U.S. officials say FBI discovered Petraeus affair in summer

But law enforcement officials did not notify anyone outside the FBI or the Justice Department until last week because the investigation was incomplete and initial concerns about possible security breaches, which would demand more immediate action, did not appear to be justified, the officials said.

The new accounts of the events that led to Petraeus’s sudden resignation on Friday shed light on the competing pressures facing FBI agents who recognized the high stakes of any investigation involving the CIA director but who were wary of exposing a private affair with no criminal or security implications. For the first time Sunday, the woman whose report of harassing emails led to the exposure of the affair was identified as Jill Kelley, 37, of Tampa, Fla.

Some members of Congress have protested the delay in being notified of the FBI’s investigation of Petraeus until just after the presidential election. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that her committee would “absolutely” demand an explanation. An FBI case involving the CIA director “could have had an effect on national security,” she said on Fox News Sunday. “I think we should have been told.”

A close friend of the Petraeus family said Sunday that the intimate relationship between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, began after he retired from the military last year and about two months after he began work as CIA director. It ended about four months ago, said the friend, who did not want to be identified while discussing personal matters. In a letter to the CIA workforce on Friday, Petraeus acknowledged having the affair. Broadwell has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

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

The same Petraeus family friend confirmed on Sunday the identity of Kelley, whose complaint to the FBI about “harassing” emails, eventually traced to Broadwell, set the initial investigation in motion several months ago. Kelley, who along with her husband became friends with Petraeus and his wife, Holly, when Petraeus was head of the military’s Central Command, which has its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

The involvement of the FBI, according to government officials, began when Kelley, alarmed by about half a dozen anonymous emails accusing her of inappropriate flirtatious behavior with Petraeus, complained to an FBI agent who is also a personal friend. That agent, who has not been identified, helped get a preliminary inquiry started. Agents working with federal prosecutors in a local U.S. attorney’s office began trying to figure out whether the emails constituted criminal cyber-stalking.

Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques — including a check of what other email accounts had been accessed from the same computer address — to identify who was writing the emails.

Eventually they identified Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular email account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit emails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Petraeus’ account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.

Eventually they determined that Petraeus had indeed sent the messages to Broadwell and concluded that the two had had an affair. Then they turned their scrutiny on him, examining whether he knew about or was involved in sending the harassing emails to Kelley.

It was at that point — sometime in the late summer — that lower-level Justice Department officials notified supervisors that the case had become more complicated, and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section began working on the investigation as well.

It remains unclear whether the FBI also gained access to Petraeus’ personal email account, or if it relied only on emails discovered in Broadwell’s in-box. It also remains uncertain exactly when the information about Petraeus reached Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Robert S. Mueller III, the FBI director. Both men have declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the FBI agent who had helped get a preliminary inquiry started and learned of Petraeus’ affair and initial concerns about security breaches became frustrated. Apparently unaware that those concerns were largely resolved, the agent alerted the office of Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, about the inquiry in late October. Cantor passed on the concerns to Mueller.

Cantor revealed Saturday that he had talked with the FBI agent.

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