Politics

The Petraeus avalanche picks up an FBI agent and a general

The Petraeus avalanche picks up an FBI agent and a general

Update: Can we make this story even stranger?  To borrow a slogan from our recently re-elected President: Yes, we can.  It turns out that Jill Kelley has a twin sister named Natalie Khawam, who has been denied custody of her 4-year-old son because of “serious reservations about her honesty and mental stability,” according to court records discovered by the New York Post.  Longtime soap opera fans know the story is never really complete without a twin sister.

About two months ago, Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time, wrote a letter to DC Superior Court in support of Kelley’s sister.  The Post describes the nasty tenor of the custody battle Petraeus chose to involve himself in:

Petraeus wrote his letter amid a bitter divorce and custody battle between Khawam and Grayson Wolfe, a partner in a DC-based private venture firm.

A judge in November 2011 gave Wolfe sole custody of the couple’s son after finding that Khawam, a lawyer, repeatedly lied under oath and filed bogus domestic-violence and child-abuse claims against her husband after their one-year marriage began crumbling in 2009.

That judge also found that Khawam routinely defied court orders to let the child see his dad and sent harassing e-mails to Wolfe’s friends and business partners that “excoriated Mr. Wolfe for being a horrible father and husband.”

The judge blasted Khawam for giving false evidence, and noted that a court-ordered shrink had found her domestic-violence allegations to be “part of an ever-expanding set of sensational accusations . . . that are so numerous, so extraordinary and [so] distorted that they defy any common-sense view of reality.”

The judge also noted that she “is a psychologically unstable person.”

Jill Kelley also has a brother, David Khawam, who steadfastly maintains “it’s a blatant lie, knowing my sister, that she would ever have an affair with anybody.”  He seems to believe Paula Broadwell went off the deep end when she started accusing Jill Kelley of having an affair with the guy she was having an affair with.

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It’s a pity Blake Edwards isn’t around to film a swinging-Sixties sex comedy about the rapidly expanding Petraeus scandal.  It would have been a great movie, with mistresses shoved into closets, generals diving under desks at the approach of their wives, FBI agents suddenly tearing off their shirts to chase comely female witnesses around the interrogation table, and a climactic moment of hilarity when CIA Director David Petraeus (played by Peter Sellers) realized that every senior officer in the Pentagon was having an affair with at least one of his mistresses.  The cast could take a bow amid a shower of balloons and subpoenas.

Here’s where the bare-chested FBI man enters the farce, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:

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.

(Emphasis mine.) That would be Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite who has emerged as The Other Other Woman in this growing avalanche of weird.  Yesterday we learned that Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ primary mistress, was investigated by the FBI for sending a stream of harassing emails to Kelley – who she apparently suspected of being a backup mistress maintained by Petraeus, in case the primary adultery system failed.

By Monday evening, people were beginning to wonder how a young woman in Tampa managed to get an FBI investigation launched in response to a pile of bitchy emails, which we learned were not particularly menacing and contained no overt threats of violence.  It turns out that the investigating FBI agent was a friend of Kelley’s.  The kind of friend who sends shirtless photos of himself.  Because everyone in Tampa has friends like that.  It’s a crazy place.

The Journal reports that “supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation.”  This did not go down well with the as-yet-unnamed agent, who told Representative David Reichert (R-WA) about the whole mess in October, “because he was concerned senior FBI officials were going to sweep the matter under the rug.”  The journal doesn’t say why Agent Chippendale chose Reichert for this info dump; perhaps the agent is a constituent of Reichert’s, or respected the Congressman’s previous career as a cop – he was the sheriff of King County, and played a pivotal role in solving the Green River serial killings in 2001.

Reichert passed the information along to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)… who, according to ABC News, notified FBI Director Robert Mueller, but did not tell anyone else in Congress about what was going on, including House Speaker John Boehner.  Boehner found out about it by reading the newspapers.  “Cantor believed the FBI agent was credible enough to pass on the information to Mueller, but, given that it was a single source whom he had never met, he did not believe there was a need to pass the information on to his fellow House leaders,” says the ABC report.  Mueller’s discovery of the Petraeus affair was delayed by two days due to Hurricane Sandy.

So, to sum up: a woman in Tampa told a very, very good friend in the FBI that she was getting a string of anonymous emails from a jealous woman who wanted her to “stay away from my guy.”  This agent took it upon himself to launch a cyber-crimes investigation, which discovered the identity of the online stalker… and then established that she was having an affair with the director of the CIA, who turned out to be very close friends with the woman who lodged the initial complaint.  The agent who started all this was told to butt out because he was clearly personally involved with the woman who complained; he smelled a cover-up and told a Congressman, who told the House Majority Leader, who told the FBI Director… and that’s how the highest levels of management at the most sensitive internal and external security agencies in America found out all this was going on.

But wait, there’s more!  Because while the FBI was rooting through Jill Kelley’s email inbox for clues to the identity of her cyber-stalker, they discovered she was sending an awful lot of email to Marine General John R. Allen, who is the current commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  In other words, he’s David Petraeus’ successor… perhaps in more ways than one.  Because when I say he and Jill Kelley exchanged an “awful lot” of email, I mean “some 20,000 to 30,000 pages of material,” according to NBC News.  Apparently running the war in Afghanistan is not very time-consuming, so it makes sense to fill the empty hours by maintaining a lively but perfectly innocent correspondence with Florida housewives.

What kind of email was this? “A senior defense official told reporters Tuesday that it was alleged there had been ‘inappropriate communications’ between Allen and Jill Kelley,” says NBC.  Officials close to Allen deny these allegations.  The Washington Post adds the interesting detail that Allen received at least one email from “an unidentified account that eventually was traced to Paula Broadwell.”  This email reportedly said something about Jill Kelley, and it probably wasn’t anything good.

As it happens, General Allen was about to undergo confirmation hearings for command of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that his nomination will be put on ice “until the relevant facts are determined.”  Good luck with that.

Allen probably got to know Jill Kelley at one of the many events she and her husband hosted for Central Command officers in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Times ran a profile on Jill and her husband Scott, a gifted cancer surgeon who once worked at the prestigious Moffitt Cancer Center.  (He specializes in “a particular type of minimally invasive surgery to cure cancer of the esophagus, and has been featured on the cover of the center’s magazine.”)  The Kelley’s mansion “became the place to be seen for coalition officers,” prominently including then-General David Petraeus.  The Times paints a colorful portrait of Tampa Bay’s power couple:

“Jill was such an awesome client,” said Linda Baldwin, the owner of Events by Amore, which catered that party. “Did so much for the military, fabulous mother and amazing wife; can’t say enough nice things about her. She never spared anything for the military. It was all about them.”

Just three months after they posed with David and Holly Petraeus, strands of Gasparilla beads hanging from their necks, the Kelleys were hit with a foreclosure lawsuit.

The suit, brought by Central Bank against the Kelleys and Kelly Land Holdings, centered on a three-story office building at 300 E Madison St. in downtown Tampa. Court records show they owed the bank nearly $2.2 million, including attorney fees.

In 2011, a judge ordered the property to be put up for sale.

In the decade since the Kelleys arrived from Pennsylvania, it proved one of several examples of court cases seeking payment of real estate and credit card debts intermingling with catered parties and A-list guests as the couple sought to establish themselves in Tampa.

And now the Kelleys have a national scandal to contend with — one that is quickly growing more and more curious.

The remaining bit of business to be resolved in this farce is whether Petraeus leaked any classified information to Broadwell.  The Wall Street Journal says the FBI found copies of classified documents on Broadwell’s computer, but Petraeus and Broadwell have both denied that they came from the CIA director.  Much suspicion has focused upon Broadwell’s revelation, in a speech to her alma mater at the University of Denver in late October, that the CIA was running a secret prison at the consulate annex in Benghazi – an allegation the CIA continues to deny.  (Less remarked-upon is that Broadwell confirmed in the same speech that rapid response forces were within range to assist the consulate when it came under attack on September 11, but this “Extremis Force” of Delta Force operators was not dispatched.)

Meanwhile, no one is even talking about President Obama’s role in the Benghazi outrage any more.  Safely re-elected after weeks in which nobody but Fox News would touch the story that every media outlet in America suddenly considers top news (at least indirectly, because somebody involved in a juicy sex scandal talked about it) the President retired peacefully to his natural habitat and played yet another round of golf.   Supposedly he didn’t know anything about the wild events unfolding at the CIA, Pentagon, and FBI.  He is as shocked to discover all this as Captain Louis Renault was to find gambling at Rick’s Cafe.

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