Lawmakers with authority over intelligence and national security expressed consternation on Sunday that the FBI investigation that led to the resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus could have been conducted without the knowledge of officials in the White House or Congress. They also voiced puzzlement that it came to a head within hours of US President Barack Obama’s re-election.
US Senator Dianne Feinstein and the US Senate’s Intelligence Committee chairwoman, said she wanted to know why the FBI had not notified her and other intelligence committee leaders about Petraeus’ affair; she said she learned of it only from news reports on Friday and was dumbstruck when he confirmed it later in a telephone call with her.
Questioned on Fox News Sunday, Feinstein said that she would investigate why the FBI did not notify her committee beforehand.
The incident “could have had an effect on national security,” Feinstein said, “we should have been told.”
She also said that there was “absolutely not” a link between the resignation of Petraeus and the Sept. 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya. The CIA has been criticized for providing a flawed early report about the attack.
Petraeus resigned on Friday after news of his affair with Paula Broadwell, a former member of the military who had written a biography of Petraeus, was made public. The FBI began an investigation last summer after it received a report from a woman who said she had received threatening e-mails ultimately traced to Broadwell.
The woman, identified as Jill Kelley, 37, of Tampa, Florida, is a friend of Petraeus and his wife, Holly. The e-mails related to Kelley’s relationship with Broadwell, according to government officials.
In a statement released on Sunday night, Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, did not address their involvement in the investigation that ultimately led to Petraeus’ resignation. The Kelleys said they had been friends with Petraeus “and his family for over five years.”
“We respect his and his family’s privacy, and want the same for us and our three children,” the family said in a statement.
Lawmakers appearing on Sunday television programs broadly praised Petraeus personally, lauding him in warm and even emotional terms as a leader of rare talent, his resignation a loss to the nation, his personal flaws a secondary concern to some.
“David Petraeus is a great leader, a great patriot, and he is a guy who has probably contributed more to the safety of the United States of America over the last decade than any one single individual,” Senator Saxby Chambliss and vice chairman of the US Senate’s Intelligence Committee, said on the ABC program This Week.
He said he believed that Petraeus had been “straight up” with the committee during his confirmation hearing last year. He was confirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate on June 30.
However, there was no shortage of questions on Sunday about the investigation and the timing of the thunderbolt that was Petraeus’ resignation.
“The timeline has to be looked at and analyzed,” US Representative Peter King, chairman of the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Because obviously this was a matter involving a potential compromise of security and the president should have been told about it at the earliest stage.”
Chambliss said that the committee might at some point want to hear from Petraeus about Benghazi, but that the acting CIA chief and Petraeus’ deputy, Michael Morell, should be an adequate substitute during a closed briefing scheduled for Thursday.