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Jill Kelley lawsuit claims FBI, military violated her privacy


Published:   |   Updated: June 4, 2013 at 07:23 AM

TAMPA - Jill Kelley, who found herself at the center of a controversy that brought down the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has sued the FBI, the Department of Defense and others, saying they invaded her privacy.

The suit says investigators and the military violated the Privacy Act, the Stored Communications Act and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by collecting emails Jill Kelley exchanged with military leaders and by releasing her name to the public.

Kelley and her husband Scott also filed? privacy and defamation actions against several unnamed FBI and federal government employees.

The suit contends that because of the governmental and military actions, Kelley "was held out as an object of ridicule, moral opprobrium, scorn and derision, causing her shame, public notoriety, egregious loss of privacy and security."

The result, according to the suit, was that Kelley lost "positions of trust, responsibility and diplomatic status," a reference to a decision by the South Korean consulate to rescind her role as an honorary consul. She also lost "public respect..income and ... significant financial, business and investment opportunities," the suit contends.

Kelley and her husband Scott electronically filed the 65-page lawsuit Monday afternoon in federal district court in Washington D.C., according to her publicist, Mark Pfeifle.

The Kelleys are seeking an apology, a declaration that the FBI violated the Stored Communications Act, unspecified compensation and attorneys fees, according to their attorneys.

"Today is an unforgettable day because one year ago threatening emails shook my life, and ultimately changed our country's leadership," Kelley said in an emailed statement.

"It was under the faithful direction of our concerned military leaders that I went to the law enforcement to seek the proper protection for my family, our commanders, and top U.S. officials.

But, unfortunately, we did not receive the confidentiality and protection. Instead we received highly hurtful and damaging publicity from willful leaks from high level government officials that were false and defamatory."

The Kelleys also complain that their "personal emails were wrongfully searched and improperly disclosed," according to the statement, and that those named as defendants "willfully and maliciously thrust the Kelleys into the maw of public scrutiny concerning one of the most widely reported sex scandals to rock the United States government."

But in their suit, the Kelleys maintain they filed the suit in support of a higher cause.

"If defendants can wreak such emotional, reputational and financial havoc on a couple as educated, intelligent, successful and public-spirited as the Kelleys, they could certainly do so to anyone."

The suit also sheds new light on the emails sent by Paula Broadwell, the woman having an affair with then-CIA director David Petraeus, who the Kelleys befriended when he commanded U.S. Central Command.

The investigation into the emails began May 11, 2012, according to the suit, when Marine Gen. John Allen, one of the many military leaders the Kelleys befriended in Tampa, emailed Kelley to tell her he had received an email that "disparaged Kelley and made reference to an upcoming dinner they were having with several senior foreign intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials."

Allen "was troubled by the email, in particular that somebody knew about the dinner, which had not been publicy announced, thereby presenting a potential security concern," the lawsuit states.

The nature of the email caused some senior commanders urge Kelley to report the email to law enforcement, the suit states.

On June 3, Scott Kelley received an anonymous email disparaging and threatening Kelley, the suit states. That email, from someone identifying themselves only as "Tampa Angel...concluded with threats about avert[ing] embarrassment for all, including spouses, such as info in national headlines."

Two days later, Scott Kelley received another email from "Tampa Angel" making "baseless allegations about Mrs. Kelley's behavior." Around the same time, the Kelleys were told that Allen and Petraeus, both family friends, were also receiving anonymous emails, the suit states.

By June 25, the FBI discovered that Broadwell, who wrote a biography about Petraeus, "stalked a senior military official and sent the Kelleys, Director Petraeus, and Gen. Allen the threatening and defamatory emails about Mrs. Kelley.''

As the investigation continued, the Kelleys' suit contends that the FBI tried to insinuate Jill Kelley was having an affair with the FBI agent she first went to. Then, in July, agents arrived at her home, interrupted her trip to the airport and accused her of having affairs with Allen and Petraeus, according to the suit, allegations she denied.

On Nov. 9, Petraeus announced he was resigning from the CIA over his affair with Broadwell. Two days later, Kelley's name was leaked to the media and she began receiving interview requests from reporters who said they had seen copies of the emails sent by Broadwell, according to the suit.

By disclosing the contents of the emails or suggesting they were "lurid, government officials served Mrs. Kelley up on a platter to be devoured in a frenzy of salacious speculation regarding the nature of her relationship" with Petraeus, the suit contends.

The investigation also ensnared Allen, a temporary Centcom commander who went on to command U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Allen and Kelley exchanged a number of emails, which investigators combed through. Allen was exonerated of any wrongdoing by a Department of Defense Inspector General investigation. But his nomination to head U.S. forces in Europe was put on hold, a job he eventually declined in the wake of the investigation, citing concerns over his wife's health.

The FBI declined comment about the suit, saying it typically does not comment on pending litigation. The Department of Defense deferred comment to the Department of Justice, which did not comment.

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