WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama responded warily to his administration's sudden sex scandal, saying he's seen no evidence national security was damaged by the revelations that ended his CIA director's career and imperil that of his Afghan war commander.
But the president said Wednesday he is reserving judgment about how the FBI has handled the investigation that began in the summer but didn't reach his desk until after last week's election.
"I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security," Obama said at his first post-election news conference.
As Obama spoke about the scandal from the White House, legislators on Capitol Hill were grilling FBI and CIA officials privately about the same issues: whether national security was jeopardized by the case and why they didn't know about the investigation sooner.
As for the FBI's handling of the matter, Obama said: "My expectation is that they follow the protocols that they've already established. One of the challenges here is that we're not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that's been our practice."
Federal law-enforcement officials have said the FBI didn't inform the White House and Congress sooner about the original investigation because of rules set up after the Watergate scandal to prevent interference in criminal investigations and that lawmakers weren't given notice of potential national security problems because the bureau had quickly resolved them.
CIA Director David Petraeus resigned Friday, two days after the White House was notified he'd acknowledged having an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
The FBI's investigation of the matter began last summer when Tampa, Fla., socialite Jill Kelley turned over anonymous emails that had been sent to her and Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. The first anonymous email was sent to Allen in May, under the pseudonym "Kelleypatrol," and he forwarded it to Kelley.
That email warned Allen to stay away from Kelley, according to a person close to Kelley who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into the emails is ongoing. That same email -- later traced to Broadwell -- said the writer knew about a future meeting Allen and Kelley had scheduled. Allen thought the email was a joke or that it was possibly from Kelley because he didn't know how anyone else would know about their planned meeting, the person close to Kelley said.
Kelley, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, was a friend of Allen and Petraeus, both of whom she had met in Tampa when the men served there.
One of the federal law-enforcement officials confirmed Wednesday FBI agents were concerned somebody was tracking the movements of Allen and Petraeus, raising the possibility of a national security breach.
Kelley's complaints about the threatening emails triggered the FBI investigation that led to the resignation of Petraeus and the inquiry into her communications with Allen. Officials said Broadwell apparently saw Kelley as a rival for Petraeus' affections.
The official also said Wednesday Broadwell sent emails to a couple of other senior military officials besides Petraeus and Allen. The official characterized the emails as an attempt to undermine Kelley's reputation.
The FBI found a substantial number of classified documents on Broadwell's computer, and she has told agents she took classified documents out of secure government buildings, according to the official.
Broadwell, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., was spotted in Washington at her brother's home late Tuesday. Her listing in her high school yearbook in Bismarck, N.D., as "most likely to be remembered" took on new meaning.
A lawyer for Allen released a statement promising the general would co-operate fully with the Defence Department inspector general's investigation.
"To the extent that there are questions about certain communications by Gen. Allen, he shares in the desire to resolve those questions as completely and quickly as possible," said Col. John Baker, chief defence counsel of the Marine Corps. Allen has denied any wrongdoing.
Officials who have seen the communications between Allen and Kelley on Wednesday described some of the emails as "suggestive," and said their release would be embarrassing for the general. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
Meanwhile, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said Petraeus himself would testify before Congress Friday -- but not about the affair. She said he had agreed to appear to talk about the Libya attack on Sept. 11 that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
-- The Associated Press