Lt. Gen. John Allen

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

General cleared in e-mails to socialite

  • Article by: THOM SHANKER
  • New York Times
  • January 22, 2013 - 10:36 PM

WASHINGTON - A Defense Department inquiry into potentially inappropriate e-mails between the U.S. commander in Afghanistan and a socialite in Tampa, Fla., has cleared the officer, Gen. John Allen, of wrongdoing, senior officials disclosed on Tuesday.

The Pentagon inspector general wrote to Allen that the investigation had found no improprieties in the e-mail communications with socialite Jill Kelley, officials said.

Allen maintained all along that he had done nothing wrong, and his supporters said the e-mails had neither violated security nor represented an improper relationship with Kelley, who frequently was the hostess for social events for senior officers assigned to the military's Central Command headquarters in Tampa.

But the number of e-mails and what some feared was an inappropriate tone or language in the messages prompted the Pentagon's top lawyer to recommend that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refer the matter to the inspector general.

Pentagon officials were no doubt cognizant of the context in which the e-mails had been uncovered -- as part of the discovery of an extramarital affair that ended the public career of David Petraeus, who was then in charge of the CIA.

Late Tuesday, George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, released a statement confirming that Panetta had been officially informed that the inspector general closed the investigation into Allen.

"The secretary was pleased to learn that allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated by the investigation," Little said. "The secretary has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan."

The inquiry was seen as a significant burden on Allen as he ended his tenure in Afghanistan with the charge to begin drafting proposals for President Obama on how to draw down U.S. forces there this year and end the combat mission by the end of 2014.

Although the exact content of the e-mails remains unknown, an official conclusion of no wrongdoing will no doubt be seen as a professional and personal exoneration for Allen after an embarrassing period near the end of a highly respected Marine Corps career.

The FBI discovered the e-mails during an investigation into anonymous e-mails to Kelley warning her to stay away from Petraeus. The FBI found that the e-mails had been sent by Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer. Petraeus admitted to having had an affair with Broadwell and resigned his position on Nov. 9.

Like Allen, Petraeus, a retired four-star general, was a social acquaintance of Kelley's when he was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, headquarters of Central Command.

Officials close to Allen have long insisted that he did not have a sexual relationship with Kelley. Allen's partisans said that Kelley was a close friend to Allen and his wife, Kathy.

Appointment up in air

What remains unknown is the fate of Allen's nomination to become the top NATO commander, as was planned before the disclosure of the e-mails. Allen could be nominated to that position or another senior post, or he could retire.

"The final decision has not yet been made on General Allen's nomination," one senior official said.

During the inquiry, about 15 investigators on the Pentagon inspector general's staff focused on 60 to 70 e-mails that "bear a fair amount of scrutiny," said an official who was briefed on the inquiry.

Pentagon officials described the voluminous correspondence between Allen and Kelley as potentially "inappropriate communication."

Law enforcement officials say the e-mails number in the hundreds and cover 2 1/2 years starting in 2010, when Allen was the deputy commander of Central Command.

The FBI sent the e-mails between Allen and Kelley to the Pentagon on Nov. 11.

Investigators looked into whether the e-mails violated Defense Department policy, government regulations or military law.

At issue was whether the e-mails contained inappropriate language that was on a government computer; whether they indicated an inappropriate relationship as defined under military law; whether they involved more than an incidental use of government property for personal matters, and whether there were security breaches.

Gen. Joseph Dunford has been confirmed to succeed Allen in Afghanistan as part of a standard rotation and is expected to take up command in Kabul in the coming weeks.

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