Sex sells, but what about Libya?

The Petraeus affair raises big questions

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It's taken a soap opera -- The Bored Housewives of CENTCOM -- to get network evening news broadcasts to take an interest in what's happened in Libya. Better late than never.

Three days after President Barack Obama was re-elected, Gen. David Petraeus resigned as CIA director. The reason, he said, was his affair with Paula Broadwell, 40, his biographer.

They became smitten when he was in Afghanistan and she was embedded there, but the affair didn't begin until after he was sworn in as CIA Director, Gen. Petraeus reportedly told investigators. He broke it off last summer.

The FBI learned of the affair in May or June, when Tampa socialite Jill Kelley complained that she was receiving threatening emails from Ms. Broadwell, who apparently suspected Ms. Kelley had supplanted her in Gen. Petraeus' affections. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is investigating hundreds of emails, some apparently "like phone sex," exchanged over two years between Ms. Kelley, 37, and Marine Gen. John Allen, who succeeded Gen. Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan.

Despite being heavily in debt, Ms. Kelley and her husband, Scott, a physician, threw lavish parties at their sizeable home in Tampa and often invited top brass from CENTCOM, which is based there. Proceeds from a dubious charity they started helped sustain their extravagant lifestyle.

The supermarket tabloids hit the trifecta when it was learned the FBI agent who initially reported the emails is being investigated for having an inappropriate relationship with Ms. Kelley. As they pursue the prurient details, I hope journalists also will seek answers to these questions:

• Ms. Broadwell reportedly has admitted to the FBI that she took classified materials from government offices. How did she get them?

• In a speech in Denver Oct. 27, Ms. Broadwell said prisoners were being held at the CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed on Sept. 11. Is this true? Did Gen. Petraeus tell her this?

• The White House claims no one there learned of the affair until Election Day. This strains credulity. Gen. Petraeus may have misled the House Intelligence Committee Sept. 13 about what happened in Benghazi to hew to the administration line that the attack had mostly to do with a protest over an anti-Muslim video. Why would he do this? Conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol have raised the possibility that the administration blackmailed him with knowledge of his illicit affair.

The most important questions about Libya have nothing to do with sex:

• Why was security so lax? Ambassador Chris Stevens had complained about it, so it had to be deliberate. Who made the decision not to protect our diplomats?

• What was going on at the CIA annex? It was gathering intelligence on Islamists, the CIA acknowledges. Ms. Broadwell said prisoners were being kept there. The CIA was buying back man-portable anti-aircraft missiles that went missing after the regime of Moammar Gadhafi fell, according to some reports. Some were transferred to the rebels in Syria, say others. Is that true? If so, who in Syria got them?

• Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by a mortar round some seven hours after the attack began. Could the military have come to their rescue during that time? Were military forces ordered to stand down? If so, why? By whom?

Mr. Woods or Mr. Doherty was illuminating the mortar position with a laser, according to "those present at the compound," Fox News reported. This would have been foolish if there were no aircraft on station that could take the mortar out, because a jihadi with a cell phone could trace the laser beam back to its point of origin. Why did the former SEALs think an aircraft was on station? If one was, why didn't it fire?

Mr. Woods told his superiors that he and Mr. Doherty were going to the consulate to help after they heard shooting there. According to Fox News, they were ordered to stand down, but went anyway. Who told them not to come to the aid of the diplomats? Why?

• The attackers were a relatively small group of well-armed terrorists, officials in Washington learned shortly after the assault on the consulate began. Within 24 hours, an al-Qaida affiliate claimed responsibility. But for nearly a week afterward, President Obama and senior administration officials said the attack appeared to be a "spontaneous" protest to a Youtube video. Why did they lie?

The answers to these questions have huge implications for national security. They're more important than the salacious details of a love triangle.

jackkelly

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).


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