White House spokesman Jay Carney defended General John Allen, the American commander in Afghanistan, in spite of recent revelations that Allen had sent “thousands” of e-mails to a married mother of three in Tampa, Florida.
Carney addressed the scandal involving General Allen in a Tuesday press conference:
Question: So is it accurate to say the president still has full faith in Gen. Allen?
MR. CARNEY: He has faith in Gen. Allen, believes he’s doing and has done an excellent job at ISAF, and I would refer you to the Pentagon for the process under way with regards to Gen. Allen.
The woman, Jill Kelley, is an unpaid “social liaison” at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base whose complaints that she had received threatening emails from Paula Broadwell launched the FBI investigation that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus.
Petraeus resigned as CIA director on Friday after National Intelligence Director James Clapper told him he had to go. That conversation took place on Tuesday, the day President Obama was re-elected. Until that time, Petraeus thought there was a chance he could survive the scandal of his alleged extramarital affair with his biographer and West Point graduate Paula Broadwell.
In his resignation letter, Petraeus acknowledged an extramarital affair:
After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.
In contrast to Petraeus’ admission, Allen denies having an extramarital affair with Mrs. Kelley. Accounts differ, however, as to the content and extent of the email communications between the two. An unidentified Department of Defense spokesman called the emails exchanges between “family friends,” while Fox News reported on Tuesday that another Department of Defense source called them the “equivalent of phone sex over email.”
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the Department of Defense is standing by Allen:
“There was no affair,” said [a Department of Defense] official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The emails in question could be misconstrued, the official said, predicting that the investigation will prove Allen’s innocence…
“What we’re dealing with is the possible perception of inappropriateness,” the official said, but it will become clear that there was no wrongdoing. “This is not at the level of the director of the CIA.”
Military experts wonder why the American commander in Afghanistan exchanged at least hundreds and perhaps thousands of emails with a married woman in Tampa, Florida over a two year period. They also wonder why Allen took time out of his schedule this September (one week after the Benghazi attack) to write a letter of support to a court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Mrs. Kelley’s twin sister, who was appealing a court decision to give custody of her son to her ex-husband. Petraeus wrote a similar letter for the same case.
Unlike Petraeus, who resigned from the Army in order to accept the CIA position, Allen reports through the military chain of command to the Secretary of Defense. Secretary Panetta has put his nomination to become NATO commander “on hold” as the email scandal unfolds. Many military experts think that the “hold” may become permanent, and Allen’s military career, if not over, is permanently stalled.
Unlike Petraeus, who was very publicly thrown under the bus at a time when his unique insights into the truth of Benghazi still remain highly relevant, Allen is being given the benefit of the doubt by the Department of Defense and the White House.
The media circus surrounding the bizarre Petraeus sex scandal comes at a time when the Obama administration is still scrambling to explain the circumstances surrounding the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya in which our ambassador and three other Americans — at least two of whom were CIA contractors –were killed.
Many members of Congress believe that Petraeus’ testimony is critical to understanding what really happened at Benghazi.
When Petraeus testified behind closed doors on September 14, two days after the attack, he largely stuck to the Obama administration “party line” that an obscure anti-Muslim video produced in the United States by a small-time fraudster was the motivating factor behind the attack. However, Petraeus subsequently traveled to Benghazi and conducted his own research, which formed the basis of a report he has yet to deliver to Congress.
On Tuesday, Bill Kristol cast doubt on Petraeus’ September 14 testimony:
[Petraeus] may have been under pressure… to go along with the administration line on September 14th about the video, which he knew was not true. Someone else told me that General Petraeus, on the Hill that day, Director Petraeus I should say, said privately to one of the members of Congress… “This is [what] happened in Benghazi.” He said, “Do you want the official line or do you want the real truth?” So I think he knew that he was not telling the full truth.
With his sudden resignation last week, questions have arisen about what Petraeus may have learned about Benghazi subsequent to his September 14 and if he will now “correct the record.”
Reports now indicate that he is scheduled testify on Friday behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee at an “off-site” location.