Thursday, November 15, 2012

CIA Investigates Petraeus Affair as Lawmakers Press Libya Attack Inquiry

November 15, 2012

C.I.A. Investigates Petraeus Affair as Lawmakers Press Libya Attack Inquiry

New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s inspector general has started an investigation into the general conduct of David H. Petraeus, who resigned last week as the C.I.A.’s director after admitting to having an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

The inquiry will focus largely on whether Mr. Petraeus misused the trappings and perquisites of his position, including security details, private jets and special accommodations, to facilitate the affair, a person familiar with the investigation said.

There is no evidence so far to suggest Mr. Petraeus did so, said agency officials, who notified the House and Senate Intelligence Committees of the matter on Thursday. But given the extraordinary circumstances, agency officials thought it prudent to have the inspector general review Mr. Petraeus’s conduct.

“An investigation is exploratory and doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome,” said Preston Golson, a C.I.A. spokesman.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Thursday that the F.B.I. investigation into a cyberstalking case that revealed the affair concluded that e-mails Mr. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell exchanged did not violate national security.

Speaking at a news conference in New Orleans to announce a settlement with the oil company BP, Mr. Holder said the White House and Congress were not notified about Mr. Petraeus’s situation until last week because the national security concerns had been allayed.

“As we went through the investigation, we looked at the facts and tried to examine them as they developed,” Mr. Holder said. “We felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist that warranted the sharing of that information with the White House or with the Hill.”

The spotlight will turn to Mr. Petraeus on Friday, when he testifies in closed session to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — not about his affair, though that may well come up, but mainly about the attacks on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Mr. Petraeus gave his first interview since resigning, telling Kyra Phillips of CNN that he had never given classified information to Ms. Broadwell and that his resignation had been solely because of their relationship. He said it had nothing to do with disagreements over the attack on the American Mission and a C.I.A. safe house in Benghazi.

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 and Senate Intelligence Committees were James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; Michael J. Morell, the acting C.I.A. director; and Sean Joyce, the deputy F.B.I. director.

After a four-hour closed hearing on Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee, said the panel had reviewed a detailed chronology of the attack on Sept. 11 that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. It included a video made from a composite of sources, including Predator drone video of the events that night.

Ms. Feinstein said that in addition to meeting with Mr. Petraeus on Friday to hear his account of the attack — as well as an assessment of a visit he made just two weeks ago to the C.I.A.’s station in Tripoli, Libya’s capital — the committee would hold at least three additional hearings on the matter.

“We are in effect fact-finding,” she said.

Ms. Feinstein and the panel’s senior Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, declined to tell reporters what questions they had asked the witnesses, but Mr. Chambliss and his colleagues said previously they would examine possible intelligence flaws, security lapses and the Obama administration’s handling of the issue.

“Were mistakes made?” Mr. Chambliss said. “We know mistakes were made, and we’ve got to learn from that.”

Earlier in the day, the same administration officials faced tough questioning from members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said after the hearing that he was satisfied the F.B.I. 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.

Leading Republicans, including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, for suggesting that the siege in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest rather than an opportunistic terrorist attack.

But Mr. Ruppersberger said on Thursday that this criticism was unfair and that the intelligence community’s assessment of what had happened was now roughly what Ms. Rice recounted on several Sunday talk shows. “You had a group of extremists who took advantage of a situation, and unfortunately we lost four American lives,” he said.

Mr. Ruppersberger also underscored what intelligence officials have said for weeks: that the attack on the diplomatic mission seemed disorganized, and without good command and control, but that the second attack, a mortar strike on the C.I.A. base nearly eight hours later, was much more sophisticated. It was clearly the work of terrorists, he said.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat on the panel, said that Benghazi would be the main focus of Friday’s hearing, but that lawmakers still had many questions “with respect to the facts about the allegations against General Petraeus.”

While the intelligence committees questioned witnesses behind closed doors, Democrats and Republican sparred openly at a hearing on Benghazi by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which heard testimony from outside experts.

Michael J. Courts, a specialist from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, told lawmakers that his agency warned three years ago in a report that the State Department’s diplomatic security division had failed to devise an effective strategic plan to deal with a growing number of operational challenges in increasingly dangerous overseas posts like Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.

Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican on the committee, suggested that the United States had been ill-prepared to cope with the threats posed in eastern Libya on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, despite a string of assaults against the Red Cross and Western diplomats in the previous several months. “Somebody forgot to circle the calendar on 9/11,” he said.

Others, like Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who visited Libya in May, said that the Foreign Service was inherently dangerous in certain places, but that American diplomats needed to keep doing their jobs.

Libya was a case in point, Mr. Connolly said.

“When I landed at Tripoli, there was a militia, not the government, guarding the airport in Tripoli,” he said. “It’s an inherently unstable situation after 40 years of autocratic rule by Qaddafi. Tragedies happen.”

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