About the Show

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

We've moved! Come join us at our new show page.

We've moved! Come join us at our new show page.

August 16th, 2013
06:50 PM ET

Jill Kelley suing government over Petraeus sex scandal

In the debate between security and liberty, the argument for strong government surveillance powers often boils down to two words: Trust us.

Trust us, we're the U.S. government. Trust us, we have your interests at heart. Trust us, we're here to keep you safe.

And for many Americans - that's often good enough.

But consider Jill Kelley, who was tangled up in the David Petraeus-Paula Broadwell sex scandal, which ended the career of CIA Director Petraeus, as well as a General who was supposed to become NATO's supreme allied commander.

It all started last summer, when Kelley went to the FBI to report a case of cyber stalking.

And then? Well, according to a new lawsuit she and her husband are bringing against the Obama administration, Kelley was slimed by law enforcement, military and government officials, with her privacy violated and her reputation destroyed. Even though she says she was the victim of the cyber stalking.

"Trust us," indeed.

Newspaper headlines and TV newscasts described Kelly as "the other woman," and "seductress."

But Kelley swears in her new lawsuit against top government agencies – under penalty of perjury – that such descriptions were inaccurate and defamatory, and that she "has not had an affair with anyone."

So how did it happen that this woman, once unknown beyond the social set in Tampa, Florida, saw her reputation allegedly destroyed by anonymous government officials?

Attorney Alan Charles Raul, who is representing the Kelleys', explains the mess started in May 2012, when four-star General John Allen began receiving e-mails from "kelleypatrol@gmail.com."

"The position Mr. and Mrs. Kelley are in today is not something they asked for. They came forward to do the right thing, and everything that was unleashed from that point forward was a result of the government's lack of of restraint in protecting the privacy and dignity of the victims here," said Raul.

According to the Kelleys' lawsuit, the e-mail disparaged Jill and referred specifically to her and the General's individual private schedules.

The suit also claims e-mails sent by Petraeus' mistress Paula Broadwell were then sent to the Kelleys under the alias "Tampa Angel."

The messages made reference to private information, leading the couple to believe they were being followed.

The Kelleys claim the messages also threatened them with "embarrassment for all, including spouses, such as info in national headlines."

Jill Kelley reached out to a friend in the FBI, and an investigation was launched.

The Kelleys assert that Jill gave FBI investigators permission to view just one bothersome e-mail in the couple's account, but they kept pressing for access to others, and "searched, obtained, and reviewed personal, irrelevant private e-mails belonging to the Kelleys."

"If there's a case study, if next year, the Department of Justice does training on victim witness assistance and protection, really the poster child case of how not to do it is how Mrs. Kelley and Dr. Kelley were treated in this instance," said Raul.

In July FBI agents appeared at her home in Tampa, Florida, and essentially ordered her to get into an SUV or else they would "do something in front of her children that may terrify them." The agents told her she didn't have time to call her lawyer. And, she says, they made insinuations and accusations regarding her relationship with Director Petraeus and General Allen.

"She was not treated with the respect that someone who comes forward as a victim of cyber stalking, someone who really believed that her physical security and ... her friends who were senior military officials, that they're lives, they're security was in jeopardy as a result of the communications that she and her husband received," said Raul.

In November, Petraeus abruptly resigned, and his affair with Broadwell became known internationally. Later, when Jill's e-mails with General Allen were uncovered, the Kelleys say the few investigators who knew her name, "willfully and maliciously" leaked it to the media, and into the "maw of public scrutiny."

"So they essentially make her collateral damage ... the government didn't do the right thing about the Kelleys. It adopted a blame-the-victim approach, instead of treating them as the victims and as the witnesses who came forward with evidence of a potential crime," said Raul.

Kelley and Allen denied anything untoward, but descriptions of the e-mails from anonymous officials called them "the equivalent of phone sex" over e-mail, which both of them flatly denied.

"Any time you're investigated, and you have to remember back across three years I hadn't - I didn't have any concerns about what was in the content of the e-mails," Allen told ABC News.

The media came calling.

Aggressive reporters hounded the Kellys and, according to their complaint, their former lives became unrecoverable.

Jill Kelley was active with the local military community, an honorary consul to South Korea, and deeply interested in speaking on Afghan affairs.

She says her reputation was indelibly damaged.

"The senior policy makers ought to ask themselves, 'Ought we to defend this conduct? Is this conduct defensible?' Which is to say, is the cavalier disclosure and disparaging comments and leaks of Mrs. Kelley's name," said Raul.

Allen's nomination to head up NATO was put on hold, and then it was essentially scrubbed. He retired.

But for the Kelleys, the fallout has continued.

"A lawsuit, even a successful lawsuit, can only go so far in restoring the victims to where they were before this all happened," said Raul.

Instead, the couple is asking for acknowledgement and compensation.

"What the Kelleys are looking for in this complaint is an apology, some effort to restore their reputation as close as possible to what it was before all this was imposed upon them, and justice," said Raul.

"They're serious people, not frivolous people and this has had an impact on them in every way, an emotional toll on their lives, their families, their reputations, their economic livelihood," said Raul.

Patraeus, Broadwell, the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Obama administration all declined to comment for this report.

The Justice Department dropped the cyber stalking investigation of Paula Broadwell with no explanation, though the probe into how she obtained classified material is ongoing. The Obama administration has until September 4 to respond to this lawsuit.

Disclosure: CNN's Jake Tapper peripherally knew Scott Kelley in college, but has not communicated with him in any way in 25 years.

Posted by ,
Filed under: Buried Lead
soundoff (No Responses)

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.