Petraeus agrees to testify to Congress on Benghazi attack

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency General David Petraeus attends the Allen & Co Media Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho in July 2012.
reuters

Ex-CIA chief David Petraeus has agreed to testify to Congress about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead, but it was not clear when lawmakers would hear from the retired four-star general, who abruptly resigned last week amid a sex scandal.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein said Petraeus was willing to testify about the September 11 attack in Benghazi, but the timing had not yet been decided, a spokesman for the California Democrat said.

U.S. lawmakers are demanding to know more about the timeline of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee, wrote the head of the FBI asking for both a timeline and whether Petraeus is the focus of a criminal probe.

“Has the FBI concluded that General Petraeus is not the subject of any criminal or intelligence-related investigation?” Smith asked in the letter.

Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking in Perth, Australia, warned against jumping to conclusions over the actions of another military figure, Marine General John Allen, a day after placing him under investigation in connection with the Petraeus scandal.

Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who denies any wrongdoing, is being investigated for potentially inappropriate communications with a woman at the center of the Petraeus case, Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite.

Panetta defended his decision to refer the case to the Pentagon’s inspector general and for suspending Allen’s nomination to another top position in the U.S. military, saying it was a prudent step “until we determine what the facts are.”

“And we will,” Panetta told reporters at high-level talks in Perth, also attended by the top U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

At the same time, he praised Allen’s work commanding the Afghan war effort, a position he retains despite the probe.

“No one should leap to any conclusions here. General Allen is doing an excellent job at ISAF, in leading those forces,” Panetta said, referring to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

“He certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces and continue the fight.”

Clinton acknowledged that allies had raised questions about the Allen case but said there was “no concern whatsoever being expressed to us” about the mission in Afghanistan.

Defense officials and people close to Petraeus say neither he nor Allen had a romantic relationship with Kelley, a 37-year-old wife and mother, who is described as a prominent presence in military circles in Tampa.

She may have been seen as a rival by Broadwell, who sent Kelley a series of anonymous, harassing emails which touched off an investigation that uncovered evidence of an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell, according to a law enforcement source.

FBI investigators decided to pursue the matter when they found the messages contained information about the CIA chief’s activities that was not publicly available, law enforcement officials said.

Kelley had gotten to know both Petraeus and Allen as a volunteer setting up social events at MacDill Air Force Base outside Tampa, headquarters of U.S. Central Command.

The relationship was evidently close enough that both men intervened in a child custody battle involving Kelley’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam.

“She is a dedicated mother, whose only focus is to provide the necessary support, love, and care for her son,” Allen wrote about Khawam in a September 22 letter to a Washington, D.C., court.

Allen and Kelley communicated often enough over the past two years to produce between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of email and other messages, which were turned over to Defense Department investigators on Sunday.

The actual volume of communications is likely much smaller, an official said, as the printouts include messages involving other people and email threads including prior communications.

A senior defense official told Reuters the messages were seen as inappropriate because they were “flirtatious” in nature, not because they dealt with sensitive information.

But “flirtatious” may be an understatement. Another U.S. official said the Pentagon only decided to refer it for investigation after an initial look found the communications to be of “a sufficient character” to warrant further review.

Allen has denied that he and Kelley had a sexual relationship, officials said on condition of anonymity. Adultery can lead to a dishonorable discharge under U.S. military law.

WHITE HOUSE BACKS ALLEN

The scandal complicates President Barack Obama’s efforts to reorganize his national security team following his re-election. The White House said it still had faith in Allen, but acknowledged that its plans to transfer him to Europe, where he would head U.S. and allied forces, have been suspended.

Obama also has to find a replacement for Petraeus at the CIA at a time when the president is vetting candidates to head the State and Defense departments.

The scandal could throw a wrench into Obama’s relations with Congress at a time when he is engaging in high-stakes budget negotiations to avoid the combination of tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.”

“I certainly wouldn’t call it welcome,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the scandal.

Both Allen and the official due to replace him in Afghanistan, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take up their new posts.

Lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee said they would go ahead with a confirmation hearing for Dunford on Thursday. Allen’s appearance was canceled.

Allen had just submitted recommendations on what role the United States should play in Afghanistan after most American combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

FBI agents searched Broadwell’s Charlotte, North Carolina, home late on Monday in a sign that the case involving Petraeus was not fully closed.

U.S. officials have said recently that their investigation was largely complete and that prosecutors had determined it was unlikely they would bring charges in that case, which started when Kelley contacted an FBI agent in Tampa.

That FBI agent, who has not been identified, came under scrutiny himself after it was discovered he had sent shirtless photographs of himself to Kelley “long before” this investigation, a law enforcement official told Reuters.

The agent, who alerted an FBI cyber squad to the Broadwell case, apparently became frustrated at the pace of the investigation and complained to a member of Congress about it, the official said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Bloomberg: Going green will grant you longer life…

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg tells Metro that cities are where fighting global warming can make a difference, and increase people’s lifespan.

International

Ban Ki Moon: "Climate change is an issue…

My message to you is: make your voice heard and your actions count. Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on. It’s time to lead.

Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

Television

10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."

Movies

Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

Books

Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.

NFL

3 things that went wrong in Jets loss…

The Jets have very little room for error with a far-from-explosive offense.

NFL

Eli Manning finally feeling good in West Coast…

The Giants have very little time before their next game, but they still took a moment to relish the team’s biggest offensive outburst since Week 1 of 2013.

College

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

Wellbeing

Exercising leads to more drinking — and we…

  We’re rewarding ourselves with more than dessert on days we exercise, according to a new study. On days when people exercise more, typically Thursday…

Wellbeing

5 gadgets to protect you from sharks, concussions,…

The medical industry is inundated with devices looking after all aspects of your wellbeing, from monitoring your sleep patterns to warding off shark attacks. We…

Wellbeing

Narcissism and the ugly side of vanity

I have a friend who constantly talks about herself and rarely asks any questions about my life. She is constantly preening, obsessed with her body,…

Wellbeing

Lacking new ideas, Apple Watch disappoints health experts

Technology pundits were quick to predict the demise of most fitness wristbands and smartwatches when the Apple Watch was announced. But health care professionals and…