FILE POOL - In this July 9, 2011 file photo, USMC Gen. John Allen, left, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and incoming CIA Director, greet former CIA Director and new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, right, as he lands in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul J. Richards, Pool)
WASHINGTON — Responding warily to his administration’s sudden sex scandal, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he’s seen no evidence that national security was damaged by the revelations that ended his CIA director’s career and imperil that of his Afghan war commander.
But the president said he is reserving judgment about how the FBI has handled the investigation that began in the summer but didn’t reach his desk until after last week’s election.
“I have a lot of confidence, generally, in the FBI,” Obama said, qualifying his words of support for the agency and its actions in the case.
As Obama spoke about the scandal from the White House, legislators on Capitol Hill were grilling FBI and CIA officials privately about the same issues: whether national security was jeopardized by the case and why they didn’t know about the investigation sooner.
“I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security,” Obama said at his first postelection news conference.
As for the FBI’s handling of the matter, Obama said: “My expectation is that they follow the protocols that they’ve already established. One of the challenges here is that we’re not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that’s been our practice.”
FBI agent in middle of Kelley-Broadwell e-mail controversy
FBI Special Agent Frederick Humphries II played a key role in stopping a terrorist attack aimed at blowing up Los Angeles International Airport just as the year 2000 dawned. He fatally shot a man who threatened him and other law enforcement officers with a knife during an altercation at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base in 2010.
And now Humphries finds himself in the middle of the widening scandal that has resulted in CIA Director David Petraeus’ resignation.
Humphries, 47, was the agent who initially saw the emails the FBI said Petraeus’ biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell, sent to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, a woman she apparently saw as a rival for Petraeus’ affections. She also allegedly sent emails to Gen. John Allen, Kelley’s friend and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Concerned about the emails, Kelley contacted Humphries in June. The two had met at a 2011 FBI Citizens Academy, a program aimed at teaching the public and journalists about what the agency does and how it operates. Kelley was in the class, which Humphries lectured one night about terrorism, according to Natalie Shepherd, a Tampa TV reporter who was there.
Humphries, a former Army captain who worked in military intelligence, thought the emails raised serious concerns because the anonymous author knew the comings and goings of Allen and Petraeus, a former general who had preceded Allen in Afghanistan. His report back to the FBI started the investigation that led to Broadwell and uncovered her affair with Petraeus.
The FBI is reviewing Humphries’ later conduct in this case, a federal law enforcement official said Wednesday. Specifically, the bureau is reviewing a telephone call he made in late October to Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) to voice concern that the bureau was not aggressively pursuing a possible national security breach. Reichert arranged to convey the information to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who checked with the FBI at that time. Cantor was assured the bureau was on top of any possible vulnerability.
Lawrence Berger, the general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said in an interview Wednesday that his client, Humphries, did nothing wrong and should not be disciplined. “He’s committed no misconduct,” Berger said and predicted he would be cleared of any misconduct.