WASHINGTON Lawmakers are digging into the tangled tale of e-mails that exposed an extramarital affair ending David Petraeus’ CIA career and led investigators to a questionable relationship between a Florida socialite and the general commanding the war in Afghanistan.
Their main question: Was national security threatened?
The extramarital affair was between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, who U.S. officials say sent harassing, anonymous e-mails to a woman she apparently saw as a rival for Petraeus’ affections.
That woman, Jill Kelley, traded sometimes flirtatious messages with Gen. John Allen, possible evidence of another inappropriate relationship.
The CIA’s acting director, Michael Morell, started answering lawmakers’ questions Tuesday on Capitol Hill, meeting with top Senate intelligence officials to explain the CIA’s take on events that led to Petraeus’ resignation last week after he acknowledged the affair.
The lawmakers are especially concerned over reports that Broadwell had classified information on her laptop, though FBI investigators say they concluded there was no security breach.
President Barack Obama is expected to make his first comments on the widening scandal Wednesday, during a postelection news conference at the White House.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned Wednesday against reaching early conclusions about the veracity of allegations against Allen.
At a news conference in Australia’s Indian Ocean coastal city of Perth, Panetta sought to tamp down a wave of speculation about the nature of Allen’s actions.
“No one should leap to any conclusions here,” Panetta said in his first public comments on the matter when a reporter asked what Allen might have done wrong. Panetta declined to characterize Allen’s actions in any way.
Panetta said he supports Allen, who has been in command in Kabul since July 2011. He took over that summer for Petraeus, who retired from the Army to head the CIA.
“He certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces and to continue the fight,” Panetta said.
The Pentagon chief declined to explain the nature of Allen’s correspondence with Kelley.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appeared with Panetta and their Australian counterparts at Wednesday’s news conference, declined to comment on the Allen case except to suggest it has not harmed the war effort.
She said U.S. officials have discussed the matter with allied officials.
“There has been a lot of conversation, as you might expect, but no concern whatsoever being expressed to us because the mission has been set forth and it’s being carried out,” Clinton said.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.