Feinstein: FBI should have told Intel panels about Petraeus

The FBI made a clear mistake by not informing congressional Intelligence committees when it investigated CIA Director David Petraeus and discovered he was having an affair, the head of the Senate Intelligence panel said Monday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Monday it was “puzzling” that neither President Obama nor the committees had not been told of the investigation as it was ongoing — a standard procedure, she said.

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The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee also said she was perplexed to learn that other lawmakers outside the Intelligence panels — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — learned of the affair and investigation before Obama or the Intelligence committees.

“My concern has actually escalated over the last few days,” she said in an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “You can’t keep these things from the people who hold the responsibility for oversight.”

Of Cantor and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) learning of the FBI probe before Obama and lawmakers on the Intelligence panels, she said: “That shouldn’t happen and we need to get to the bottom of it” but that she didn’t want to pre-judge what had happened.  


Feinstein’s committee plans to investigate the probe into Petraeus, she said, which resulted in his resignation Friday that shocked Washington. Petraeus acknowledged in a letter to the CIA that he was having an affair, and offered his resignation to Obama just two days after the president won reelection.

Feinstein said as more and more information has come out about Petraeus, it becomes harder to understand why Intelligence panels were left in the dark.

“I think was a mistake because I think this thing came just so fast and so hard, and since then it’s been like peeling an onion: Every day another peel comes off and you see a whole new dimension to this,” she said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the FBI for not alerting congressional Intelligence panels of what happened. 

“To have someone out there in such a sensitive position who perhaps the FBI thought could have been compromised or was under the scope of the FBI investigation who may or may not have been having an affair at the time, that certainly had to have been brought to the president or National Security Council,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) said Monday.

He said the president was “owed that information.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of the most liberal members of the upper chamber, also said Congress should have been informed.

Petraeus's resignation came amid political controversy over the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others dead. Two of the Americans killed were contractors working for the CIA. 

Lawmakers in both parties, including Feinstein, have criticized a shifting story from the administration over what happened in the attack, and Feinstein on Monday again said the administration should have more quickly said the attack was a terrorist attack. 

Feinstein said she had no reason to believe that Petraeus’s resignation was tied to the Benghazi attack, but added that the topic would still need to be investigated. 

“I've seen none so far,” Feinstein told Mitchell of a potential Benghazi connection. “As I’ve said, the skin of the onion is getting peeled off, and we don’t know what we may find.” 

When Feinstein’s committee holds a closed hearing on Benghazi Thursday, Petraeus will not be testifying, the chairwoman confirmed Monday. But she said she had “no doubt” Petraeus would still come before the panel at some point. 

Feinstein also said she is seeking a trip report about Petraeus's recent visit to Libya. 

The involvement of the CIA at the Benghazi compound and over the intelligence there could further intertwine the Petraeus and Benghazi investigations. 

Feinstein threatened to issue a subpoena to get a copy of the trip report. “We are entitled to this trip report, and if we have to go to the floor of the Senate to get one we will do just that,” she said.

The FBI investigation began with a probe into threatening emails sent to Jill Kelley, a friend of Petraeus and his wife. That probe led the FBI to uncover an affair between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell

Feinstein said she was concerned that an FBI agent who first began looking into the affair went to House Republicans in late October, suggesting that his behavior may have been inappropriate.

“An FBI agent apparently took it upon himself to go to members of the House and tell them — and this was outside the general line of information — and that’s deeply disturbing,” Feinstein said.

Broadwell has said that the CIA housed prisoners at the compound attacked in Benghazi on Sept. 11, something the CIA has denied.

—This story was updated at 2:04 p.m.