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What did the president know about Petraeus and why didn’t he know it sooner?

Reuters has come up the following purported time line of the events leading to General Petraeus’ resignation:

Spring 2006: Paula Broadwell meets David Petraeus at a Harvard University function.

2008: Broadwell decides to pursue a doctorate in public policy and conduct a case study on Petraeus’ leadership. Petraeus invites her to go on a run in Washington, D.C.

2010: Petraeus is put in charge of the war in Afghanistan and Broadwell would visit and observe him in Afghanistan.

August 2011: Petraeus retires after nearly four decades in the U.S. Army.

September 6, 2011: Petraeus sworn in as CIA director.

January 2012: Biography of Petraeus co-authored by Broadwell, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” is published.

2011-2012: Broadwell and Petraeus extramarital affair started after he left military service and ended about four months ago.

Sometime within the past four or five months – one official said “early summer” – a woman complained to the FBI about harassing emails that were later determined to have been written by Broadwell. In the course of investigating that complaint, the FBI discovered an affair between Broadwell and Petraeus.

Week of October 21: Federal investigators interview Broadwell.

Week of October 28: Federal investigators interview Petraeus. Prosecutors conclude afterward they likely will not bring criminal charges.

Tuesday, November 6, Election Day, at about 5 p.m.: the FBI notifies Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who oversees the CIA and other intelligence agencies, about Petraeus. Clapper speaks to Petraeus that evening and again Wednesday and advises him to step down.

Wednesday, November 7: Clapper informs White House National Security Council official that Petraeus may resign and President Barack Obama should be informed. The president is told about it later that day.

Thursday, November 8: At 11 a.m. a Petraeus meeting with foreign dignitaries scheduled for 2:30 p.m. is canceled and his visitors are informed he has to go to the White House to meet with Obama. Petraeus meets with Obama at the White House and offers his resignation, explaining the circumstances behind it. Obama did not immediately accept the resignation.

Friday, November 9 – Obama calls Petraeus and accepts his resignation.

As you can see, the time line does not say when Petraeus’ extra-marital affair began, just that it commenced after the General’s resignation from the Army in August 2011. The affair is said to have ended roughly four months ago, i.e., in the summer of this year.

The time line also does not say when the FBI learned of the affair. However, it apparently began its investigation in early summer, and presumably learned of the affair not too long thereafter. On the other hand, it we believe the time line, it didn’t interview the two participants in the affair until late October. Why not earlier?

Finally, there’s the question of when President Obama was first informed about the affair. Although it’s a little vague on this point, the time line suggests that this didn’t occur until November 7, the day after the election.

This strikes me as odd. Shouldn’t the president have been informed promptly that his CIA Director was compromised by virtue of an extra-marital affair? Indeed, shouldn’t he have been informed promptly that the DCIA was under investigation for this?

It also appears that the FBI did not inform the relevant members of Congress of the affair before the election. This has led to serious concerns about why they were not informed earlier. Indeed, Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has stated that her committee “should have been told” earlier, and that it will investigate why it wasn’t.

Feinstein’s complain is well-founded. According to Tom Dupree, a former Justice Department official, “the FBI would have been well advised to notify Congress as soon as it had reasonable ground to suspect Petraeus of misconduct and had begun an investigation.” The reason is clear. As Dupree explained, “given the obvious significance of this information as to whether Petraeus could continue to serve as CIA Director, it is something Congress would plainly have wanted to know given its impact on US intelligence operations.”

This reasoning applies even more forcefully to the President Obama. If the affair is something Congress plainly would have wanted to know about, it is something about which the President needed to know.

Thus, if Obama truly wasn’t informed until after the election, this represents inexcusable negligence on the part of the Justice Department. If, on the other hand, Obama was informed before then, this raises another set of very serious questions.

UPDATE: According to the time line, the FBI didn’t inform James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, about the Petraeus matter until election day. If true, this is shocking, as Clapper oversees the intelligence community.

Why would Clapper have been kept out of the loop? Perhaps because he would have insisted that Petraeus be removed much earlier.

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