The Washington Post reopens the strange case of the Beirut-born Gilberte “Jill” Kahwam Kelley, the Arab-American socialite of Lebanese Maronite Catholic extraction who figured prominently in the wreckage of the careers of several major military men, including David Petraeus and Marine generals John Allen and James Mattis:
Judging from her e-mails, Jill Kelley was star-struck by the big-name military commanders rotating between the war zones in the Middle East and her home town of Tampa. And they were equally smitten with her.
“Everyone thinks you’re a RockStar!” Kelley gushed in a 2012 e-mail to Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, then commander of all U.S. military forces in the Middle East. “We agreed how amazing it must be that you’re single-handedly re-writing history,” she added, recalling how she had sung the general’s praises to several foreign ambassadors at the Republican National Convention that August in Tampa.
After another social event, she wrote a similar mash note to Mattis’s deputy, Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward. “What a Leader you were to these heads of State,” she enthused. “You ROCK!!!”
Replied Harward: “YOU ROCK MORE!”
Maybe she was just an enthusiastic Tampa hostess with the mostest, with a taste for senior brass. But what could John le Carre or Brad Thor do with a character like this?
In late 2012, Kelley’s talent as a Tampa hostess and her knack for charming men in uniform indirectly triggered one of the most embarrassing national security scandals of the past decade. Among other casualties, the fallout led to the forced resignation of CIA Director David H. Petraeus — a former four-star Army general — and the early retirement of Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Kelley’s chumminess with Petraeus and the military brass had attracted the notice of the spymaster’s biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell. She bad-mouthed Kelley in anonymous e-mails to military officials and others, according to federal investigators and a lawsuit filed by Kelley. The FBI got involved. Petraeus quit in disgrace. Allen retired.
The case still has not been entirely resolved. The Justice Department is deciding whether to charge Petraeus with leaking classified material to his lover. He has denied doing so.
What a mess. But it now gets worse:
Now, a glimpse into Kelley’s relationship with military commanders has emerged from another, previously undisclosed batch of e-mails: her correspondence with Mattis, a legendary Marine, and Harward, a Navy SEAL, from when they served as the top two officers at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa. The Washington Post requested the e-mails in November 2012 under the Freedom of Information Act. More than two years later, after numerous unexplained delays, the Pentagon released 238 pages of heavily censored documents.
The unredacted portions of the e-mails — from Mattis’s and Harward’s government e-mail accounts — contain no evidence of improper behavior. But taken together, the records depict two wartime commanders who were easy marks for the flattery of an exuberant socialite.
Kelley, 39, who still lives in Tampa, referred questions to her attorney, Alan C. Raul of Washington. He released a statement that read, in part: “The latest set of e-mails made public by the government simply confirms that Jill Kelley is and was a talented, civic-minded woman doing productive work as Honorary Ambassador to Central Command in Tampa and as Honorary Consul for the Republic of Korea….”
Although Kelley was never accused of wrongdoing, her name and her unusual niche in the national-security establishment were quickly publicized by the news media. In 2013, she sued the FBI and the Defense Department, asserting that her privacy rights had been violated by officials who leaked her name and personal information to reporters.
The federal government has sought to dismiss the case, but a judge has ruled that the lawsuit can proceed in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Good Lord. Writing about the case when it broke, lefty professor Juan Cole observed:
So does it matter that Jill Kelley is an Arab-American? I doubt it. She seems just to be a rich, flirtatious Tampa socialite with good Republican Party connections and a network of high military and FBI “admirers,” and who over-reacted to some petty emails. So far there is no reason to think she is a Mata Hari of any sort. But it does say something about how prominent Arab-Americans now are in US society that no one much remarked on her ethnicity when the story broke. And, who knows, her inherited culture may have had something to do with her reaction to Broadwell’s emails. Lebanon is a place where you kind of have to take threats seriously. And, reaching out to a friend in the government in a way a lot of Americans might consider inappropriate is routine in Beirut (hence seeking “wasta” or a personal connection via the shirtless FBI guy). But lots of Americans of other backgrounds might have reacted similarly.
Meanwhile, Mark Steyn cracked in his syndicated column of Nov. 23, 2012:
As for Afghanistan, it seems a fitting comment on America’s longest unwon war that the last two U.S. commanders exit in a Benny Hill finale, trousers round their ankles, pursued to speeded-up chase music by bunny-boiling mistresses, stalker socialites, identical twins and Bubba the Love Sponge.
The country’s in the very best of hands.