WASHINGTON — A Tampa, Fla., socialite and her husband claimed in a lawsuit Monday that the government willfully leaked false and defamatory information about them in the scandal that led to the resignation of Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director. Jill Kelley and Scott Kelley filed the lawsuit in federal court against the FBI, Pentagon and unidentified officials in the government, claiming the couple's privacy was violated. It was Jill Kelley who became the focus of national media attention last year after it was revealed she received anonymous emails from Paula Broadwell, Petraeus' biographer and mistress. Broadwell allegedly told Kelley to stay away from Petraeus.
The Petraeus scandal widened when the Pentagon announced it was looking into emails between Kelley and Gen. John Allen, searching for possible evidence of an inappropriate relationship between the two married people. Officials later conceded that only a handful of the emails between Kelley and Allen had been of a flirtatious or questionable nature. In a statement Monday, Kelley said that she went to authorities after getting the threatening emails from Broadwell. "But unfortunately, we did not receive the confidentiality and protection," she said. "Instead we received highly hurtful and damaging publicity from willful leaks from high level government officials that were false and defamatory. In addition, we also learned that our personal emails were wrongfully searched, and improperly disclosed." The lawsuit claims the federal government violated the Privacy Act. It also claims that government officials violated the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches in its review of Kelley's emails. The Kelleys claim they have suffered financial losses because of the government's actions and are seeking monetary damages and an apology, among other things. Jill Kelley claims in the suit that FBI agents came to her home last summer, told her to get into their SUV, and when she said she couldn't leave her children, "the agents threatened her, demanding that she not make them do something in front of her children that may terrify them." Kelley reluctantly got in the vehicle, where she was confronted with "bewildering questions regarding her relationship with Director Petraeus and General Allen — including insinuations and accusations that she was engaged in adulterous activity — for approximately 30 minutes." The FBI declined comment. The Pentagon referred questions to the Justice Department, which declined to comment on the lawsuit.