shirtless photo of himself to Kelley before she brought the harassment allegations to him, the official said. The matter is a performance issue.
Petraeus and Broadwell have not been available for comment. Kelley and her husband, Scott, issued a statement Sunday through a spokeswoman, saying only: “We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years. We respect his and his family’s privacy and want the same for us and our three children.’’
In addition to the pending Benghazi investigation, Feinstein said congressional leaders would also question FBI official about why they weren’t briefed on inquiry that triggered Petraeus’ resignation.
Feinstein said it was a “mistake” to keep congressional leaders in the dark during the FBI’s e-mail probe, comparing the unfolding scandal to “peeling an onion.”
“Every day another peel comes off and you see a whole new dimension to this,” she said. “So, my concern has actually escalated over the last few days.”
She called the decision of the FBI whistle-blower to inform House members of the investigation “deeply disturbing.”
The FBI did not brief the White House or congressional intelligence committees after learning this summer of Petraeus’ romantic involvement with his biographer because there was no evidence that classified material had been compromised, the federal law enforcement official said.
The official said the inquiry – which first focused on Broadwell’s alleged harassing e-mails – revealed no national security threats and was handled internally like other criminal investigations, despite its link to the CIA director.
“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 there only concerns about an intelligence issue.’’