POLITICS: White House

Post editor who co-authored Petraeus book 'clueless' about affair

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Photo - UNSPECIFIED - JULY 13, 2011:  In this handout image provided by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan; CIA Director Gen. Davis Petraeus (L) shakes hands with biographer Paula Broadwell, co-author of "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus" on July 13, 2011. CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus resigned from his post on November 9, 2012, citing an extra-marital affair with Paula Broadwell. The FBI began an investigation after it was tipped off by Jill Kelley, a long-time friend of the Petraeus family, who received threatening emails from Broadwell.  (Photo by ISAF via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JULY 13, 2011: In this handout image provided by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), former Commander of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan; CIA Director Gen. Davis Petraeus (L) shakes hands with biographer Paula Broadwell, co-author of "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus" on July 13, 2011. CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus resigned from his post on November 9, 2012, citing an extra-marital affair with Paula Broadwell. The FBI began an investigation after it was tipped off by Jill Kelley, a long-time friend of the Petraeus family, who received threatening emails from Broadwell. (Photo by ISAF via Getty Images)
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The Washington Post editor who co-authored a glowing biography about former CIA Director David Petraeus revealed late Monday that he was "clueless" about the extramarital affair that destroyed the career of the most successful U.S. general in recent history.

If anyone could have picked up on the affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, it was Vernon Loeb, the Washington Post local editor and former Pentagon reporter who spent 16 months with Broadwell writing a book on the man who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But he was unable to detect a relationship still sending ripple effects across Washington.

"On rare occasions, her good looks and close access would prompt a colleague to raise an eyebrow about their relationship, but I never took it seriously," he admitted in an article posted by the paper on Monday. "So when the news broke Friday that Petraeus was resigning in disgrace because of an adulterous affair, I was dumbfounded."

Loeb recounted Broadwell's exclusive access to the general, joining Petraeus on his jet after a change-of-command ceremony, during lengthy workouts and accompanying the military leader on a tour of European capitals.

And the journalist said he wondered how Petraeus described his relationship with his female protege, who had limited journalistic credentials. But still, he never questioned whether Petraeus' behavior had turned adulterous.

Loeb's first-hand account addressed a silence by the newspaper concerning what he knew and when he knew it that had grown ever more conspicuous since the affair broke on Friday afternoon. Bloggers had become more insistent in questioning the Post's lack of information on the matter on Monday.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans continued to push for answers on why they were not informed sooner about the affair, and on the CIA role in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

And they want those answers directly from Petraeus.

"It makes absolutely zero sense for Petraeus not to talk," a senior GOP congressional staffer, who deals with intelligence issues, told The Washington Examiner. "How does an affair disqualify him from sharing what he knows? It only makes the whole episode look all the more suspicious."

Acting CIA Director Michael Morell is scheduled to testify instead of Petraeus.

The scandal has diverted attention from President Obama's re-election and the second-term agenda on which he hoped to focus. Lawmakers are questioning how the president could not have known what was happening with Petraeus until after last Tuesday's election since Attorney General Eric Holder knew last summer.

"To have someone out there in such a sensitive position who the FBI thought perhaps could have been compromised or was under the scope of an FBI investigation who may or may not have been having an affair at the time -- that, to me, had to have been brought to the president or certainly to the National Security Council," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., said on MSNBC Monday. "If not, the FBI was derelict in its duty."

But a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Examiner that information about Petraeus wasn't shared outside the Justice Department or FBI because there appeared to be no direct threat to national security.

Obama is expected to address the CIA director's resignation directly on Wednesday when he holds his first press conference in months.

Broadwell has not responded to multiple requests for comment. She did, however, hire criminal defense attorney Robert Muse, the lawyer said Monday.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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