Emails between general, socialite 'beyond flirtatious'
WASHINGTON — The exchange of emails between Marine Gen. John Allen, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, and a Florida woman linked to a roiling scandal 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 the 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.
The base is home to the Central Command, where Allen — who is also married with children — served as second in command before becoming head of all allied forces in Afghanistan more than a year ago.
The unexpected cloud over the four-star general grew out of the sex scandal involving retired Gen. David Petraeus, a decorated and popular figure who stepped down as CIA director last week after just 14 months, upon the disclosure of an extramarital affair with his biographer.
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 the Pentagon official.
Still, the official cautioned that media reports indicating 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 does not appear to be dying down.
Allen is slated to take over the role as top NATO commander in Europe. But President Obama, who has spoken highly of the general and has relied on his military acumen, has put the nomination on hold pending an investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general.
The rapidly evolving scandal stems from a request by Kelley that the FBI look into several anonymous emails that she received last summer, which she perceived as threats. But the probe unexpectedly uncovered a bombshell — the affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, an Army Reservist and researcher who authored his biography and who appeared to have a close working relationship with him.