Ever since CIA director and retired army general David Petraeus shockingly resigned on November 9 over an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, the scandal has grown larger and more bewildering with every update.
In brief, the scandal was exposed when Broadwell reportedly sent harassing emails to Jill Kelley, an unpaid social liaison at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. According to the article in The Wall Street Journal, Kelley reported the emails to a friend and FBI agent, who subsequently launched an investigation. In the summer of 2012, the agents sourced the emails to Broadwell, and secured a warrant to investigate her personal account. The investigation led to the discovery of the correspondence between Petraeus and Broadwell. Petraeus was found to be using a Gmail account—a serious potential security liability for a CIA director. The agents notified Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller of the investigation.
On October 27, 2012, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was informed by an FBI employee about the affair. Around this time, both Petraeus and Broadwell were interviewed by FBI officials and immediately confessed to the affair. As a result, agents informed James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, of the improper relationship. Clapper then met with Petraeus and urged him to resign. On November 7, the White House was first notified of the affair, and then President Obama was briefed the following day, having returned from Chicago after the election. Petraeus offered his resignation to the president who, after considering for a day, accepted it.
From here onwards, the story veers into the territory of the absurd. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the FBI agent who initially investigated Jill Kelley’s claims had previously sent her shirtless photographs of himself. Though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the WSJ writes, the agent was dismissed from the case once the information became known. However, the agent was not dissuaded from a continued interest in the case, according to The New York Times. In fact, the agent suspected a more devious cause for his dismissal. “Because of his ‘worldview,’ as the official put it,” wrote the Times, “he suspected a politically motivated cover-up to protect President Obama.”
But wait, there’s more—the plot continued to thicken and add more players to the mix. When Petraeus stepped down as Commander of the International Security Assistant Force in Afghanistan, the man who succeed him was four-star general John Allen, nominated to be NATO’S Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. According to a Washington Post report, the FBI uncovered 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Jill Kelley, the social event planner in Tampa. However, according to an unnamed official at US Central Command, the number of emails exchanged was much fewer than the figure originally cited, and closer to a few hundred spread out across several years. The senior official denied rumors of an affair or salacious content in the emails, going so far as to say Gen. Allen “[had] never been alone with her.” The content of the correspondence remains unclear at this stage.
Meanwhile, Kelley has taken measures to protect herself ahead of the unraveling scandal by hiring Monica Lewinsky’s crisis manager and John Edwards’ attorney. For Kelley and her husband, Scott, already saddled with four lawsuits, difficult times lie ahead.
Photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File