NOW with Alex Wagner | November 12, 2012
>>> hello. i'm ari melber in for alex wagner. joining me today, msnbc contributor, robert traynham , joan walsh of salon.com, author of "the other wes moore ," retired army captain , wes moore , and nicholas kons skoir of "the new york times." david petraeus resigned as cia director on friday after reports of an extramarital affair and a host of questions remain about the investigation that toppled one of the country's top national security officials. lawmakers in both parties say the fbi failed in its duty to report on the secretive investigation earlier in the process. now, before we get into the debate, here are some of the key allegations and facts about this unusual investigation. first, several months ago, government officials tell nbc news that fbi investigators responded to a complaint about anonymous e-mails sent to jill kelly , a 37-year-old volunteer liaison to mcdill air force base in tampa. kelly and her husband were friends with petraeus and his wife. the fbi began by investigating whether those e-mails constituted harassment. officials told nbc news. then the bureau subsequently found that petraeus ' biographer, paula broadwell , was sending those anonymous e-mails that law enforcement officials had dealt with. the investigation also determined she was having an affair with petraeus . the fbi then used that information from the investigation to uncover more details and obtain a warrant to surveil broadwell 's e-mail, according to the " wall street journal ." so, in september, officials say the fbi interviewed broadwell , who then admitted the affair. investigators also convinced her to voluntarily surrender her computer, which was found to contain unauthorized classified information . according to officials, on the week of october 28th , the fbi then interviewed general petraeus , who reportedly admitted the affair at the time, but denied providing any classified information to broadwell . then two members of congress say they received a tip about the same investigation in october which was raised with the fbi . officials say investigators interviewed broadwell again on november 2nd . that's key, because after that second interview, the bureau concluded there were no criminal security breaches and thus no charges to file. it was not until november 6th , election day , however, that the fbi informed james clapper , the director of national intelligence , who then set off a series of conversations that ultimately led to petraeus resigning. by november 11th , that's yesterday, sunday, the senate intelligence chair, senator diane finestein said her committee would investigate this entire issue, because she believes her committee should have been informed earlier in the process. new york republican peter king also had this to say.
>> we received no advanced notice. it was like a lightning bolt . this is something that could have had an effect on national security . i think we should have been told.
>> once the fbi realized it was investigating the director of the cia or the cia director had come within its focus or its scope, i believe at that time, they had an absolute obligation to tell the president.
>> that was peter king and senator feinstein speaking about the issue. one official briefed on the investigation told bloomberg news that the election day downfall of the cia director reads more like a soap opera than a spy novel . joining the panel now as well is pulitzer prize winning senior military correspondent for the " huffington post ," david wood . david , thank you for being here.
>> thanks for having me.
>> absolutely. i want to start today with wes moore , however, who's here on set with us. you served as an army captain in iraq, under petraeus at the time.
>> what do you make of this everything we've learned thus far? that was a lengthy timeline, but the key points there are, something started with anonymous e-mail tips, people didn't know exactly what was going on. it began as a criminal investigation . it had intelligence issues, because there was this concern about the classified information on her computer. but ultimately ended, as best we can tell from the sourcing we have, as a closed investigation without any criminal charges .
>> that's the key thing, to point out as well. first, we look at the fact that we're observing veterans day today, and the lead story on every single network is this. talking about this issue, which is part of the larger problem. and i think also highlighting the larger challenge that general petraeus had coming into this. where he knew as this whole thing was going to unfold, two things he was very concerned about, one was his family and the impact on them, and also wh what then would be the impact on the agency and the impact on the country. i think he did, and general petraeus i think is a hero for so many young troopers. i think he did the right and honorable thing. but the key question come still comes down to, if an investigation was done and there were no criminal activities attached to this, at what point does this continue to rise up the chain of command ? i think that's what's continuing to fall down. and i think these are legitimate questions that need to be asked as well.
>> when you talk about the chain of command . david , now i want to bring you in. and we'll be talking about something you're reporting on, veterans day issues later in the show. but i want to put up the federal requirements under the law for reporting these kind of investigations. basically, if there's a significantly anticipated intelligence activity, the fbi or any intelligence agency is supposed to report that to the intelligence committee . that's what senator feinstein was talking about. but number two, it's important to keep in mind that an ongoing domestic criminal investigation is not usually reported, because it's about a domestic crime, not intelligence activity. do you think from what we know at this point that the fbi acted properly.
>> ari, i'm astonished, flabbergasted that james clapper , who is the director of national intelligence , wasn't brought in on this right immediately. that position, the director of national intelligence , is the overall, the intelligence czar, if you will, over the cia , over the national security agency , and the 16 or 17 other u.s. intelligence agencies. he's the guy who should snow. and whether or not they had the case nailed down or not, he should have been advised, at least that there was an investigation and it involved the cia .
>> joan, how about that?
>> that sounds right to me. i mean, i don't know as much as david does, but that sounds right. i guess, you know, there are lots of questions about this wof obviously. and one of them is, in the middle, when supposedly, or a disgruntled or concerned fbi agent went to some house republican members, eric cantor , and got him involved. so there are -- it seems like there may have been, on the part of some people, some political considerations, which would really be awful. i think it's going to be a while before we get to the bottom of why was this important, how was it pursued? were the proper channels followed? and where are we now?
>> let's look at that. congressman kantor, of course, did make a statement about this. he says he was contacted by an fbi employee, concerned that sensitive classified information may have been compromised. and thus he made certain that director mueller was aware of those serious allegations and the potential risk to our national security . is anything wrong with that, robert traynham ?
>> that's how the system is supposed to work. i want to go back to something about this whole timeline. it speaks to the ambiguity of the national cia director . i remember being in the senate when that position was being created. and a lot of republicans and democrats and even the white house was kind of confused as to what this role was, who this person should be, and thus, how does it interact with the cia . let's be very clear. my understanding of the law and my understanding of what happened was, is the reason why this was so serious is because, perhaps, and it doesn't seem like it happened, but perhaps with general petraeus allegedly having a mistress, he could have been compromised, he could have been vulnerable if it were blackmail.
>> you're speaking to the issue o of whether him having these secrets would make him vulnerable.
>> that's correct.
>> whether there was information on the computer.
>> that's correct.
>> let's look at what jack goldsmith said about this. he's a very respected figure, a former counsel to the pentagon, a former assistant attorney general. and he said, basically, assuming the news reports are right, the fbi might have had a duty to report its month-along investigation, related to security breaches , concerning the cia director , quite a while ago. the fbi investigation might have been primarily a law enforcement matter, until very recently, and thus not subject to reporting requirements. though it seems like any investigation into security breaches of the cia director 's computer system or communications by definition implicates counterintelligence. david , i want to go back to you. you're speaking about how it goes up the chain of command within the intelligence bureaus. but a separate question, under the law, if we're serious about the law, and the fbi is supposed to be, there's a separate question over, as soon as this moves from being a criminal harassment investigation to an intelligence one, whether senator feinstein and others, as they've said, should have been informed.
>> well, i think, clearly, they should have, but look, there's something else going on here that i want to bring up. and that is, there's a dranlangerous strain, i think, in this country, of idolizing generals, frankly, senior military people , and the military in general. and, you know,you know, veterans are calle d heroes. they don't all feel they're heroes. and i think that may have been at work here, where the investigators realizing they had caught petraeus in a net, apparently, wanted to be really, really careful that they actually had him, that there was the evidence and that they knew enough about the case to bring it to the attention of their superiors. so i think that may have been at work here. we don't know, obviously, but in any event, i think that, as i said, at least the director of the national intelligence should have been informed, and the heads of the house and senate intelligence committees, of course, should have been alerted to this.
>> yeah, it's kind of interesting. we have this kind of infatuation in the media elite with the idea of the warrior intellectual. i think a lot of journalists were close to the guy, thought very highly of him, and of course, people around him thought highly of him. there was a, you know, a kind of a halo around the guy. and probably well deserved in a lot of ways, but you kind of have to wonder, if you're in the fbi and investigating this, you can kind of imagine how hard it would be to wonder, are we investigating this guy fairly, and if so, what's our role? and the key question that catches me in that timeline is the classified information on broadwell 's computer. once you see that, it kind of changes everything, especially given what you know about her relationship with the guy.
>> and i think that's really important point. because people do understand the impression and the image that general petraeus has. and i'm in full agreement that this actually should have been brought up the chain of command quick perp something in the timeline does not make sense. however, general petraeus nor paula broadwell no longer fall under the uniform code of military justice , which would have been an automatic investigation into improprieties and actually violating the law. at what point did people think that a law was broken? once that line was crossed, then things take on a very different shape.
>> but i think we also need to understand the context of, i believe what people were making these decisions. we're on the eve of a very tight presidential election , and they're probably very concerned about leaks, probably very concerned about someone's reputation. we're also talking about the cia director . so i would presume that a lot of these folks that were investigating this were extremely sensitive to all of those environmental factors , if you will, to make sure that they get it right.
>> right. and i think the question in the congressional hearings will be, beyond the sensitivity, did they meet their obligations? it's significant that senator feinstein was a democrat who didn't have an ax to grind against the president is raising those timeline questions. we will continue on this story here on msnbc. after the break, in this show, president obama will be honoring u.s. servicemen and women on veterans day , saying we must do more to support them. we are going to take stock of what the country is doing right now for its troops when they return home. that's up next on "now." [ male announcer ] from our