Holder said Justice Department officials “felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist that warranted the sharing” while the investigation was underway. He said a turning point came late in the investigation, after investigators conducted a final interview on Nov. 2 with Paula Broadwell, the Army Reserve officer who wrote a biography of Petraeus and became his mistress.
“When we got to that point where we thought it was appropriate to share the information, we did so,” Holder said. By then, the FBI had already interviewed Petraeus, who acknowledged the affair.
The FBI cleared Petraeus of mishandling classified information, but Broadwell was found to have classified material in her possession and is still under investigation, news agencies reported. Her security clearance was revoked.
Holder said the probe was conducted “in the way that we normally conduct criminal investigations ... in an impartial way.” He made the comments at a news conference called to announce that oil giant BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts and pay $4 billion to settle a case stemming from a 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Separately, the CIA said Thursday that its inspector general is opening an “exploratory” investigation into the conduct of Petraeus, who headed the agency from September 2011 until his resignation Nov. 9.
Top CIA and FBI officials came under questioning about the scandal Thursday during congressional hearings originally called to probe an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11. Petraeus is scheduled to testify before Congress on Friday about the Benghazi attack.
The affair came to light after a Tampa socialite complained to an FBI agent about anonymous hostile e-mails that warned her to stay away from Petraeus, law enforcement sources have said.
The Tampa FBI agent never sought to blow a whistle on the case, according to a person close to the agent, but instead made informal comments that were eventually relayed to a top Republican lawmaker.
The account contradicts descriptions of Fred Humphries, identified Wednesday as the agent involved, as a whistleblower who was trying to expose Petraeus’s extramarital affair with his biographer and its possible national security risks. It also suggests that, save for informal comments by an FBI agent not working on the case, Petraeus’s affair may not have come to light as quickly as it did.