Petraeus scandal widens, snares U.S. commander in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:39pm EST

1 of 4. A combination photo shows CIA Director David Petraeus speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 31, 2012 and U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen arriving to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington June 28, 2011. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for alleged inappropriate communication with a woman at the center of the scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, a senior U.S. defense official said on November 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus widened on Tuesday as U.S. defense officials said they were looking into "flirtatious" e-mails between General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and a woman at the center of the affair.

Defense Department officials said they were sifting through 30,000 pages of email and other communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite whose complaints about harassing messages led to the discovery of Petraeus' affair with his biographer.

The revelation threatens to fell another of the U.S. military's biggest names after Petraeus' surprise resignation last week. It also complicates President Barack Obama's efforts to wind down the war in Afghanistan and reorganize his national security team following his re-election.

A senior defense official told Reuters the emails between Allen and Kelley were seen as potentially inappropriate because they were "flirtatious" in nature, not because they dealt with sensitive information. Allen has denied that the two had a sexual relationship, officials said on condition of anonymity.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Allen, a four-star Marine Corps general, would stay in his job for the time being, and the White House said Obama still had faith in Allen's ability to command U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But asked how Obama saw the unfolding scandal at a time when his priorities include impending "fiscal cliff," Press Secretary Jay Carney said: "I certainly wouldn't call it welcome."

Obama suspended plans to transfer Allen to Europe, where he was to be the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in the region.

Both Allen and the official due to replace him in Afghanistan, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before they can take their new posts in February.

Top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee said they would go ahead with a confirmation hearing for Dunford on Thursday. Allen's appearance was canceled.

Allen had just submitted recommendations on what role the United States should play in Afghanistan after most American combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.

The investigations raised questions about how top U.S. officials in sensitive national security posts allowed themselves to become so personally involved with the women.

Kelley, 37, is a fixture in military circles in Tampa, Florida, where she was a volunteer social liaison at MacDill Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Central Command. She and her husband, surgeon Scott Kelley, became friends with Petraeus when he was stationed there from 2008 to 2010.

Her complaints about harassing emails from the woman with whom Petraeus had an affair, Paula Broadwell, prompted an FBI investigation that ultimately disclosed Petraeus' involvement with Broadwell.

People close to Petraeus say he had no romantic relationship with Kelley, but Broadwell may have seen her as a rival.

Both Petraeus and Allen had recently intervened in a bitter custody battle on behalf of Kelley's twin sister. The men wrote letters in September to the District of Columbia Superior Court in support of the twin sister, Natalie Khawam, as she sought more visitation rights with her son, court papers showed.

Officials suggested they were concerned by the volume of communications between Allen and Kelley over the past two years, rather than the possibility that the two shared classified material or engaged in an extramarital affair.

"We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents," one official said.

Details on content of the emails were not revealed.

The FBI referred the case to the Pentagon on Sunday and Panetta directed the Defense Department's Inspector General to handle the investigation. Panetta also informed lawmakers who oversee military affairs.

FBI RAID, SHIRTLESS PHOTOS

FBI agents searched the Charlotte, North Carolina, house of Broadwell late Monday in a sign that the case involving Petraeus was not fully closed.

Agents entered the house carrying boxes at around 9 p.m. (0200 GMT Tuesday) and emerged four hours later, carrying away what appeared to be two computers and about 10 boxes.

Broadwell's family was not at home at the time.

U.S. officials had said in recent days that their investigation was largely complete and that prosecutors had determined it was unlikely they would bring charges in that case, which started when Kelley contacted an FBI agent in Tampa about harassing emails from an anonymous source.

That FBI agent, who has not been identified, came under scrutiny himself after it was discovered he had sent shirtless photographs of himself to Kelley "long before" this investigation, a law enforcement official told Reuters.

The FBI agent, who alerted an FBI cyber squad to the Broadwell case, apparently became frustrated at the pace of the investigation and complained to a member of Congress about it, the official said.

The emails between the two women were of a "childish", jealous nature and showed some one-upmanship of trying to come across as being more important to Petraeus, the official said.

Lawmakers and others have questioned whether Broadwell, who co-wrote a biography of the decorated former general, obtained classified information from him or another source.

Panetta had earlier said Petraeus did the right thing by stepping down, given the security concerns, but he was saddened by the end of the retired general's distinguished career.

(Additional reporting by Rick Rothacker, David Ingram, Toby Zakaria, Susan Cornwell, Matt Spetalnick, Margaret Chadbourn and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Andy Sullivan. Editing by Warren Strobel and Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (73)
GRRR wrote:
Don’t act surprised; we’re all humans. The truth is, impropriety is common, but knowledge of it, is much less common.

Nov 13, 2012 2:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
Fantasywriter wrote:
I didn’t bother to read this story because it all seems so ridiculous when compared to the medias efforts during the Benghazi story or should I say non-story. For this Petraeus story the media is everywhere gathering interviews and witnesses to further bury Petraeus in the sexual mud of this scandal. But the real scandal here is why the media didn’t use that same investigative power to hunt out the truth in the Benghazi fiasco that cost American lives. In fact, at least two media outlets purposely withheld stories apparently to provide cover for the President of the United States in the days leading up to the November elections.

Just this evening ABC was leading with the Petraeus story. There were loads of visuals, interviews with old friends and acquaintances. They garnered information from sources that could have been called upon to provide information regarding Benghazi but of course saw nothing. If there is to be an investigation here it should be of the news media and their complicity in the effort, run by the White House, to bury any information that would have exposed the President as criminally incompetent in his handling of the Benghazi fiasco. The media should be compelled to answer questions as to why they would make such a concerted effort to deceive the American people in order to aid in the election of an American President.

Nov 13, 2012 3:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
Grokenstein wrote:
The appropriately-named Fantasywriter was, of course, equally enraged at the incompetence by the Cheney Administration (do not kid yourself) that let the 9-11-01 attacks occur; in fact, he is of course even more enraged because that led to three thousand deaths on American soil.

…Right?

Nov 13, 2012 3:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
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