WASHINGTON -- Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Fla., socialite who triggered the federal investigation that exposed CIA Director David H. Petraeus’ extramarital affair and forced his resignation, is suing the FBI and Pentagon for violating her privacy and turning her into an object of national ridicule.
Kelley says U.S. officials obtained unauthorized access to her personal emails after she reported receiving anonymous, threatening messages beginning in June 2012. She also alleges that officials unlawfully disclosed her name to the news media after Petraeus’ affair became public.
The FBI and Pentagon “willfully and maliciously thrust the Kelleys into the maw of public scrutiny concerning one of the most widely reported sex scandals to rock the United States government,” according to a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington. The complaint says Kelley and her husband, Scott, are seeking an apology and unspecified monetary damages.
An FBI spokesman said the bureau couldn't comment on a pending legal matter.
The threatening emails were determined to have been sent by Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s mistress and biographer, who viewed Kelley as a rival for his affections. Kelley never engaged in adultery, the complaint says, and met Petraeus through social events she organized in Tampa while he served as commander of U.S. Central Command, based at nearby MacDill Air Force Base.
The November scandal also ensnared Gen. John R. Allen, who received the first threatening email and passed it on to Kelley, whom he also met as Centcom commander. The inquiry into their relationship -- including hundreds of emails they exchanged -- held up Allen’s bid to become commander of NATO.
A Pentagon investigation cleared Allen of wrongdoing, but the general announced his retirement soon afterward.
Kelley says federal investigators wrongly turned her into the focus of their investigation, denied her protection she was entitled to as a cyber-stalking victim and failed to protect her privacy.
“Instead we received highly hurtful and damaging publicity from willful leaks from high-level government officials that were false and defamatory,” she said in a statement released by her lawyers.
As the inquiry expanded, the complaint says, FBI agents saw it as possibly a a career-making case and ignored Kelley’s rights. Kelley’s lawyers also say the Pentagon inspector general is investigating whether officials had unauthorized access to Kelley’s case file.
The scandal focused a spotlight on a narrow segment of high society in Tampa, an unusual mix of military brass, foreign officials posted to Central Command and affluent civilians like Kelley, whose husband is a prominent cancer surgeon. The Kelleys hosted parties for military officials and visiting dignitaries at their home on Bayshore Boulevard, in one of the city’s top neighborhoods.
Kelley, a mother of three, was widely portrayed as a relentless striver who sought to parlay her good looks and connections into cushy jobs. She obtained a pass giving her special access to MacDill and was appointed honorary consul for South Korea -- a position that was revoked after bad publicity.
“The prestige, connections, and reputation associated with that position could easily, and ethically, have resulted in millions of dollars in commission payments over Mrs. Kelley’s lifetime,” the complaint alleges.
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