L’Affaire Petraeus Ensnares Another Top General

The scandal that brought down David Petraeus as head of the CIA seems to grow stranger by the day, with the latest development bringing into the news the man who succeeded Petraeus as Commander of American forces in Afghanistan:

PERTH, Australia — The FBI probe into the sex scandal that prompted CIA Director David Petraeus to resign has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced early Tuesday.

According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 documents — most of them e-mails — of “potentially inappropriate” communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa woman whose close relationship with Petraeus ultimately led to his downfall.

Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. He also served as Petraeus’s deputy when both generals led the military’s Tampa-based Central Command from 2008 until 2010.

The FBI first notified the Pentagon of its investigation into Allen’s communications with Kelley on Sunday evening, according to the senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the pending case.

In response, Pentagon chief Leon E. Panetta referred the investigation on Monday to the Defense Department’s Inspector General for further review, according to a statement released by Panetta early Tuesday as he was traveling to Australia.

The latest development in the unfolding scandal has shaken President Obama’s national-security staff and upended his carefully chosen plans for filling senior military and intelligence leadership jobs in his second term.

It also further calls into question the personal behavior of two of the U.S. military’s highest-ranking and most respected figures, who apparently ignored concerns about the highly sensitive nature of their positions as they embraced personal relationships with younger women who were not their wives.

Petraeus’s fall from grace shocked the CIA but especially stunned his former colleagues in the Army, where he was considered one of the most brilliant and influential commanders of his generation. Allen, a Marine, was likewise seen as an intellectual and upstanding role model who first made his mark as a general in Iraq during the George W. Bush administration and later earned Obama’s confidence.

In his statement, Panetta said Allen would remain as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for now, “while the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined.” The senior defense official said Allen “disputes that he has engaged in any wrongdoing,” but would not elaborate.

But his time as commander in Afghanistan may be short. Panetta has also asked the Senate to expedite the confirmation of his likely successor, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford.

Obama had nominated Dunford last month to replace Allen. Coincidentally, the Senate Armed Services Committee had already scheduled his confirmation hearing for Thursday. Panetta said he has asked the Senate to expedite its review of Dunford’s nomination.

Allen had been simultaneously nominated by the White House to take over as chief of the military’s European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. That nomination is now on hold, Panetta said, pending the outcome of the probe of his communications with Kelley.

Late last night, the White House announced that it had placed Allen’s nomination to be NATO Commander on hold pending the investigation, suggesting that yet another top General may be taken down in this whole bizarre mess.

As if that weren’t enough, we also learned last night that the FBI Agent who had originally brought Jill Kelley’s “threatening emails” to the attention of the Bureau’s Cyber Crimes unit is now under investigation himself for sending shirtless pictures of himself to Mrs. Kelley:

WASHINGTON—A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he was personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe

After being blocked from the case, the agent continued to press the matter, relaying his concerns to a member of Congress, the officials said.

New details about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the case suggest that even as the bureau delved into Mr. Petraeus’s personal life, the agency had to address conduct by its own agent—who allegedly sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman involved in the case prior to the investigation.

The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.

However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.

One official said the agent in question sent shirtless photos to Ms. Kelley well before the email investigation began, and FBI officials only became aware of them some time later. Eventually, supervisors told the agent he was to have nothing to do with the case, though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the official said.

The agent, after being barred from the case, contacted a member of Congress, Washington Republican David Reichert, because he was concerned senior FBI officials were going to sweep the matter under the rug, the officials said. That information was relayed to top congressional officials, who notified FBI headquarters in Washington.

 Of coruse, if this agent had sent shirtless pictures to Jill Kelley before she started getting the “threatening”emails from an anonymous address that turned out to be Paula Broadwell then why did she go to him with those emails? It’s all very, very strange.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Fiona says:

    Very strange is right. Who is this Kelly woman and how did she end up at the center of two scandals?

  2. LaMont says:

    I was at first very confusd as to why what initiated the investigation had legs. Now I am starting to understand why. A classic case of personal vandettas and ego trips that led to an explosive situation!

  3. CSK says:

    Doug, I think Kelley went to that agent precisely because she had some sort of prior relationship with him, if that’s what you’re asking. . He sent her topless pix of himself, which suggests that they were something more than professional acquaintances.

    Not sure about Kelley, but presumably all of the other people involved–Petraeus, Allen, Broadwell, the FBI agent–have triple-digit IQs. Shouldn’t it have occurred to at least one of them that emails are electronic postcards? And that digital photos might as well be billboards?

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Pretty soon they’ll have to change the name of the Pentagon to “Peyton Place.”

  5. edmond says:

    And gay troops were a security risk because…….?

  6. LaMont says:


    I agree. Kelley apparantly felt comfortable turning to this agent even after the shirtless photos. They too were definitely involved.

  7. Ian says:


    Seriously. Thank God gays can’t legally get married in most of the country. It would undermine the institution of marriage.

  8. Franklin says:

    @edmond: Your comment: instant classic!

  9. Geek, Esq. says:

    Forget Peyton Place, this is Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

  10. Last night, before the Allen angle hit, I was talking on the phone to a former field-grade Marine infantry officer about l’affaire Petraeus wherein we marveled at other senior Army or Marine officers we had known in our careers who could not keep their pants zipped and so ruined their otherwise-stellar careers. For my buddy it was a regimental commander, years ago. The one that I recollected first was an armor brigade commander who decided to poke his Spec 4 driver, and I don’t mean on the then-nonexistent Facebook.

    I confess to having a more jaded view of the whole sordid mess than a lot of folks for two main reasons. One, my final assignment in the Army was as a principal staff officer of US Army Criminal Investigation Command – and you do that for awhile and you will never again be surprised at anything stupid or criminal that anyone does, no matter his/her reputation, accomplishments or station in life. Two, I’ve been in ecclesial ministry for 15 years, same lesson (including, sadly, fellow clergy).

    So last night my buddy, bemoaning the fall of David Petraeus (whom he briefed weekly, in person, in Baghdad for two years when serving there during the Surge), said confidently, “You’ll never see John Allen doing anything like that.” My friend served with Allen when they were both mid-grade officers.

    My response was, well, typically jaded: “He will never do it until he does it.” I recollected 1986’s blockbuster movie, Top Gun, in which a Navy air-combat instructor pilot tells Tom Cruise’s character, “That was some of the best flying I’ve ever seen. Right up to the point where you got killed.” And the men or women you would never suspect of stupidity or unzipping their pants never do so – right up until the time they do.

    But the real question now is not why the affair happened, but why the FBI’s investigation ever went forward at all, since Broadwell’s emails to Kelley were actually innocuous, and more importantly, why is the investigation continuing now?

    Right now, it seems to me that the main thing going on is the FBI is engaging in a huge coverup of its own ineptitude and failure to adhere to professional standards. There is no “there” there in the investigation – no evidence of criminal conduct or intelligence threat and, most importantly, no reason for the Broadwell emails to have been the subject of an investigation to begin with. But now the FBI is “all in,” and is not going to stop until somehow, some way, no matter how flimsy the reason, they get the opportunity to slap cuffs on somebody.

    Now the “investigation” is not about Petraeus, not about Obama, not about Allen or Broadwell or Kelley. It’s about the FBI circling the wagons.

    I posted more about this here.