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NYT Defends FBI’s Probe Of Kelley’s Emails

From the New York Times:

Motives Questioned in F.B.I. Inquiry of Petraeus E-Mails

By SCOTT SHANE and CHARLIE SAVAGE | November 12, 2012

WASHINGTON — Is a string of angry e-mails really enough, in an age of boisterous online exchanges, to persuade the F.B.I. to open a cyberstalking investigation?

Sometimes the answer is yes, law enforcement officials and legal experts said Monday — especially if the e-mails in question reflect an inside knowledge of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

That was true of the e-mails sent anonymously to Jill Kelley, a friend of the C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus, which prompted the F.B.I. office in Tampa, Fla., to begin an investigation last June. The inquiry traced the e-mails to Mr. Petraeus’s biographer, Paula Broadwell, exposed their extramarital affair and led Friday to his resignation after 14 months as head of the intelligence agency.

And yet the FBI took weeks to being their investigation of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

On Monday night, F.B.I. agents went to Ms. Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, N.C., and were seen carrying away what several reporters at the scene said were boxes of documents. A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case remains open, said Ms. Broadwell had consented to the search.

In fact, we’re told the FBI searched Mrs. Broadwell’s house for more than four hours. Meanwhile, they reportedly spent less than three hours searching the remains of the US consulate in Benghazi. And, from all accounts, they left plenty of important material behind.

Some commentators have questioned whether the bureau would ordinarily investigate a citizen complaint about unwanted e-mails, suggesting that there must have been a hidden motive, possibly political, to take action.

Gee, what could those political motives have been? What with Benghazi coming out right before the election.

But law enforcement officials insisted on Monday that the case was handled “on the merits.” The cyber squad at the F.B.I.’s Tampa field office opened an investigation, after consulting with federal prosecutors, based on what appeared to be a legitimate complaint about e-mail harassment.

The complaint was more intriguing, the officials acknowledged, because the author of the e-mails, which criticized Ms. Kelley for supposed flirtatious behavior toward Mr. Petraeus at social events, seemed to have an insider’s knowledge of the C.I.A. director’s activities. One e-mail accused Ms. Kelley of “touching” Mr. Petraeus inappropriately under a dinner table.

The contents of the email do not appear to indicate "harassment." There were no physical threats. So what was the crime?

Note that even this article does not claim that it was a matter of national security. So why did the FBI get involved?

And, once they were involved, why didn’t they tell anyone about it? Especially, those charged with oversight in Congress.

“There was a legitimate case to open on the facts, with the support of the prosecutors,” said the official who described the search at Ms. Broadwell’s home. He added, “They asked, does somebody know more about Petraeus than you’d expect?”

Ms. Kelley, a volunteer with wounded veterans and military families, brought her complaint to a rank-and-file agent she knew from a previous encounter with the F.B.I. office, the official also said. That agent, who had previously pursued a friendship with Ms. Kelley and had earlier sent her shirtless photographs of himself, was “just a conduit” for the complaint, he said. He had no training in cybercrime, was not part of the cyber squad handling the case and was never assigned to the investigation.

But the agent, who was not identified, continued to “nose around” about the case, and eventually his superiors “told him to stay the hell away from it, and he was not invited to briefings,” the official said. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Monday night that the agent had been barred from the case.

Later, the agent became convinced — incorrectly, the official said — that the case had stalled. Because of his “worldview,” as the official put it, he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama. The agent alerted Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who called the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, on Oct. 31 to tell him of the agent’s concerns.

The official said the agent’s self-described “whistle-blowing” was “a little embarrassing” but had no effect on the investigation.

Ah, he sounds like a Republican. Which explains why we are hearing all the embarrassing details about the ‘shirtless’ photo.

David H. Laufman, who served as a federal prosecutor in national security cases from 2003 to 2007, said, “there’s a lot of chatter and noise about cybercrimes,” and most of it does not lead to an investigation. But he added, “It’s plausible to me that if Ms. Kelley indicated that the stalking was related to her friendship with the C.I.A. director, that would have elevated it as a priority for the bureau.”

Orin S. Kerr, a George Washington University law professor who specializes in computer crime issues, said it was “surprising that they would devote the resources” to investigating who was behind a half-dozen harassing e-mails.

“The F.B.I. gets a lot of tips, and investigating any one case requires an agent or a few agents to spend a lot of time,” he said. “They can’t do this for every case, and the issue is, why this one case?” …

Especially, where they were not threatening. There does not seem to be any talk of Blackwell taking action, like burning down Mrs. Kelley’s house.

Mr. Petraeus’s former colleagues in the Obama administration have said little about the circumstances preceding his resignation. But on Monday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A. before Mr. Petraeus, criticized the F.B.I. for not informing members of the Congressional intelligence committees of its investigation.

“As a former director of the C.I.A., and having worked very closely with the intelligence committees, I believe that there is a responsibility to make sure that the intelligence committees are informed of issues that could affect the security of those intelligence operations,” he said on a flight to Australia…

Like Hillary, Mr. Panetta is getting a physically far away from Washington as possible this week.

By the way, used to have this line in it:

Under military regulations, adultery can be a crime. At the C.I.A., it can be a security issue, because it can make an intelligence officer vulnerable to blackmail, but it is not a crime.

That has been removed for some reason. Maybe because by admitting that there was no actual crime being investigated by the FBI, Eric Holder and Robert Mueller do not have any excuse for not telling Congress and the White House about all of this.

Not that the so-called "longstanding tradition" of the Justice Department not reporting on ongoing investigations should apply here anyway. Not when the country’s top intelligence officer is involved.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “NYT Defends FBI’s Probe Of Kelley’s Emails”

  1. Petronius

    Isn’t it odd that the FBI can devote months of time and resources to investigating somebody’s annoying emails?

    But when a judge and his wife receive death threats from the Teamsters Union . . . well, we’re really sorry, but we can’t help you. We’re just too darn busy.

    And when the judge is beaten half to death in public, the FBI’s response is . . . move along folks, nothing to see here.

    And while the judge spends months in the ICU, and eventually dies of his injuries, the FBI is unable to launch an investigation. Can’t even open up a case file.

    No, it just wouldn’t be right, not when they’ve got so many more important matters to see to.


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