Email affair hits career of another US general
The saga of the amorous generals destroyed a second illustrious career yesterday when defence secretary Leon Panetta suspended the confirmation of Gen John Allen as commander of Nato forces in Europe.
The Pentagon is investigating Gen Allen’s involvement with the Lebanese American socialite Jill Kelley, described by tabloid newspapers as a “raven-haired knock-out”.
Ms Kelley set in motion the chain of events leading to the resignation of the CIA director David Petraeus on November 9th. Gen Petraeus, who led US war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, had an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell from November 2011 until last summer. Ms Broadwell was jealous of the friendship between Gen Petraeus, his wife Holly, and Ms Kelley and her husband. She sent threatening emails to Ms Kelley, who complained to a friend at the FBI.
But while uncovering the Petraeus-Broadwell affair, the FBI unearthed 20,000-30,000 “inappropriate” emails exchanged by Ms Kelley and Gen Allen from 2010-2012. Gen Allen was second in command at Centcom, near Ms Kelley’s home in Tampa, Florida, until he was transferred to Afghanistan last year to replace Gen Petraeus when President Obama appointed the latter to head the CIA. Ms Kelley organises parties for the military at MacDill Air Force base, where Centcom is located.
Questions about the scandals involving two four-star generals dominated White House press secretary Jay Carney’s briefing yesterday. Mr Carney said the president was “surprised” but expressed gratitude to both men for their service.
Issue for Obama
“This isn’t what you’re looking for the first week after your re-election,” said Jen Psaki, who was a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. The issue is certain to come up in Mr Obama’s first press conference since his re-election today.
It is not yet clear whether the affairs were merely examples of the poor judgment evoked by Gen Petraeus in his resignation letter, or breaches of national security. On Monday night, 10 FBI agents went to the house that Ms Broadwell shares with her husband, a radiologist, and their two sons in Charlotte, North Carolina. The agents wore blue latex gloves, entered with a key and searched the house for two hours, removing computers and papers.
The Petraeus-Broadwell affair apparently ended last summer, about the time Ms Kelly told Gen Petraeus of the email threats she had received. He asked his mistress to stop such behaviour. Ms Broadwell has retained Robert Muse, the Washington lawyer who represented Monica Lewinsky.
In a New York Daily Mail interview, Ms Broadwell’s father implied there was more to the scandal than top military brass lusting after younger women. “This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out,” he said. “You wait and see. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.”
In a further twist, the FBI agent and friend of Ms Kelley who initiated the investigation is himself under investigation by the FBI. The unnamed man is reported to have sent pictures of himself, shirtless, to Ms Kelley before she told him about Ms Broadwell’s emails. The agent was taken off the case because a colleague said he seemed obsessed with it. He complained to a Republican Congressman who alerted the Republican House minority leader Eric Cantor, who went to the head of the FBI.
The FBI is under scrutiny by congressional intelligence committees for its failure to observe normal procedures. Politicians ask how the FBI could investigate the director of the CIA without notifying committee heads or the White House.