ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT — The FBI probe into the sex scandal that led to the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced early Tuesday.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of “potentially inappropriate” e-mails between Allen and Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa woman whose close friendship with Petraeus ultimately led to his downfall. Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011.
The FBI first notified the Pentagon of its investigation into Allen’s communications with Kelley on Sunday evening, according to the senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the ongoing case.
In response, Pentagon chief Leon E. Panetta referred the investigation to the Defense Department’s Inspector General for further review, according to a statement released by Panetta early Tuesday as he was traveling to Australia. Allen was in Washington when the Pentagon learned about the FBI investigation, the senior defense official said.
The latest development in the unfolding scandal has shaken President Obama’s national-security staff and upended his carefully chosen plans for his military and intelligence team in his second term.
It also further calls into question the personal behavior of two of the U.S. military’s highest-ranking and most respected figures, who apparently ignored concerns about the highly sensitive nature of their jobs as they embraced personal relationships with younger women who were not their wives.
Petraeus’s fall from grace shocked the CIA but especially stunned his former colleagues in the Army, where he was considered one of the most brilliant and influential commanders of his generation. Allen, a Marine, was likewise seen as an intellectual, upstanding role model who first made his mark as a general in Iraq and later earned the professional and personal confidence of Obama.
In his statement, Panetta said Allen would remain as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for now, “while the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined.”
But his time there may be short. Panetta has also asked the Senate to expedite the confirmation of his likely successor, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Obama had nominated Dunford last month to replace Allen. Coincidentally, the Senate Armed Services Committee had already scheduled his confirmation hearing for Thursday. Panetta said he has asked the Senate to expedite its review of Dunford’s nomination.
Allen had been simultaneously nominated by the White House to take over as chief of the military’s European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. That nomination is now on hold, Panetta said, pending the outcome of the probe.
The Pentagon chief said he and his staff quickly notified the leaders of the Senate and House armed services committees about the FBI's investigation into Allen. Another defense official said the lawmakers were informed late Monday night, a few hours before Panetta issued his statement to reporters traveling with him in Asia.
Panetta’s statement did not shed any light into the nature of the probe, but said that Allen “is entitled to due process in this matter.”
It was unclear whether Allen could be subject to criminal prosecution. The senior defense official said the Pentagon was still reviewing the e-mails and declined to comment on the nature of the relationship between Allen and Kelley. “Gen. Allen disputes that he has engaged in any wrongdoing in this matter,” the official told the Associated Press.
Under the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is classified as a crime.
Kelley’s name surfaced in the Petraeus scandal over the weekend after U.S. officials disclosed that she contacted the FBI last summer to complain that she had received anonymous harassing and threatening phone calls about her relationship with the CIA director.
An FBI field investigation determined that the sender of the e-mails was Paula Broadwell, a former Army officer and Petraeus’s biographer. Broadwell and Petraeus later admitted to the FBI that they had engaged in an affair.
Associates of Petraeus have said he was not romantically involved with Kelley, although they acknowledged she was a close friend of Petraeus and his wife.
The senior defense official said the voluminous collection of e-mails sent between Allen and Kelley occurred between 2010 and this year, but did not give details. The official also declined to say whether Allen sent or received any of the messages from his military or government e-mail accounts, or if classified material was compromised.