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Mistress' emails shocked Petraeus

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

TAMPA — CIA Director David Petraeus was shocked to learn last summer that his mistress was suspected of sending threatening emails warning another woman to stay away from him, former staff members and friends said on Monday.

Petraeus told these associates that his relationship with the second woman, Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, was platonic, though his biographer-turned-lover Paula Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival. Retired Army Gen. Petraeus denied to these associates that he had given Broadwell any of the sensitive military information alleged to have been found on her computer, saying anything she had must have been provided by other commanders during reporting trips to Afghanistan.

The associates spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matters, which could be part of an FBI investigation.

Petraeus, who led military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned his CIA post on Friday, acknowledging his extramarital affair with Broadwell and expressing deep regret.

New details of the investigation that brought an end to his storied career emerged as President Obama hunted for a new CIA director and members of Congress questioned why the months-long probe was kept quiet for so long.

Kelley, the Tampa woman, began receiving harassing emails in May, according to two federal law enforcement officials. They, too, spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The emails led Kelley to report the matter, eventually triggering the investigation that led Petraeus to resign.

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.

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic “dropbox,” the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

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 senior law enforcement officials said. But the FBI continued its investigation into whether Petraeus had any role in the harassing emails.

FBI agents contacted Petraeus, and he was told that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer. He assured investigators that 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.

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 Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. 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.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asked about Petraeus' resignation on Monday, said he saw it as a “very sad situation to have him end his career like that.” Panetta was CIA director prior to Petraeus.

“I think he took the right step” by resigning, Panetta added.

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