We’re governed by circus clowns.
The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.
However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.
The FBI officials found that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley, according to the people familiar with the probe.
That same agent, after being barred from the case, contacted a member of Congress, Washington Republican David Reichert, because he was concerned senior FBI officials were going to sweep the matter under the rug, the officials said.
Josh Marshall observes that Petraeus suddenly looks like the most mentally balanced person involved in this. This does seem to answer some of the lingering questions, though. Who was the “whistleblower” who tipped Reichert and, eventually, Cantor? Now we know. Why were the DOJ and FBI allegedly reluctant to share the news about Petraeus with the White House and DNI until very recently? Maybe because this scandal is almost as much of an embarrassment to them as it is to Petraeus. Why did the FBI take an unusual interest in what appeared to be an otherwise routine case of cyber-harassment? Because, if you believe the Journal, the agent involved had an unusual interest in Kelley. In fact, the Daily Beast claims to have spoken to a source who’s seen the e-mails Broadwell sent to Kelley. I was expecting there’d be death threats — “hair-raising” material, as I said in a Greenroom post this weekend. It ain’t that:
The messages were instead what the source terms “kind of cat-fight stuff.”
“More like, ‘Who do you think you are? … You parade around the base … You need to take it down a notch,’” according to the source, who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name…
When the FBI friend showed the emails to the cyber squad in the Tampa field office, her fellow agents noted that the absence of any overt threats.
“No, ‘I’ll kill you’ or ‘I’ll burn your house down,’” the source says. “It doesn’t seem really that bad.”
The squad was not even sure the case was worth pursuing, the source says.
“What does this mean? There’s no threat there. This is against the law?” the agents asked themselves by the source’s account.
Now we know why no criminal charges were filed. As for why Kelley has reportedly lawyered up with a verrrry pricey legal team, that’s still not entirely obvious. But the weirder this gets, the more understandable it is that she’d want top-notch lawyers on her side. All this story needs now is some sort of John Edwards angle and we’ll have achieved maximum scandal-ocity.
Exit question: Who left the mysterious Wikipedia edit on Paula Broadwell’s entry back in January?
Update: The plot thickens:
— Dianne Gallagher (@DianneG) November 13, 2012
Gallagher is a reporter with WCNC in North Carolina and her Twitter timeline is filling up with reports from the scene outside Broadwell’s home. Maybe I spoke too soon about there being no charges filed in this case. But … charges for what?
Update: I assume the probable cause here has to do with those classified documents found on Broadwell’s computer. But that was weeks ago, if I have the timeline straight. Why are they only searching now?
Update: I’m still thinking about Newsweek’s source on Broadwell’s e-mails in the piece quoted above. He was “until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community and prefers not to be identified by name” and he knows what was in the messages Broadwell sent to Kelley? Is there any obvious suspect besides Petraeus himself?
Update: Yep, sounds like the FBI’s suddenly very curious as to where Broadwell got her info:
“Menacing” anonymous emails that launched the FBI investigation which ultimately brought down CIA Director David Petraeus contained references to the “comings and goings” of high-level U.S. military officials, raising concerns that someone had improperly gained access to sensitive and classified information, a source close to the recipient tells NBC News…
What most alarmed Kelley and the FBI, the source said, were references to “the comings and goings” of high-level generals from the U.S. Central Command, which is based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and the U.S. Southern Command, as well as Petraeus — including events that were not on any public schedule.