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Military News

Center of the scandal: Major players in Petraeus sex case

Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 01:05 AM

Her inbox brought down one top commander, her exchanges threaten another. Jill Kelley – wife, mother and Tampa socialite – has shaken the nation's military and intelligence communities with her e-mail.

And the scandal's become so complicated you need a scorecard to keep track:

The former Jill Khawam wears her connections like badge. The license plate of her silver Mercedes reads "Honorary Consul, JK1."

All threads in the story trace back to this Tampa socialite.

A surgeon's wife and mother of three young girls, Kelley is a sort of self-appointed social ambassador for U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base. The Kelleys opened their bayside home to lavish parties where military brass mingled with Tampa's elite. In this role, she befriended Petraeus and his wife, Holly, when he took over Central Command in October 2008.

Kelley, 37, stayed in close contact with Petraeus after he left to take command of the Afghanistan war. They exchanged nearly daily emails in an account routinely monitored by his aides, according to two former staffers, who said those messages weren't romantic in tone.

In May 2012, Kelley started getting anonymous, harassing emails warning her away from Petraeus. She reported the email to the FBI.

The FBI traced the messages to Broadwell, uncovering her affair with Petraeus. The FBI notified Petraeus' boss, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who urged him to resign.

And the FBI found something more.

It unearthed "inappropriate communications" between Kelley and another top military officer, John Allen, according to Pentagon officials.

Top brass partied at the Bayshore Boulevard mansion the cancer surgeon shares with his wife and daughters. It's in foreclosure.

From four-star general to top spy to disgraced adulterer, the star of this tragedy came clean only when he had to, news reports said.

A highly decorated four-star Army general lauded for his leadership of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Petraeus, 60, moved into the civilian world to become CIA director in September 2011. He shocked official Washington on Friday by admitting an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer, and resigning his post.

The general's biographer and jealous mistress sent e-mails to warn vivacious Jill Kelley, news reports said. But Kelley sought help.

The other woman. Now a 40-year-old author and married mom of two young children, Broadwell met Petraeus while she was an Army reservist and graduate student at Harvard in 2006. She later embarked on a case study on his leadership of the Iraq war. After he took the helm in Afghanistan, Broadwell expanded her work into a biography, gaining unprecedented access to Petraeus and his commanders. It's called "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."

Their affair began in November 2011, a couple of months after he became CIA director, according to retired Army Col. Steve Boylan, a friend of the Petraeus family. It ended last summer, Boylan said.

The relationship was exposed after Broadwell of Charlotte, N.C., sent emails to another woman, Jill Kelley, warning her to stay away from Petraeus, officials said.

And then there's this unnamed character: The FBI agent to whom Kelley first took her complaint was a longtime friend. And he had once sent her shirtless photos of himself, according to a federal law enforcement official.

He passed the information along to others for investigation, and was subsequently told to steer clear of the case because his superiors worried that he had become obsessed with it, the official said.

The shirtless agent approached the congressman from Washington out of concern the e-mails would be buried, news reports said.

Reichert went to the House Majority leader. Now, Cantor is among those facing questions on why he didn't make more noise.

Like Petraeus, he ran the war from Tampa and Afghanistan. And Allen's friendship with Jill Kelley – detailed in e-mails – led to trouble, too.

The Pentagon is investigating 20,000 pages of documents and emails involving Allen, a four-star Marine general who also is married, and Kelley. Some of the communications were "flirtatious," according to a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Like Petraeus, Allen was part of the Tampa social circle; he moved up to acting commander when Petraeus left for Afghanistan. When Petraeus came home from Afghanistan, Allen moved into the top job there — his current post.

President Barack Obama has nominated Allen to take over U.S. European Command and lead all NATO forces in Europe. That's been put on hold. He denies any wrongdoing and remains in his job.

Her marriage spans Petraeus' career. "Pretty deep damage," a friend says. "They are working on putting one step in front of the other."

Petraeus' wife of 38 years, mother of their two grown children, is in charge of service member assistance at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is a well-known advocate for military families. Holly Petraeus is said to be devastated by her husband's infidelity. "Furious would be an understatement," family friend Boylan told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Kelley's twin sister also socialized with the two generals. Both Petraeus and Allen wrote letters lauding Khawam as a devoted mother to help her in a bitter child custody battle with her ex-husband. Earlier in that divorce case, Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz had criticized Khawam for a lack of honesty and "misrepresentations about virtually everything."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.