Rep. Chaffetz: Special Warrants Needed in Petraeus Probe Suggest FBI Found More Than Sex

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, listens during a recent House hearing. Chaffetz noted Tuesday that because the FBI would have needed a FISA Court warrant to access private email accounts, there is reason to wonder whether the emerging Petraeus-Allen sex scandal has national security implications. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Was it merely about sex among married adults?

Cutting directly to the brass tacks of the FBI investigation that forced former CIA Director David Petraeus to retire leads one to the question. One senior House member says there is evidence that the unfolding scandal is about more.

The scandal now is threatening the military career of Marine Gen. James Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, as well.

Petraeus resigned Friday (Nov. 9), citing an extramarital affair. The FBI over the summer began looking harassing emails sent by the woman with whom Petraeus was involved, Paula Broadwell, to another woman, Jill Kelley.

In a twist revealed early Tuesday (Nov. 13), Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced President Obama has frozen Allen’s nomination to become U.S. European Command because the FBI found potentially up to 30,000 pages of email correspondence between Allen and Kelley.

Talk radio and cable television have floated some wild conspiracy theories. But, mostly, lawmakers have used the same word as the rest of us when asked about the unfolding scandal: “Bizarre.”

The FBI concluded Petraeus had violated no criminal laws nor threatened U.S. national security.

So, the investigation was merely about a sexual relationship between a married CIA boss and his married biographer, and a potential relationship between a married Afghanistan war commander and a married Joint Special Operations Command unpaid social liaison (Kelley), right?

There is one big reason to think, until more is known, to the contrary, says a senior House Republican.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations subcommittee, noted Tuesday on CNN that to gain access to the private email accounts of those involved the FBI would have had to get a special warrant.

To get that warrant, the bureau would have had to go to the post-9/11 “FISA Court,” short for Foreign Intelligence Surviellance Court. It is largely used to aid federal investigators in national security-related probes.

The use of the FISA warrants, Chaffetz said during a morning interview, has him wonder if the investigation is about “something more” than simply generals allegedly behaving badly.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett