mails, eventually traced to Ms. Broadwell, set the initial
investigation in motion several months ago. Ms. Kelley and her
husband became friends with Mr. Petraeus and his wife, Holly, when
Mr. Petraeus was head of the military's Central Command, which has
its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Ms. Kelley, who
volunteers to help injured service members and military families at
MacDill, has been photographed with the Petraeuses at social events
"We and our family have been friends with General Petraeus and his family for over five years," Ms. Kelley and her husband, Scott Kelley, said in a statement released Sunday. "We respect his and his family's privacy, and want the same for us and our three children."
The statement did not acknowledge that it was Ms. Kelley who received the e-mails, which was first reported by The Associated Press.
The involvement of the F.B.I., according to government officials, began when Ms. Kelley, alarmed by about half a dozen anonymous e- mails accusing her of inappropriate flirtatious behavior with Mr. Petraeus, complained to an F.B.I. agent who is also a personal friend. That agent, who has not been identified, helped get a preliminary inquiry started. Agents working with federal prosecutors in a local U.S. attorney's office began trying to figure out whether the e-mails constituted criminal cyberstalking.
Because the sender's account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques -- including a check of what other e-mail accounts had been opened from the same computer address -- to identify who was writing the e-mails.
Eventually they identified Ms. Broadwell as a prime suspect and obtained access to her regular e-mail account. In its in-box, they discovered intimate and sexually explicit e-mails from another account that also was not immediately identifiable. Investigators eventually ascertained that it belonged to Mr. Petraeus and studied the possibility that someone had hacked into Mr. Petraeus's account or was posing as him to send the explicit messages.
Eventually they determined that Mr. Petraeus had sent the messages to Ms. Broadwell and concluded that the two had had an affair. Then they turned their scrutiny on him, examining whether he knew about or was involved in sending the harassing e-mails to Ms. Kelley.
It was at that point -- sometime in the late summer -- that lower- level Justice Department officials notified supervisors that the case had become more complicated, and the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section began working on the investigation as well.
It remains unclear whether the F.B.I. also gained access to Mr. Petraeus's personal e-mail account, or if it relied only on e-mails discovered in Ms. Broadwell's in-box. It also remains uncertain exactly when the information about Mr. Petraeus reached Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director. Both men have declined to comment.
But under the Attorney General Guidelines that govern domestic law enforcement officials, agents must notify F.B.I. headquarters and the Department of Justice whenever they are looking at a "sensitive investigative matter," which includes cases "involving the activities of a domestic public official."
F.B.I. agents interviewed Ms. Broadwell for the first time the
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