Petraeus inquiry examines other officials
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said he was unaware of any other top military officials who could turn out to be ensnared in the David Petraeus sex scandal as top national security officials testified before Congress.
Petraeus, the much-honored retired general, resigned his post at the head of the CIA last Friday after acknowledging an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The FBI began investigating the matter last summer but didn't notify the White House of Congress until after the election.
The CIA has opened an "exploratory" investigation into Petraeus' conduct. The inquiry "doesn't presuppose any particular outcome," said CIA spokesman Preston Golson. At the same time, Army officials say that, at this point, there is no appetite for recalling Petraeus to active duty to pursue any adultery charges against him.
In the course of investigating the Petraeus situation, the FBI uncovered suggestive emails between Gen. John Allen, in charge of the war in Afghanistan, and Florida socialite Jill Kelley, both of them married. President Barack Obama then put Allen's promotion nomination on hold.
Legislators went forward with a hearing on the nomination of Gen. Joseph Dunford to replace Allen in Afghanistan. But with Allen's own future uncertain, they put off consideration of his promotion to U.S. European Command chief and NATO supreme allied commander. Allen had initially been scheduled to testify.
Panetta, speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, gave new words of support to Allen, voicing "tremendous confidence" in the general.
Citing a string of ethical lapses by senior military officers, however, Panetta asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training and look for ways to help officers stay out of trouble.
Sen. John McCain opened Dunford's hearing with kind words for Allen, saying, "I continue to believe that General Allen is one of our best military leaders. And I continue to have confidence in his ability to lead the war in Afghanistan."
Leading administration officials, meanwhile, met privately with lawmakers for a third straight day to explain how the Petraeus investigation was handled and explore its national security implications. Among those appearing before the House Intelligence Committee: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Michael Morell.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger said after the hearing he was satisfied that the FBI had behaved properly in not notifying the White House or lawmakers about the inquiry sooner, in keeping with post-Watergate rules set up to prevent interference in criminal investigations.
But committee member Adam Schiff said lawmakers would continue to ask questions because "there's a lot of information we need ... with respect to the facts about the allegations against General Petraeus."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he expects Allen to eventually take over the European Command, but he acknowledged, "I see this investigation and how long it could take affecting that."
While Allen's nomination has been put on hold, the fact that it wasn't immediately withdrawn suggests there is at least some feeling that he could survive the investigation.
The initial expectation is that the Defense Department inspector general's probe into the emails will be done within weeks rather than months. The final decision would likely be made by Panetta and the White House after discussions with Capitol Hill leaders.
Even if Allen's move to NATO is shelved, Dunford's nomination to take Allen's place as the top US commander in Afghanistan will move forward.
Petraeus, in his first media interview since he resigned, told CNN that he had never given classified information to Broadwell. He also said his resignation had nothing to do with his upcoming testimony to Congress about the attack on the US Consulate and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, that caused the death of four Americans.
He told the network he wanted to testify about the Libya matter. And he'll have that opportunity on Friday, when he appears before the House Intelligence Committee. Committee officials planned to limit the subject of that hearing to Libya, ruling out questioning about the affair with Broadwell and any potential national security implications.
Both Petraeus and Broadwell have said she didn't get any classified documents from him. But the FBI has found a substantial number of classified documents on her computer and in her home, according to a law enforcement official. That official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Broadwell, a former Army intelligence officer, has told agents that she took classified documents out of secure government buildings. The Army has now suspended her security clearance.
Asked why the Justice Department did not inform the president and Congress regarding the investigation involving Petraeus, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday, "As we went through the investigation and looked at the facts and tried to examine them as they developed, we felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist."
Had there been a security threat, "we would of course have made that known to the president and also to the appropriate members on the Hill," the attorney general said at a New Orleans news conference on another topic.
Holder also said that "a very critical interview" took place November 2, the Friday before Election Day, and that afterward, the Justice Department thought it appropriate to share information with top Obama administration officials.
A federal law enforcement official said that Friday interview was with Broadwell and that the questioning reassured FBI agents that they knew what classified documents Broadwell had, where they came from and that they had not come from Petraeus.
It was a case of the agents becoming satisfied that they knew the complete story about the origin, range and scope of documents involved, according to this official, who demanded anonymity in order to discuss an ongoing case. On Nov. 6, the FBI informed National Intelligence Director James Clapper of the investigation.
The sales ranking of Broadwell's biography of Petraeus rose in the 24 hours after his resignation from 76,792 on Amazon to 111, but it had dropped to 280 as of Thursday.
OBAMA TOLD AT 'RIGHT TIME'
Attorney General Eric Holder has defended the Justice Department's decision to hold off informing President Barack Obama of an investigation that eventually caused CIA director David Petraeus to resign.
In his first public comments on the investigation that uncovered Petraeus' extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Holder said the department, which he heads, told the administration at the "appropriate" point.
"We felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist," Holder, the chief US law enforcement officer, told a news conference in New Orleans. If a threat had existed, the Justice Department "of course" would have informed Obama and US lawmakers, he said.