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A Utah congressman did not intend to suggest the FBI secured a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court warrant as part of its investigation into emails between ex-CIA director David Petraeus, his biographer-turned-lover, and a Florida socialite.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz’ remarks on CNN Tuesday morning spurred some news sites – including Military.com – to pick up on the supposed FISA warrant that would have signaled the case had elements of espionage.
The FBI’s probe into threatening emails from Paula Broadwell, author of a biography of Petraeus, to Jill Kelley, a Tampa, Fla., socialite with ties to MacDill Air Force Base, home of U.S. Central Command, has examined whether Petraeus’ CIA emails were accessed. It also has snared Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who investigators say exchanged thousands of emails with Kelley, some “flirtatious,” over two years.
Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations subcommittee, voiced concerns about Broadwell and Kelley’s backgrounds in the interview.
“Who are these women,” he asked Chaffetz. “Do they have ties to other states [countries]? What is their background? What’s going on here? Whether you eat Corn Flakes or Fruit Loops in the morning there are other intelligence agencies that want to know this. And if you’re sleeping around that’s pretty [compromising].”
“The kind of warrant you need in order to gather this information – dive into the CIA director’s email. There has to be something much more serious” going on, he said.
But Chaffetz spokeswoman M.J. Crenshaw said Tuesday evening that the congressman was speaking “hypothetically” and was not claiming the FBI secured a FISA warrant in the case.
“He does not know of any specific warrant,” Crenshaw said. The congressman was trying to make the point that this serious an investigation cannot only be about an affair gone bad, according to Crenshaw.
All four people named in the probe are married. Currently the only acknowledged occurrence of adultery was between Petraeus and Broadwell, which supposedly began after he left the Army and took over at the CIA. Broadwell, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, faces an uncertain future in uniform.
On Wednesday officials confirmed that her secret-level security clearance has been at least temporarily suspended, though Military.com has also been told she could face administrative action and possibly be separated from the military. Broadwell previously said she carried a top secret clearance.
Michelle Richardson, a Washington, DC, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the FBI “would have to show probable cause that they’re dealing with an agent for a foreign power” to read the content of the emails.
“I don’t see how you can argue that anyone in this mess right now [is] an agent of a foreign power,” said Richardson, who handles privacy and surveillance issues for the organization.