Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Petraeus’ Mistress Won’t Face Cyberstalking Charges
Paula Broadwell, the mistress and biographer of retired Gen. David Petraeus, won’t be indicted for harassing e-mails she anonymously sent about Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. That’s according to a December 14 letter from the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, announcing an end to the cyberstalking investigation which Broadwell’s lawyer passed on to reporters.
“We are pleased with the decision, and are pleased with the professionalism of the Tampa United States Attorney’s Office,” lawyer Robert Muse said in a statement released to the press.
The remaining question now is whether Broadwell or anyone else will face additional charges of improperly receiving or using classified information. Sources familiar with the case say Broadwell’s attorneys haven’t been notified that she’s the subject or target of any investigation. (A Justice Department representative didn’t return a request for comment.) Yet that was the rationale for the FBI taking her computer in November, which Reuters reported contained “substantial classified information that should have been stored under more secure conditions.” Absent any charges for leaking, the basis for the entire scandal that ended Petraeus’ career will go up in smoke.
It was always questionable for the FBI to pursue a cyberstalking investigation against Broadwell, who used an anonymous e-mail account, “kelleypatrol,” to tell Florida-based military officers like Marine Gen. John Allen that socialite Kelley was bad news. One former federal prosecutor told Danger Room that it was “highly irregular” for the FBI to take up such cases. The investigation apparently got launched after Kelley informed a friend of hers at the FBI, Frederick W. Humphries II, that someone on the internet was harassing her.
Whatever its origins, the FBI cyberstalking inquiry lit a flame that eventually torched Petraeus. Investigators soon discovered that Broadwell was behind “kelleypatrol”; that Petraeus and Broadwell passed each other information using drafts saved in an email account both had access to; that Broadwell’s hard drives or email accounts contained sensitive information; and, of course, that Broadwell and Petraeus conducted an affair. Humpries, reportedly dissatisfied with the inquiry, alerted Republican members of Congress to the Broadwell/Petraeus investigation. Those legislators took their concerns to FBI Director Robert Mueller in late October, who passed them on to Petraeus’ boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper suggested Petraeus resign.
That’s not the only inquiry afoot. The CIA inspector general is investigating, among other issues, whether Petraeus used his CIA resources to conduct his affair. At the Defense Department, another inspector general is wading through mountains of supposedly “flirtatious” emails between Allen and Kelley to see if the Marine general and Afghanistan war commander violated military restrictions on adultery. That inquiry has already derailed Allen’s nomination to become the new NATO commander.
All of that started with a cyberstalking concern that the Justice Department has now found too flimsy to prosecute. Mishandling of classified information is a more serious charge, particularly for a former Army intelligence officer like Broadwell or an ex-CIA director like Petraeus. Broadwell and Petraeus have become fodder for late-night comics and supermarket tabloids, but Broadwell at least just steered clear of her first major legal hurdle.