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A web of webmail: trick Petraeus and his lover used to conceal their messages

27/07/2018 / by admin

Petraeus wife ‘furious’ about affair’Not jealous lover warning emails’FBI agent under investigation for shirtless imagesTimeline of Petraeus case
Nanjing Night Net

Former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell used a trick known to terrorists and teenagers alike to conceal their email traffic to each other, a US media report says.

The concealed affair between the pair has led to an investigation by the FBI and the resignation of Petraeus from his country’s top spy post.

New details of the investigation that brought an end to Petraeus’s storied career have emerged, as US lawmakers demanded to know why President Barack Obama was not informed for several months that his CIA chief was under investigation and as the President hunted for a new CIA director.

The FBI agent who launched the investigation into the harassing emails was also reportedly under scrutiny following his superiors’ fears he had become personally involved in the case, including allegedly sending shirtless images of himself to the woman who received the emails, The Wall Street Journalreported on Tuesday, citing anonymous officials.

The FBI had found that Petraeus and Broadwell did not send emails to their Gmail account inboxes. Instead, they composed messages and rather transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or an electronic “dropbox”, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press.

The other person could log on to the same account and read the draft emails there, avoiding the creation of an email trail that is easier to trace.

Email exchanges

The FBI was first drawn to Broadwell after Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, who revealed she was a longtime friend of Petraeus, said she began receiving harassing emails in May, a federal law enforcement official told AP.

The emails led Kelley to report the matter. FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell, the officials said, and discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private Gmail account. Further investigation revealed the account belonged to Petraeus under an alias.

Broadwell had co-authored a biography titled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, published in January. In the preface, she said she met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.

But the contents of the email exchanges between Petraeus and Broadwell suggested to FBI agents that their relationship was intimate. The FBI concluded relatively quickly – by late summer at the latest – that no security breach had occurred, the two officials said. But the FBI continued its investigation into whether Petraeus had any role in the harassing emails.

‘Not jealous lover warning emails’

Newsweek’s The Daily Beast cited a source in a story published on Tuesday saying that the emails to Kelley were not of the “stay away from my man” variety.

Instead, they were “kind of cat-fight stuff”, the sources said. “More like, ‘Who do you think you are? … You parade around the base … You need to take it down a notch.'”

The source said Kelley did not know who the emails were from and what they were about.

“I don’t know who this person is and I don’t want to keep getting them,” the source said she told the FBI.

“No ‘I’ll kill you’ or ‘I’ll burn your house down’. It doesn’t seem really that bad,” the source told the Daily Beast.

“[The FBI] weren’t seeing this as the crime of the century.”

Shirtless photos sent to Kelley by FBI agent

At the same time, the FBI agent who started the investigation was barred from taking part in the Petraeus case after he launched it when his bosses become concerned he had become obsessed with the case, the unnamed officials told the Journal.

The FBI officials reportedly found out that the agent, who they did not name, sent shirtless photographs of himself to Kelley.

The agent then contacted a member of Congress after being barred from the case, apparently due to fears the FBI would bury it, the officials said.

Sensitive Afghan documents on Broadwell computer

Petraeus, 60, told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, 40, a couple of months after he became the director of the CIA late last year. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding US troops overseas, the associate said.

FBI agents contacted Petraeus, who led US military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he was told that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and he mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders she visited in the field there. The FBI concluded there was no security breach.

One associate also said Petraeus believes the documents described past operations and had already been declassified, although they might have still been marked as “secret”. Broadwell had high security clearances on her own as part of her job as a reserve army major working for military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the Petraeus biography.

Broadwell’s CIA Benghazi claims

During a talk last month at the University of Denver, Broadwell raised eyebrows when she said the CIA had detained people at a secret facility in Benghazi, Libya, and the September 11 attack on the US Consulate and CIA base there was an effort to free those prisoners.

Obama issued an executive order in January 2009 stripping the CIA of its authority to take prisoners. The move meant the CIA was forbidden from operating secret jails across the globe as it had under President George W. Bush.

CIA spokesman Preston Golson said: “Any suggestion that the agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless.”

Broadwell did not say who told her about CIA activities in Libya. The video of Broadwell’s speech was posted on YouTube by the University of Denver. It was removed from YouTube by the university on Monday after an internal review but reposted later with a different link, Politico reported.

Should top spies use webmail?

The use of at least one private Gmail account by Petraeus also prompted some commentators in the US media to ask if public servants in such sensitive positions should be allowed to use webmail while they work for the government.

Foreign Policy magazine said in a blog that “it just seems a little odd that these people with access to incredible secrets use the same email services the rest of us do”.

“If hacked, these emails could reveal plenty about the personal lives of their owners. Hackers probably wouldn’t find state secrets, but they could find plenty of personal information – travel plans, info about friends and family, online purchases, bank accounts, the list goes on and on.

“As Google knows for business purposes, a look at someone’s email can paint a pretty valuable picture of who they are. Google uses this information to sell ads tailored to your interests. You can imagine what spies would do with it.”

Petraeus deeply regrets affair: friend

Numerous Petraeus friends and associates have spoken to the media since his resignation, saying that the former director was remorseful about the affair.

“He regrets it on so many levels that I don’t think anyone can really imagine how this has affected both his family and himself and, to some degree, the nation,” friend and former Petraeus spokesman Steve Boylan, who said he spoke to the former top spy over the weekend, told AFP.

“He regrets the poor judgment and the lack of discipline more than we can probably put into words.”

Petraeus informed Holly, his wife of 38 years, before the news broke last week, though Boylan was unaware of exactly how long she may have known about the affair.

“To say she is disappointed and furious would probably be a huge understatement at this point,” he said.

Petraeus’s senior adviser throughout the US campaign in Iraq, Sadi Othman, told CNN his affair was “uncharacteristic”.

“You could tell me anybody else and I would say ‘yes’, but not him… What happened? I do not know. How? I do not know.

“He’s very sad. Very remorseful about what happened – about what he did. His focus now is on his family and to repair the damage that has been done because of this mistake that he made.”

Petraeus was ‘right’ to resign: Panetta

As the FBI criminal investigation into the emails continued, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta told reporters aboard a US military jet bound for Australia on Tuesday that Petraeus “took the right step” in resigning.

Panetta, who led the Central Intelligence Agency for two years before moving to the Defence Department, said it was “a very sad situation to have a very distinguished career like that end in this manner”.

“My heart obviously goes out to him and his family. But I think he took the right step.

“I think it’s important when you’re director of the CIA, with all of the challenges that face you in that position, that personal integrity comes first and foremost.”

Asked about complaints from lawmakers that President Barack Obama’s White House had failed to inform Congress the FBI was investigating emails between Petraeus and his lover, Panetta admitted those concerns needed to be examined.

“That’s another issue I think we ought to look at,” said Panetta, who served as a member of the House of Representatives for years, AFP reported.

“As a former director of the CIA, and having worked very closely with the intelligence committees, I believe that there is a responsibility to make sure the intelligence committees are informed of issues that could affect the security of those intelligence operations.”

AP, smh南京夜网.au and AFP

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