For­mer spy catcher doubts clas­si­fied ma­te­rial safe

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY SHAUN WATER­MAN

A for­mer head of U.S. coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence is ques­tion­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s claim, there has been, so far, no ev­i­dence of any re­lease of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion from the sex scan­dal that prompted David H. Pe­traeus to re­sign as CIA di­rec­tor.

The pres­i­dent’s care­fully worded com­ments on Nov. 14 “don’t square with what we know about the case,” said Michelle Van Cleave, who served in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion as the na­tion’s top spy catcher.

FBI agents last week searched the Char­lotte, N.C., home of Paula Broad­well, Mr. Pe­traeus’ bi­og­ra­pher, whose af­fair with him was ex­posed af­ter she sent anony­mous emails to an­other woman, ac­cus­ing her of be­ing a se­duc­tress and warn­ing her to stay way from Mr. Pe­traeus.

The FBI found a “sub­stan­tial” amount of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion on Mrs. Broad­well’s home com­puter, law en­force­ment and na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials told re­porters.

Mr. Pe­traeus, in his first pub­lic com­ment since the scan­dal broke, told CNN on Nov. 15 that he never passed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to Mrs. Broad­well. He also said he was ea­ger to tes­tify about his knowl­edge of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tack on the U.S. Con­sulate in Beng­hazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Am­bas­sador J. Christo­pher Stevens and three other Amer­i­cans. He ap­peared Nov. 16 be­fore the House and Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tees.

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. on Nov. 15 said that FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tors “felt very se­cure in the knowl­edge that a na­tional se­cu­rity threat did not ex­ist.” He said he would have in­formed Mr. Obama and mem­bers of Congress if in­ves­ti­ga­tors had dis­cov­ered such a threat.

Christo­pher Swecker, a for­mer FBI as­sis­tant di­rec­tor, said, “In­ves­ti­ga­tors are by now prob­a­bly fo­cus­ing on the is­sue of the po­ten­tial mis­han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

“The leads are be­ing run out” and any loose ends are be­ing tied up as in­ves­ti­ga­tors seek to fin­ish their work, said Mr. Swecker, now an in­de­pen­dent se­cu­rity con­sul­tant.

Ms. Van Cleave added that in­ves­ti­ga­tors should as­sume that for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices might have al­ready hacked into Mrs. Broad­well’s com­puter.

“As some­one who has done dam­age as­sess­ments for the U.S. gov­ern­ment, I can tell you that it would be stan­dard prac­tice to as­sume that clas­si­fied ma­te­rial on an un­clas­si­fied com­puter in a sit­u­a­tion like that has al­ready been com­pro­mised,” she said.

Home com­put­ers can eas­ily be ac­cessed by for­eign hack­ers, and spies have long cho­sen and cul­ti­vated tar­gets known to have ac­cess to se­nior of­fi­cials.

“She was [Mr. Pe­traeus’] of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­pher, and she was widely known to have a close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with him. … You have to as­sume that for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices would have an in­ter­est in her,” said Ms. Van Cleave.

The case would have had se­ri­ous coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence im­pli­ca­tions long be­fore the search of Mrs. Broad­well’s home and com­puter, she as­serted.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan af­ter Mrs. Broad­well sent anony­mous email mes­sages in May to and about Jill Kel­ley, a Florida so­cialite who acted as a kind of vol­un­teer so­cial li­ai­son at the McDill Air Force Base near Tampa.

McDill is where U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand is based, and Mrs. Kel­ley and her hus­band be­came friendly with Mr. Pe­traeus and his wife dur­ing the time the now-re­tired gen­eral headed the Cen­tral Com­mand, de­fense of­fi­cials have said. The mes­sages warned Mrs. Kel­ley to stay away from Mr. Pe­traeus, ac­cord­ing to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

Some of the emails also in­di­cated ad­vance knowl­edge of Mr. Pe­traeus’ sched­ule, which would have mer­ited at least a pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry, for­mer FBI of­fi­cials said.

Fed­eral agents then dis­cov­ered that the sen­der of the anony­mous mes­sages ap­peared to have ac­cess to a per­sonal email ac­count also used by Mr. Pe­traeus. Mrs. Broad­well and Mr. Pe­traeus would ex­change mes­sages by leav­ing them in the drafts folder of a shared email ac­count.

Na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns would have been raised as soon as agents had rea­son to think Mr. Pe­traeus’ email might have been com­pro­mised, said Ms. Van Cleave.

“There’s a pos­si­ble na­tional se­cu­rity di­men­sion, and at that point you have a very dif­fer­ent kind of in­ves­ti­ga­tion. … [The case] un­doubt­edly crosses the thresh­old from a nar­row crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion to one with an ob­vi­ous coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence di­men­sion.”

When FBI agents are chas­ing for­eign spies in coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence cases, they may at times need to in­form po­lit­i­cal lead­ers about their in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“You would cer­tainly think that [the pres­i­dent] should be in­formed about a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion that might reach the CIA di­rec­tor,” said Ms. Van Cleave.

A case could still have coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence im­pli­ca­tions even if it turned out to be sim­ply an “un­for­tu­nate lapse in judg­ment,” she added.

“What is the ap­pro­pri­ate use of per­sonal email by some­one in such a sen­si­tive and se­nior of­fice?” Ms. Van Cleave asked. “We haven’t yet come to grips with that as a gov­ern­ment.”

She said se­nior of­fi­cials’ per­sonal email ac­counts, like their per­sonal mo­bile de­vices, “are all rich tar­gets of op­por­tu­nity for for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices.”

Ms. Van Cleave added that the gov­ern­ment has yet to es­tab­lish “solid se­cu­rity guide­lines for se­nior of­fi­cials” to deal with the wide va­ri­ety of per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices.

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