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Jill Kelley adds Panetta, others to lawsuit

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Published:   |   Updated: November 26, 2013 at 09:19 AM

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Jill Kelley has amended a lawsuit she filed against FBI and Defense Department to include former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, outgoing FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, former State Department spokesman Mark Toner and others as defendants.

The Tampa woman earned international notoriety after she turned over threatening emails to authorities that led to the discovery of an affair between David Petraeus, then director of the CIA, and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. That set off a chain reaction leading to Petraeus resigning days after President Barack Obama’s re-election last year, Broadwell having a promotion temporarily halted and Marine Gen. John Allen - at the time commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and in line to take over U.S. forces in Europe - opting for an early retirement instead of seeking the new position.

And it put the Kelleys - who have had close ties to top military leaders at MacDill Air Force Base for years, including a stint for Jill Kelley as Honorary Ambassador to the U.S. Central Command Coalition - in the crosshairs of public scorn as media organizations dug into their private life and personal finances.

In June, Kelley and her husband, Scott, filed suit against the federal agencies, accusing them of unlawfully gathering her emails and leaking her name to media. Kelley maintains that she was the target of harassing emails, then was further victimized when her name was made public, violating her civil rights. The Kelleys claim the emails were collected during the investigation without their permission as the government investigated the affair between Petraeus, the former Centcom boss, and Broadwell, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Petraeus was one of the many military leaders and foreign dignitaries the Kelleys hosted in lavish parties at their waterfront home.

The amended suit, filed in Washington, D.C., this morning, also adds former FBI agent Steven Ibison and current FBI agent Adam R. Malone, former Pentagon spokesman George Little, former State Department spokesman Mark Toner and others as defendants.

“The government was not legally entitled to treat the Kelleys like criminals, pry into and disclose their personal communications, violate their privacy and disseminate confidential records as well as false information about them,” the amended suit states.

The amended complaint also alleges that Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Joyce, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon “made decisions regarding the investigation and the decision on whether to inform the President, based on the timing of the presidential election.”

The only specific mention of former Secretary of Defense Panetta’s actions in the amended complaint comes via a New York Times story reporting that he told journalists on a trip to Australia two days after Kelley’s name first surfaced that Allen was being investigated for emails with Kelley “who was seen by Paula Broadwell, Mr. Petraeus’ lover, as a rival for his attentions.”

The only specific mention of former Pentagon spokesman Little’s actions in the amended complaint is that he told reporters “that the FBI referred the (emails between Kelley and Allen) to the DOD.”

The amended complaint added FBI agent Malone claiming that despite his assurances that Kelley would be able to maintain her privacy, her emails were leaked. The Kelleys only gave the FBI access to use their joint email account to establish the identity of “Tampa Angel,” whose emails to Kelley were considered not only harassing, but also contained detailed information about military leaders.

FBI Deputy Director Joyce “directed agents in the Tampa Field Office Cyber Security Squad to treat the Kelleys’ case differently than other investigations ... Including by directing the investigating agents not to proceed with a scheduled effort to interview Mrs. Broadwell once they had identified her as the stalker.”

Former FBI agent Ibison had supervisory authority over the Kelley case and he was on a list of personnel at the Tampa FBI office who has unlimited access to Kelley’s files, according to the amended complaint. He also confronted FBI agent Fred Humpries, to whom Kelley first reported the harassing emails, of allegations that he was having an affair with Kelley, something both parties have denied.

The Justice Department, representing the FBI, declined comment. The Pentagon referred comment, including on behalf of Panetta and Little in their officials roles, to the Department of Justice.

Former State Department spokesman Mark Toner is named as a defendant because he “wilfully misinformed the public about Mrs. Kelley’s diplomatic status.”

Toner, according to the amended complaint, twice stated that Kelley had “no formal affiliation with the State Department. This false information was damaging to Mrs. Kelley’s reputation and livelihood because it mischaracterized her as a fake, rather than as a serious professional appointed by the Republic of South Korea and accredited by the State Department to serve as an Honorary Consul ... Indeed, Mrs. Kelley was assigned a ‘United States Department of State Consular Identification Card.”

The State Department did not immediately reply to an email and phone call seeking comment.

Part of the amended complaint centers on comments former Pentagon chief counsel and current Director of Homeland Security nominee Jeh Johnson, who is not a defendant, made to The Tampa Tribune in July about the emails between Allen and Kelley.

In his conversation with The Tribune, Johnson “acknowledged that he ‘pored over’ several years’ worth of Mrs. Kelley’s emails provided to him by the FBI but which ‘were not germane to Kelley’s [cyberstalking] complaint,’” the amended complaint states.” ... Johnson has candidly acknowledged that ‘undue investigation of these emails ... would be a fishing expedition and invasion of privacy for’” Allen and Kelley.

“That is, of course, precisely what happened, and what is complained of here.”

The Kelleys are seeking a formal apology, unspecified actual and compensatory damages, a “specific accounting of all information gathered about them,” that all those who violated their Privacy Act rights be disciplined, and court and attorney costs.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect title for Leon Panetta.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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