Belmont Club

This Is Not Watergate

Ed Epstein, the author of Three Days in May: Sex, Surveillance, and DSK, asks a number of questions in an e-mail. Epstein once again uses the same basic approach that he used to get the DSK story right: he looks at the timelines and minutely examines the available documents and records.

I’ve inserted my own thoughts in brackets. This is an open thread.

1. When and where did the sexual liaison between Paula Broadwell begin? Was it before, during, or after the FBI conducted its mandatory background check on General Petraeus in 2011?

[Any possible adultery charges against DP hinge on whether he began the affair while still in the military.]

2. When did General Petraeus, who was authorized to access top secret documents, and Paula Broadwell, collaborate to set up anonymous gmail accounts and exchange passwords to them? For what period, were these “drop boxes” to evade a US intelligence surveillance of internet providers through the device of storing drafts of unsent emails?

[The use of this device indicates a very poor understanding of computer security. Gmail detects the IP from which a service is accessed. If for example, you attempt to access an account simltaneously from Washington and Australia, Gmail may flag it and prompt the user that “you do not appear to be the same person”. Because it may track the locations of access, the “drop box” method is really insecure.

3. It is reported that Paula Broadwell, a former military intelligence officer, under pseudonym “KelleyPatrol” sent an email to General John Allen, the former deputy to General Petraeus in Tampa, warning him that Gilberte Khawam Kelley was a “seductress.” If so, what date was this warning to General Allen sent?

[If Jilly Kelley were hypothetically a foreign agent, why should she go to the FBI? Her willingness to approach the Bureau strongly suggests she had nothing to fear from the administration.]

4. It is further reported General Allen, who exchanged 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails with Kelley, told Kelley of the anonymous warning. If so, what date did this occur?

[Moreover, how did such volumes of correspondence come to be generated? There is no suggestion they are official documents (which could account for the length). They are described as inappropriate. Are they sexually charged? If so 30,000 pages represents a volume of porn 20 times the length of War and Peace.]

5. It is reported Kelley consulted a friend in the Tampa FBI field office in May 2012, What was exact date? Was it after she received news of the warning from General Allen?

[Let us call this Date1]

6. When did the FBI determine “drop boxes” were being used by Paula Broadwell?

[Let us call this Date2. Is Date1 < Date2?]

7. The FBI reportedly obtained a warrant by showing show probable cause of a crime to search the anonymous accounts. If this was a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant, what crime did the FBI allege it was investigating? What date did it obtained this warrant?

[Suppose the FBI was already engaged in a surveillance of some kind, but did not wish to reveal that this was ongoing. Could the Jill Kelley request have provided the justification to ‘discover’ what was already by then known? In other words was Broadwell investigation simply a way of legally introducing something already in the administration’s possession?]

8. When was General Petraeus told by FBI it was investigating anonymous gmail accounts? Was it done through the FBI liaison with the CIA?

[According to reports Petraeus believed that he could keep his job at CIA. This suggests that he did not think the Broadwell/Kelley affair rose to a matter of state. Like Kelley, he did not appear to have anything serious to hide.]

9. When did FBI determine Paula Broadwell was in possession of classified data on her computer?

[This is probably the key question. On it hinges the character of the investigation; whether it was being pursued for its own sake, i.e. national security, or whether the elements are being added to it like a chocolate sundae in order to motivate the persons under investigation. In other words, if the threat of a crime is being held over Petraeus head then his testimony before Congress has already been written by the administration.]

10. It is reported that General Petraeus told Paula Broadwell to stop sending anonymous letters, If so, was it after he learned of the FBI investigation? In any case, when did General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell last communicate?

[The last time? How about via a drop in Rock Creek park?]

President Obama could have fired Petraeus by simply deciding he wanted to appoint someone else.  Petraeus was serving at his pleasure. Obama wanted to avoid scandal before the election, but suddenly lost his coyness afterward. He could have removed Petraeus for some other, innocuous reason and buried the scandal if no crimes were involved.

Or is the point of the whole exercise not to remove Petraeus, which could have been done at any time, but to destroy him? To ensure that he was so tainted that nothing he said about events in the past or his opinions about the future would be given any public weight? Perhaps there are more parallels to the DSK affair and Petraeus scandal than we think. In both cases prominent men were removed from the political chessboard by the titillating use of surveillance information.


Here are links to the biographies of senior officers who have recently been reassigned, demoted or are under investigation. They are not in Ed Epstein’s timeline, but may be useful as background milestones.

RADM Charles Gaouette, USN, Commander of the Stennis battlegroup, recalled Oct 17, 2012 as his force entered the Fifth Fleet’s area of operations. “The Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy is responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and coast off East Africa as far south as Kenya.”

General Carter Ham, USA, AfricaCom. Replacement announced Oct 18, 2012.

General John Allen, USMC, ISAF Commander, linked to ‘inappropriate’ emails, mid-November, 2012.

David Petraeus, Director, Central Intelligence Agency, resigned November 9, 2012.

General William E. Ward USA, former AfricaCom commander, demotion announced Nov 13, 2012.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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