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Congressmen have questions for Holder in Jill Kelley leak

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Published:   |   Updated: April 14, 2014 at 03:42 PM

Jill Kelley, whose complaint about cyberstalking led to the discovery of a CIA sex scandal, said she is grateful for support being shown by two Republican congressmen upset that the Justice Department won’t investigate who leaked her name to the media.

“I am honored that Congress is demanding accountability so that my family’s unwarranted tragedy will bring forth tougher penalties, more sanctions and newer policies in the hope that other victims of a crime will not be dissuaded or afraid to trust our government,” she said in a statement emailed Monday to The Tampa Tribune.

Kelley became an international icon of scorn in the fall of 2012 after her complaint to the FBI about threatening emails revealed a scandal that brought down the director of the CIA and a top general.

A pair of Republican congressmen want answers from the Justice Department about its inspector general’s decision to not look into a complaint by Kelley.

Kelley and her husband, Scott, filed a lawsuit in June against the FBI and the departments of Defense and State in an effort to learn who in the U.S. government leaked her name and some of her emails amid the uproar over Gen. David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

At that time, the Kelleys’ attorney asked the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General to look into the case, Reps. Spencer Bachus and Walter Jones wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

“After failing to respond to this request for over six months,” the OIG sent a letter Feb. 14 informing the Kelleys that the office had declined to initiate an investigation due to “limited resources,” the congressmen wrote.

The letter said it was “surprising” that no investigation took place, considering the agency’s “aggressive” investigations into leaks in other cases. Bachus, of Alabama, and Jones, of North Carolina, asked Holder a series of questions and requested an answer by April 30:

• Is it lawful and consistent with Department of Justice policy to leak information about witnesses and victims from FBI investigative files?

• Are U.S. citizens entitled to the protections of the Privacy Act with regard to information about them contained in FBI investigative files?

• What penalties, sanctions and policies does DOJ have in place to protect against leaks from FBI investigative files?

• Do you think it is appropriate to initiate an investigation into this case to determine that proper protocols were followed? If not, please elaborate.

The Justice Department said it was reviewing the information from Bachus and Jones. A spokesman for the OIG office, Robert Storch, declined to comment.

“Law abiding citizens who come forth to report a crime should never have their privacy invaded, their identities disclosed, and blatantly false and shameless statements leaked — by the same government we trust to protect us,” Kelley, now a privacy advocate who has written opinion pieces for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week, stated in her email.

“With the support of Congress, I remain committed to advocating for stronger privacy rights. And I will continue to use my story to bring awareness to the damages that can be caused by government overreach and unwarranted searches of emails, so this never happens to another innocent family again.”

Kelley earned notoriety after she turned over threatening emails to authorities. The emails turned out to be from Broadwell and led to the discovery of an affair between Petraeus, then director of the CIA, and Broadwell.

That set off a chain reaction of events. Petraeus resigned days after President Barack Obama’s re-election last year. Broadwell was placed under investigation by the Army, had a promotion temporarily halted and had her security clearance suspended. 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 — opted 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.

The Kelleys’ lawsuit accused the federal agencies 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 Army Reserves. The FBI determined that Broadwell was the cyberstalker who sent the emails but there were no charges brought against her as a result.

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

Kelley amended a lawsuit in November to include former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, outgoing FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, former State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Other defendants included former FBI agent Steven Ibison and current FBI agent Adam R. Malone, former Pentagon spokesman George Little, and former State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

“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 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 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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