Petraeus, Allen Vouched for Socialite's Sister

Gen. John Allen

The bizarre series of events involving retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and Marine Gen. John Allen has taken another strange turn as D.C. court records show the two generals recently wrote character references for the sister of a Florida woman who sits at the center of the sex scandals that have ensnared the Pentagon.

According to Family Court records in Washington, D.C., both Petraeus and Allen were enlisted by Tampa socialite Jill Kelley to write character references for her emotionally troubled twin sister, who was involved in a nasty custody fight with her estranged husband over their son.

Petraeus, then the CIA director and a recently retired four-star Army general, and Allen, the allied commander in Afghanistan, wrote letters on official stationery embossed with four-star emblems in late September on behalf of Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley’s sister.

Allen asked the court to grant Khawam more visitation rights with her four-year-old son, John.

“We should not penalize him by limiting his expectations to experience the love, mentorship, and guidance of his mother,” Allen wrote, according to CBS News.

Petraeus wrote that "it is unfortunate, in my view, that her interaction with her son has been so limited by the custody settlement."

But the court ruled against Khawam, citing “profound concerns about Ms. Khawam's poor logical thinking and her extreme distortions" and "severe psychological deficits."

The timing of the letters was crucial to the FBI’s investigation of the involvement of Petraeus and Allen with Jill Kelley. Both letters were sent after Kelley had made a complaint to an FBI agent she knew in Tampa about threatening e-mails she had been receiving

The FBI had already identified Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer and alleged mistress, as the source of the threats to Kelley. Broadwell, a West Point graduate, saw Kelley as a rival for Petraeus’ affections.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was told by the FBI on Nov. 6, Election Day, of the affair between Broadwell and Petraeus, and Broadwell’s possible access to classified information through the relationship.

Clapper told Petraeus to resign, and he stepped down as CIA director on Nov. 8, saying that he “showed extremely poor judgment” in betraying his wife of 37 years, Holly Petraeus.

Both Allen and Petraeus have denied having a sexual relationship with Kelley, the wife of Dr. Scott Kelley. Jill Kelley served as a volunteer “social liaison” to the Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Allen and Petraeus became family friends of the Kelleys.

But the FBI had yet another surprise for the Obama administration, which has been working to line up its national security team for President Obama’s second term. In investigating Broadwell and Kelley, the FBI stumbled across of a massive trove of e-mail traffic between Kelley and Allen.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta quickly put the nomination of Allen to become NATO commander and head of the European Command on hold. A Pentagon official described the content of the Allen-Kelley e-mails as “inappropriate and flirtatious” and possibly a violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The office of the Defense Department’s Inspector General has started an investigation, with Allen’s career in the balance. The official would only say that Allen, who was in Washington for the Senate hearing on his nomination, would likely return to Kabul this weekend to await his fate.

The hearing for Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the nominee to replace Allen as Afghan commander, would go forward on Thursday, the official said.

Broadwell has retained high-powered lawyer Robert F. Muse to represent her, according to ABC News. Muse is with the Washington firm of Stein, Mitchell, Muse & Cipollone, which represented Monica Lewinsky during the scandals and impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Jill Kelley has hired scandal lawyer Abbe Lowell, who was counsel to House Democrats during Clinton’s impeachment, to represent her.

At the White House briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that President Obama “has faith in General Allen” and “thinks very highly” of him.

However, Carney said the sex scandals further complicate the process of putting in place President Obama’s cabinet for his second term.

“I certainly wouldn’t call it welcome,” Carney said.

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David Petraeus