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

Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:02am EST
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By David Alexander and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The scandal that felled CIA Director David Petraeus widened on Tuesday to snare the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John Allen, who was being investigated for "flirtatious" communications with a woman at the center of the case.

Though a law enforcement probe has not uncovered any evidence so far of legal wrongdoing or security risks, it does raise questions about the unusually close relationship between a Florida socialite, her sister and two of the most powerful men in the United States' national security apparatus.

The woman in question, Jill Kelley, has emerged as a central figure in the scandal that has brought down one of the most admired military leaders in the United States and threatens to derail the career of another.

Defense officials and people close to Petraeus say neither he nor Allen had a romantic relationship with Kelley, a 37-year-old wife and mother, who is described as a prominent presence in military circles in Tampa.

She may have been seen as a rival by Petraeus' biographer, Paula Broadwell, who sent Kelley a series of anonymous, harassing emails which touched off an investigation that uncovered evidence of an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell.

According to law enforcement sources, FBI investigators decided to pursue the matter when they found the messages contained information about the CIA chief's activities that was not publicly available.

Kelley had gotten to know both Petraeus and Allen as a volunteer setting up social events at MacDill Air Force Base outside Tampa, headquarters of U.S. Central Command.

The relationship was evidently close enough that both men intervened in a child custody battle involving Kelley's twin sister, Natalie Khawam.   Continued...

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. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/Files