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Editorial: Shine a light on Petraeus probe

Gen. David Petraeus poses with his biographer Paula

Gen. David Petraeus poses with his biographer Paula Broadwell in Afghanistan in this handout image provide by International Security Assistance Force NATO. (July 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

On its face, the sudden resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus Friday after he admitted an extramarital affair is nothing more than a personal and career tragedy. But with intelligence agencies, you always have to wonder if there's more going on than meets the eye.

That's especially the case when the FBI, with its colorful history of collecting dirt on prominent officials, investigated the man who heads one of its most powerful bureaucratic competitors. There's no indication the FBI acted improperly in this instance, but Congress needs to find out more about this probe, including a timeline of how it unfolded and what the FBI uncovered.

The investigation didn't begin with Petraeus. The FBI was looking into harassing email that Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer and paramour, allegedly sent to a second woman. The probe of Broadwell's email account revealed the clandestine relationship.

Based on what is public so far, no secrets were revealed and national security was never compromised. Petraeus' fall from grace doesn't provide a benefit to either party, since he's held key posts in both Democratic and Republican administrations. And there's certainly no need to wallow in the sordid details of the affair.

But there are questions about what material Broadwell had access to; who, if anyone, she shared it with; what secrets she may be privy to; how the FBI handled the matter; and why members of Congress responsible for intelligence oversight were in the dark.

High-ranking FBI and Justice Department officials were alerted in late summer that agents had uncovered the CIA director's dalliance, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she learned of the affair last week from the media.

Congress needs to provide some answers. Its investigation of the FBI probe will begin today, when leaders of congressional intelligence committees are slated to meet with FBI and CIA officials for the first time since Petraeus resigned.

This FBI investigation can't remain a covert affair.


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