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Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Investigated as Part of Petraeus Affair

November 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Another high-ranking military officer may somehow be involved in the Petraeus affair scandal. Jeffrey Brown talks to the Washington Post's Sari Horowitz about an investigation into messages sent by Gen. John Allen to Jill Kelley, the woman who received harrassing emails from Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus' lover and biographer.
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: The investigation that felled the head of the CIA has expanded, to include a high-ranking U.S. military figure. That news rippled outward from the Pentagon today and across official Washington.

The name of U.S. Marine General John Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, surfaced overnight in the scandal that began Friday with David Petraeus resigning as CIA director.

Unnamed defense officials say the military is now investigating possibly — quote — “inappropriate communications” between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. She had reported getting harassing e-mails from another woman, Paula Broadwell.

The FBI investigation that followed uncovered Broadwell’s affair with Petraeus. But according to the newest revelations, agents also found extensive contacts between Kelley and General Allen. The FBI notified the Pentagon on Sunday.

And last night, spokesman George Little read a statement from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on a flight to Australia.

GEORGE LITTLE, Pentagon: Today, the secretary directed that the matter be referred to the inspector general of the Department of Defense for investigation. It is now in the hands of the department’s inspector general.

JEFFREY BROWN: Early news accounts said Allen and Kelley exchanged 20,000 to 30,000 pages of e-mails and other documents over the last two years. For part of that time, the general served as deputy commander at U.S. Central Command based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where Jill Kelley and her husband often organized social events for the military.

One senior defense official said today that the e-mails between Allen and Kelley were mostly routine and involved planning for parties. Another described them as — quote — “flirtatious.”

For his part, Allen denied any wrongdoing. The four-star general took over command in Afghanistan in July of 2011 from then General David Petraeus.

GEN. JOHN ALLEN, International Security Assistance Forces commander: It is my intention to maintain the momentum of this campaign, this great campaign on which we have embarked.

JEFFREY BROWN: In that role, Allen is also overseeing the pullout of U.S. combat forces and transition to an Afghan takeover of security by 2014.

GEN. JOHN ALLEN: What the people of Afghanistan want is to be protected by Afghans. What the international community wants is for the Afghan people to be protected by Afghans. That’s an important outcome. And that is what victory looks like in the fight against the Taliban.

JEFFREY BROWN: Last month, Allen was nominated for supreme commander of NATO, a role he was expected to assume in the spring. Now his confirmation process has been put on hold. And Pentagon officials say they hope to speed up confirmation of General Joseph Dunford as Allen’s successor in Afghanistan.

At the White House today, Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama still has faith in General Allen and is not contemplating shakeups in his national security team.

JAY CARNEY, White House: He’s focused on the missions that the military is tasked with carrying out and the CIA and the general intelligence community is tasked with carrying out and with enacting his overall agenda.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, the Petraeus probe continued. FBI agents searched the home of Paula Broadwell in Charlotte, N.C., late last night.

And at the U.S. Capitol today, returning lawmakers were still looking for answers. One was Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: I am puzzled by much of what has occurred in the FBI investigation and also the latest information that perhaps General Petraeus’ friends had access to some classified information. We don’t know whether that is true or not.

JEFFREY BROWN: Others, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, focused on why the FBI didn’t officially inform Congress about the Petraeus matter much earlier.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: I think there’s some answers that we have to have about notification to Congress. I don’t have any reason to think that there are any national security issues at stake in what has transpired.

I think some dishonorable things were done, and the honorable thing has to be to resign and not to go forward.

JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Intelligence Committee, said she now expects Petraeus will testify about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, even though he’s no longer head of the CIA.

In a final strange twist, there was also news today about the FBI agent who was first contacted by Jill Kelley last May. The Wall Street Journal reported that he had once sent her shirtless photos himself.