Charles Dharapak, AP
WASHINGTON — The sex scandal that led to CIA Director David Petraeus' downfall widened Tuesday with word the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is under investigation for alleged "inappropriate communications" with another woman involved in the case. Some of the material was "flirtatious," an official said.
Even as the FBI prepared a timeline for Congress about the investigation that brought to light Petraeus' extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed that the Pentagon had begun an internal investigation into emails between Gen. John Allen and a Florida woman involved in the case.
Some of the 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley were "flirtatious," according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly. It wasn't immediately clear who wrote the flirtatious notes — Allen, Kelley or both.
Allen succeeded Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011, and his nomination to become the next commander of U.S. European Command and the commander of NATO forces in Europe has now been put on hold, as the scandal seemed certain to ensnare another acclaimed military figure.
In a White House statement early Tuesday, National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Barack Obama has held Allen's nomination at Panetta's request. Obama, the statement said, "remains focused on fully supporting our extraordinary troops and coalition partners in Afghanistan, who Gen. Allen continues to lead as he has so ably done for over a year."
It was Broadwell's threatening emails to Kelley, a Petraeus family friend, that led to the FBI's discovery of communications between Broadwell and Petraeus indicating they were having an affair. Petraeus acknowledged the affair when he resigned from the CIA post on Friday.
In the latest revelations, a Pentagon official traveling with Panetta to Australia said "inappropriate communications" — 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other documents from Allen's communications with Kelley between 2010 and 2012 — are under review. The official would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorized disclosures of classified information. He said he did not know whether Petraeus is mentioned in the emails.
Allen has denied wrongdoing. He was due to give Panetta a recommendation soon on the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals in 2013. If Allen was found to have had an affair with Kelley, he could face charges of adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The decision by the FBI to hand off the Allen information to the military seems to indicate the issue is not one involving the handling of classified information, but rather some other issue.
The Petraeus case has sparked an uproar in Congress, with lawmakers complaining they should have been told earlier about the probe that has roiled the intelligence and military establishment.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called the latest revelations in the case "a Greek tragedy."
"It's just tragic," King said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. "This has the elements in some ways of a Hollywood movie or a trashy novel."
The issue of what the FBI knew, when it notified top Obama administration officials, and when Congress was told, has brought criticism from lawmakers, who say they should have been told earlier.
The White House wasn't informed of the FBI investigation that involved Petraeus until Nov. 6, Election Day, although agents began looking at Petraeus' actions months earlier, sometime during the summer. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that she first learned of the matter from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call to the then-CIA director on Friday.
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