After Kelley turned over the e-mails, FBI investigators determined that they had come from Broadwell. An examination of Broadwell’s accounts led to the discovery of exchanges between her and Petraeus — who used an address with a fictitious name, not his CIA or military account. The FBI concluded from the contents of the e-mails that Broadwell and Petraeus were having an affair.
When Petraeus’s name surfaced, officials said, they did not think it was appropriate to brief anyone outside the Justice Department, including the White House or Congress. The criminal probe was still ongoing, key interviews had not been conducted, and they did not know what role, if any, Petraeus had in the e-mail harassment case, they said.
Before determining whether there had been a security breach, one official said, it would have been premature to discuss such a sensitive issue with anyone outside the investigation. In late summer, after ruling out any security involvement, high-level Justice Department officials were informed about the harassment investigation regarding Petraeus.
“The FBI had to get to the bottom of it first,” the law enforcement official said. “They had to figure out whether there was a breach. And they eventually determined there wasn’t. But this took time. And we had to figure out what role, if any, Petraeus had with the harassing e-mails, which turned out to be none.”
During separate interviews with the FBI, officials said, Petraeus and Broadwell admitted to the affair. After a final interview with Broadwell the week of Oct. 22, and with Petraeus the week after, investigators concluded there had been no criminal cyber-harassment.
On Nov. 6, Election Day, the FBI notified Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. for the first time of the inquiry and its outcome. Officials said they had followed procedures by notifying Petraeus’s intelligence-community superior only when all the facts had been established.
Clapper spoke by telephone with Petraeus that evening and advised him to resign. On Wednesday, Clapper told the White House, which informed President Obama the next morning. Petraeus offered his resignation to Obama that afternoon; Obama accepted it Friday morning.
A number of lawmakers said they will insist that Petraeus testify during closed-door hearings this week on the Benghazi attack in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Petraeus visited the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, less than two weeks ago for talks with the CIA station chief and other officials.
Lawmakers are likely to question whether Broadwell was improperly given access to sensitive information about the attack. In a late October speech at the University of Denver, she said that the CIA annex where two of the Americans were killed “had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoners” and that the attack was thought to be “an effort to get them back.” U.S. officials have not made reference to that possible motive in numerous accounts of the Benghazi attack.
A CIA spokesperson called the suggestion that the agency keeps prisoners in Libya “uninformed and baseless,” in a statement issued Sunday night. “The CIA has not had detention authority since 2009,” it said.
The administration has said that Mike Morell, Petraeus’s deputy and now acting CIA director, will testify for the agency.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) suggested on CBS’s “Face the Nation” the formation of a joint select committee of the House and Senate, similar to those convened to investigate the Watergate and Iran-contra.
Graham also said he would oppose the selection of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan F. Rice, to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Rice has been on the shortlist for the post. Days after the Benghazi attack, now labeled a terrorist assault by the administration, Rice said that the assault grew out of a protest march that had turned violent.
Greg Miller, Ernesto Londoño, Julie Tate and Bob Woodward contributed to this report.