- Filed Under
Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was nominated to be NATO's supreme allied commander and head of U.S. European Command, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Oct. 6. (The Associated Press)
A cast of characters in the Petraeus sex scandal
WASHINGTON — One day CIA Director David Patraeus was sending out signals he’d like to stay on for President Barack Obama’s second term. The next he was hurrying to the White House to offer his resignation and remorse over an extramarital affair. In rapid succession, other characters have emerged in North Carolina, Florida and Afghanistan with story lines that resemble the latest installment of "Real Housewives."
And the scandal’s become so complicated you need a scorecard to keep track:
A highly decorated four-star Army general lauded for his leadership of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Petraeus, 60, moved into the civilian world to become CIA director in September 2011. He shocked official Washington on Friday by admitting an extramarital affair with his biographer and resigning his post.
The other woman. Now a 40-year-old author and married mom of two young children, she met Petraeus while she was an Army reservist and graduate student at Harvard in 2006. She later embarked on a case study on his leadership of the Iraq War. After he took the helm in Afghanistan, Broadwell expanded her work into a biography, gaining unprecedented access to Petraeus and his commanders. It’s called "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."
Their affair began in November 2011, a couple of months after he became CIA director, according to retired Army Col. Steve Boylan, a friend of the Petraeus family. It ended last summer, Boylan said.
The relationship was exposed after Broadwell of Charlotte, N.C., sent emails to another woman, Jill Kelley, warning her to stay away from Petraeus, officials said.
All threads in the story trace back to this Tampa, Fla., socialite.
A surgeon’s wife and mother of three young girls, Kelley is a sort of self-appointed social ambassador for the nearby U.S. Central Command. The Kelleys opened their bayside home to lavish parties where military brass mingled with Tampa’s elite. In this role, she befriended Petraeus and his wife, Holly, when he took over Central Command in October 2008.
Kelley, 37, stayed in close contact with Petraeus after he left to take command of the Afghanistan war. They exchanged nearly daily emails in an account routinely monitored by his aides, according to two former staffers, who said those messages weren’t romantic in tone.
In May 2012, Kelley started getting anonymous, harassing emails warning her away from Petraeus. She reported the email to the FBI.
The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell, uncovering her affair with Petraeus. The FBI notified Petraeus’ boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who urged him to resign.
And the FBI found something more.
It unearthed "inappropriate communications" between Kelley and another top military officer, John Allen, according to Pentagon officials.
The four-star Marine general who followed in Petraeus’ footsteps at Central Command and then as Afghanistan commander is now following him into choppy waters.
The Pentagon is investigating 20,000 pages of documents and emails involving Allen, who is married, and Kelley. Some of the communications were "flirtatious," according to a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the case publicly.
Like Petraeus, Allen was part of the Tampa social circle; he moved up to acting commander when Petraeus left for Afghanistan. When Petraeus came home from Afghanistan, Allen moved into the top job there — his current post.
President Barack Obama has nominated Allen to take over U.S. European Command and lead all NATO forces in Europe. That’s been put on hold. He denies any wrongdoing and remains in his job.
Kelley’s twin sister also socialized with the two generals. Both Petraeus and Allen wrote letters lauding Khawam as a devoted mother to help her in a bitter child custody battle with her ex-husband. Earlier in that divorce case, Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz had criticized Khawam for a lack of honesty and "misrepresentations about virtually everything."
Petraeus’ wife of 38 years, mother of their two grown children, is in charge of service member assistance at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is a well-known advocate for military families. Mrs. Petraeus is said to be devastated by her husband’s infidelity. "Furious would be an understatement," family friend Boylan told ABC’s "Good Morning America."
THE SHIRTLESS FBI AGENT
And then there’s this unnamed character: The FBI agent to whom Kelley first took her complaint was a longtime friend. And he had once sent her shirtless photos of himself, according to a federal law enforcement official.
He passed the information along to others for investigation, and was subsequently told to steer clear of the case because his superiors worried that he had become obsessed with it, the official said.
But the agent passed along a tip about Petraeus’ affair to Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state, who got word to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Oct. 27, nearly two weeks before the scandal became public.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is under investigation for trading "flirtatious" emails with the same Florida socialite who sparked the FBI probe of former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, according to a defense official.
The FBI has turned over to the Defense Department's Inspector General more than 20,000 pages of emails linking Marine Gen. John Allen to Jill Kelley, the wealthy 37-year-old Tampa woman who befriended many of the top brass at MacDill Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Central Command's headquarters.
Allen has told Pentagon officials that he was not having an extramarital affair with Kelley, the defense official said.
An initial review of the emails did not suggest any criminal conduct by Allen, yet they may amount to a violation of Article 134, which is a catch-all for violations such as "conduct unbecoming of an officer" or "conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces".
"The FBI can't look at it in terms of the Uniform Code of Military Justice," the defense official said.
Allen is married, and if the investigation found that he did have an affair with Kelley, he could face a charge of adultery, which is a crime under the UCMJ.
The defense official described the emails as "flirtatious" but could not say whether they were sexual in nature. It wasn't immediately clear who wrote the flirtatious notes — Allen, Kelley or both.
The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, used the term "flirtatious" to clarify that they were not directly related to national security matters or official business.
The FBI discovered the emails Allen shared with Kelley after Kelley complained of receiving anonymous threatening emails.
The initial FBI probe ultimately found that those emails came from Petraus's biographer, Paula Broadwell. The FBI also learned that Broadwell was having an extramarital affair with Petraeus, prompting the former four-star general to resign from his post at the CIA on Nov. 9.
Allen exchanged emails with Kelley between 2010 and this year, the defense official said.
It's unclear how those email exchanges became so voluminous and suggest almost daily contact between the general and the Florida socialite. Some of the emails may not be direct exchanges but copies of emails involving other people, the defense official said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta learned of Allen's link to Kelley on Sunday. Allen will remain commander of the 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but his nomination to become the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe is on hold.
In a White House statement early Tuesday, National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Obama has held Allen's nomination at Panetta's request. Obama, the statement said, "remains focused on fully supporting our extraordinary troops and coalition partners in Afghanistan, who Gen. Allen continues to lead as he has so ably done for over a year."
Allen was scheduled to turn over command of the Afghan war effort to Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford early next year.
Allen was also due to give Panetta a recommendation soon on the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals in 2013.
The decision by the FBI to hand off the Allen information to the military seems to indicate the issue is not one involving the handling of classified information, but rather some other issue.
The Petraeus case has sparked an uproar in Congress, with lawmakers complaining they should have been told earlier about the probe that has roiled the intelligence and military establishment.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called the latest revelations in the case "a Greek tragedy."
"It's just tragic," King said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. "This has the elements in some ways of a Hollywood movie or a trashy novel."
The issue of what the FBI knew, when it notified top Obama administration officials, and when Congress was told, has brought criticism from lawmakers, who say they should have been told earlier.
The White House wasn't informed of the FBI investigation that involved Petraeus until Nov. 6, Election Day, although agents began looking at Petraeus' actions months earlier, sometime during the summer. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that she first learned of the matter from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call to the then-CIA director on Friday.
That was the same day Obama accepted Petraeus' resignation, and the 60-year-old retired Army general, who headed U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking charge of the CIA, acknowledged an affair with Broadwell and expressed regret.
Defending the notification timing, a senior federal law enforcement official pointed Monday to longstanding policies and practices, adopted following abuses and mistakes that were uncovered during the Nixon administration's Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. The Justice Department — of which the FBI is part — is supposed to refrain from sharing detailed information about its criminal investigations with the White House.
The FBI also looked into whether a separate set of emails between Petraeus and Broadwell might involve any security breach. That will be a key question Wednesday in meetings involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.
A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation, said the FBI had concluded relatively quickly — and certainly by late summer at the latest — that there was no security breach. Absent a security breach, it was appropriate not to notify Congress or the White House earlier, this official said.
Extramarital affairs are viewed as particularly risky for intelligence officers because they might be blackmailed to keep the affair quiet. For military personnel, adultery is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
According to two federal law enforcement officials, the FBI initially began a criminal investigation of unsigned, harassing emails that were sent, beginning last May, to Kelley. She and her husband, Scott, were longtime friends of Petraeus and his wife, Holly. FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell and during that process discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private Gmail account. Further investigation revealed that account belonged to Petraeus, under an alias.
Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.
Rather than transmitting emails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic "dropbox," the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier for outsiders to intercept or trace.
Agents later told Petraeus that Broadwell sent emails warning Kelley to stay away from the general and carrying a threatening tone.
Friends and former staff members of Petraeus told The Associated Press that he has assured them his relationship with Kelley was platonic, although Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival. They said Petraeus was shocked to learn last summer of Broadwell's emails to Kelley.
Petraeus also denied to these associates that he had given Broadwell any sensitive military information.
FBI agents who contacted Petraeus told him that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer, the general's associates said. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and he mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders she visited in the field there.
One associate also said Petraeus believes the documents described past operations and had already been declassified, although they might have still been marked "secret."
Broadwell had high security clearances as part of her former job as a reserve Army major in military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the Petraeus biography.
The FBI concluded there was no security breach.
Nevertheless, FBI agents conducted a search of Broadwell's Charlotte, N.C., home on Monday. And the criminal investigation continued into the emails to Kelley, including whether Petraeus had any hand in them. At that point in late summer, FBI Director Robert Mueller and eventually Attorney General Eric Holder were notified that agents had uncovered what appeared to be an extramarital affair involving Petraeus.
Broadwell and Petraeus have each been questioned by FBI agents twice in recent weeks, with both acknowledging the affair in separate interviews. The FBI's most recent interviews with Broadwell and with Petraeus both occurred during the week of Oct. 29, days before the election, one of the law enforcement officials said. The FBI notified Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, of the investigation on Tuesday, Nov. 6 — Election Day.
In another twist, an FBI agent who was a friend of Kelley and who passed along information from her to the agents who conducted the investigation was subsequently told by his superiors to steer clear of the case because they grew concerned that the agent had become obsessed with the investigation, a federal law enforcement official said. Before the case involving Petraeus got underway, the agent had sent Kelley shirtless photos of himself, according to this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.
Broadwell co-authored a biography titled "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," published in January. She wrote that she met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.
Petraeus told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, 40, a couple of months after he became CIA director in September 2011. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding U.S. troops overseas, the associate said.
Petraeus told former staffers and friends that he had regularly visited the Kelleys' home overlooking Tampa Bay. Kelley served as a sort of social ambassador for U.S. Central Command, hosting parties for the general when Petraeus was commander there from 2008-10.
Jill Kelley regularly kept in touch with Petraeus when he became commander of the Afghanistan war effort, the two exchanging near-daily emails and instant messages, two of his former staffers said. But those messages were exchanged in accounts that his aides monitored as part of their duties and were not romantic in tone, the staffers said.
Petraeus and his family are devastated over the affair — especially Mrs. Petraeus, who "is not exactly pleased right now" after 38 years of marriage, said Steve Boylan, a friend and former Petraeus spokesman who spoke to him over the weekend.
Broadwell, married with two young sons, has not returned phone calls or emails seeking comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report