In 2012 and 2013, former CIA Director David Petraeus was investigated by the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence and the military for his extramarital affair which resulted in disclosing classified information to his mistress, archivist and biographer Paula Broadwell in the scandal that forced him to resign as CIA Director. This Friday, the FBI very quietly released the file for the investigation into the Petraeus scandal. No announcement was made (in fact their only tweets have been about FBI dogs and women) and the release of the file coincides with what’s sometimes known in political circles as “trash day,” when news is released that you want to be ignored and lost in the news cycle. The FBI lied when they labeled the file as having been posted on August 2nd, which doesn’t match either my experience or Google’s, the cache of which clearly shows that the file hadn’t been added 19 days after the Bureau claims it was. This article will attempt to summarize all the information that was released.
— Michael Best (@NatSecGeek) August 26, 2016
Over 80% redacted
Looking at the file itself, which can be found below this article, over 80% of the material was withheld in its entirety. In addition, nearly every released page has at least one redaction, and some of the released pages are redacted in their entirety. Many of the released pages are nothing more than letters requesting that evidence not be destroyed, and most of the redactions are pointless and not in keeping with case law for FOIA exemptions, as the information has already been confirmed by both the news and the government. One formerly SECRET page goes so far as to redact Paula Broadwell’s name when describing her basic role in the Petraeus scandal.
Despite the Bureau’s best efforts, the file does reveal several interesting things. For instance, the paragraph shown above reveals that the investigation began as at least two different investigations that ultimately collided – one from the Bureau’s Tampa Division and one from the Charlotte Division. Over three months after beginning the investigation, FBI agents from the Charlotte Division traveled to Tampa to meet with agents there and officials from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM at MacDill Air Force Base. Details of this meeting haven’t been released by either the Bureau or CENTCOM.
The search warrant
Exactly one month later, a search warrant signed by Judge Ivan Davis was executed Petraeus’ house. During the search nearly seventy items were collected. Ten were classified “up to the TOP SECRET level” and several others were returned to General Petraeus at the scene. One was returned because it didn’t fall under the scope of the warrant, one for reasons which were redacted and one simply because the Supervisory Special Agent said to return it. The items returned on the scene aren’t included in the inventory, and most of the items seized have the identifying information removed. The generic descriptions in one memo reveal that electronics, storage devices, documents, shredders, pictures, and other materials. The Evidence Recovery Log (ERL) itself, however, has all of the descriptions completely redacted. The only information left in the ERL is where something was found, the date and comments about the item’s classification level.
One of the lawyers involved in the case requested a copy of some of the materials seized. The FBI obligingly agreed and “confidentially” purchased 64GB worth of digital storage media to copy the materials onto, including hundreds of photographs. The photos included in the file have the focus of the photo itself redacted, along with the description of what’s actually being photographed. The FBI included the receipts for the storage media in the FOIA release, and forgot to redact the last four digits of the credit card number used by their FBI agent to confidentially buy a camera card at Biggs Camera in Charlotte. This is entirely consistent with the Bureau’s practice of using redactions to make it more difficult to read files rather than to protect privacy, sources or methods. The reimbursement request from the agent makes it clear that it was his personal card and his own money, meaning the Bureau was so focused on redacting relevant information that they forgot to protect the private information of one of their more trusted agents.
More interesting to those who aren’t part of the FOIA community, however, will be the fact that there were half a dozen SWAT personnel on scene to help serve the search warrant at 6:05.
In another moment of interest that is sure to have driven his attorney crazy, Petraeus volunteered to the FBI during the search of his home that he was the originating authority for a classified document about a meeting with Hillary Clinton. According to the FBI memo, General Petraeus declassified the document by drawing a line through the classification marking.
Perhaps most puzzlingly, one of the last pages in the release is about the appointment of two FBI personnel for the Charlotte Division as the Primary and Alternate NATO SECRET Control Officers for the FBI. This particular document was, like several others, written towards the end of 2015 and the Bureau insists on their website that the release only covers 2012-2013. The document is clearly marked as being related to the Petraeus case, and FBI’s NATO Control Officers are the officials responsible for briefing people who require access to NATO and NATO information. This would make perfect sense, except for the fact that the investigation was supposed to have ended over six months earlier when General Petraeus pled guilty to a misdemeanor plea of Unauthorized Removal and Retention of Classified Material in exchange for a $100,000.00 fine and two years probation.
That is chronologically the last released page in the file.
You can read the file below: