The emails between Marine Gen. John Allen, the top American military leader in Afghanistan, and a Florida socialite contain comments that “go beyond flirtatious, and can probably be described safely as suggestive,” a Defense Department official said Wednesday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the investigation is ongoing into the content of the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 pages of communications between Allen and Jill Kelley, a married mother of three from Tampa who organized social events at MacDill Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Central Command.
Allen served as second in command at CENTCOM before becoming head of all allied forces in Afghanistan more than a year ago. He is slated to take over the role as top NATO commander in Europe, but President Barack Obama, who has spoken highly of Allen and has relied on his military acumen, has put the nomination on hold pending a Pentagon investigation into the emails
The rapidly evolving scandal stems from Kelley’ request that the FBI look into several anonymous emails that she received last summer, which she perceived as threats. The probe unexpectedly uncovered a bombshell – a romantic affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
Petraeus, a prominent retired four-star general who is married – as is Broadwell – resigned his CIA post last week after acknowledging their extramarital relationship.
Though somewhat hazy, the events leading up to that decision appear to be that Broadwell allegedly contacted Allen to warn him about Kelley. The general then allegedly forwarded those emails to Kelley, triggering the FBI’s involvement.
Both Allen and Kelley have denied having a sexual relationship. But the FBI investigation uncovered a trove of communication between the two that has not yet been fully discussed or analyzed, according to an official at the Pentagon, who asked to remain anonymous to be able to talk about the investigation.
Still, the official cautioned that media reports that some of the messages verged on “an email version of phone sex” probably went too far. What is known is that the scandal embroiling top leaders of the American military and intelligence community doesn’t appear to be dying down.
FBI agents were in Broadwell’s Charlotte, N.C., home Tuesday and removed materials, underscoring a concern that she was in possession of classified materials.
At his press conference Wednesday, the president said, "I have no evidence at this point from what I’ve seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security."
In addition to the scandal surrounding one current and one former four-star general, this week saw a third busted down a star in rank. Gen. William E. Ward was forced to repay $82,000 in excessive and inappropriate spending while overseeing the African command.
Addressing the Ward issue, but in a statement that could have wider application, Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “The secretary is committed to ensuring that any improprieties or misconduct by senior officers are dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”