It is unclear what FBI agents covered in that final interview with Broadwell, but the investigation has focused on her possession of classified material. She and Petraeus have denied that he was the source of any classified files.
The same question may now be at the heart of an internal CIA investigation of Petraeus’s conduct launched by the agency’s inspector general. Officials described the probe as “exploratory,” suggesting a broad inquiry into whether Petraeus’s personal transgressions crossed over into professional misconduct or created a security risk.
As CIA chief, Petraeus was charged with safeguarding some of the nation’s most precious secrets. He traveled extensively and has said through associates that his affair with Broadwell began shortly after he was sworn in.
“If there are lessons to be learned from this case, we’ll use them to improve,” CIA spokesman Preston Golson said. “But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves; an investigation is exploratory and doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome.”
Petraeus denied mishandling classified information in communications with a CNN reporter, according to a report by the cable news channel on Thursday. The reporter, Kyra Phillips, said that the retired general told her that he “had engaged in something dishonorable,” that he has not been in communication with Broadwell since their affair was exposed and that “he insisted to me that he has never passed classified information to Paula Broadwell.”
The former CIA boss is scheduled to testify in closed-door sessions Friday morning with the House and Senate intelligence committees. But Petraeus has said that he will discuss only the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed.
The inspector general at the Defense Department has initiated an investigation of hundreds of e-mails exchanged between Kelley and Allen.
New information about the investigation indicates that Allen may have received the first harassing e-mail from Broadwell in mid-May through one of several alias accounts she set up.
Law enforcement officials have said Broadwell’s e-mails were aimed at souring Kelley’s relationships with Allen and Petraeus. Both men have denied having a physical relationship with Kelley, who was a volunteer at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where both generals were based before their separate tours in Afghanistan.
Allen’s associates have said he did nothing wrong, but U.S. officials have said the e-mails he exchanged with Kelley were sexually explicit and inappropriate.
Allen forwarded Broadwell’s warning to Kelley, officials said. In the following weeks, Kelley and her husband, Scott, began receiving harassing messages on their joint e-mail account, prompting Kelley to consult Humphries, the FBI agent whom she had known for some time.
Humphries turned over copies of the e-mails to the bureau. Concerned that the sender had intimate knowledge of Petraeus and Allen’s schedules, the FBI began an inquiry that over months would accumulate thousands of pages worth of documents, including details of the personal lives of two top national security officers.
In August, Kelley was told that Broadwell had sent the e-mails. At some point, Petraeus learned of the messages and urged Broadwell to stop sending them, officials said. Senior Justice Department officials were not informed of the probe until late summer.
Holder’s explanation of the timing of the FBI’s disclosure to the administration runs counter to speculation that the bureau revealed the investigation’s existence because Humphries’s concerns had made their way to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Oct. 27. Four days later, Cantor’s office contacted Mueller’s staff to express concern about a possible breach of national security involving Petraeus.
“We felt very secure that a national security threat did not occur that warranted sharing,” Holder said at a news conference called to announce a $4 billion settlement with BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Aspects of the investigation remain open. FBI agents searched Broadwell’s home in Charlotte on Monday night for evidence that she had classified files.