Why did FBI Use Taxpayer Time and Money to Do Socialite Jill Kelley a Favor?

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Jill Kelley (AP Photo)

Amid the media frenzy that has surrounded the David Petraeus scandal, the question has been raised over why the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came to the rescue of Jill Kelley in the first place?


Kelley is the person who got things going, by using a personal contact at the FBI to complain about some “vaguely threatening” and anonymous emails she received. Although the emails contained nothing to indicate she was in any real danger, FBI agent Frederick W. Humphries—described as a “hard-charging” veteran who helped investigate the foiled millennium terrorist plot in 1999—launched a full-scale cyber investigation to find out who was behind the communications to Kelley.


As it turned out, Petraeus’s biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, was the person harassing Kelley, who was a friend of the former military and intelligence leader. Things unraveled from there, ending in Petraeus resigning in disgrace from the Central Intelligence Agency.


Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian noted that “the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email.” Greenwald added that, “based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime…and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.”


The FBI’s probe was so thorough that it wound up uncovering another potential affair, this one involving Kelley and General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. More than 10,000 pages of emails between Allen and Kelley turned up, some of which contained highly sexual language resembling that usually shared during phone sex.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

FBI's Abuse of the Surveillance State Is the Real Scandal Needing Investigation (by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian)

Petraeus Case Shows FBI’s Authority to Read Email (by Richard Lardner, Associated Press)

Veteran F.B.I. Agent Helped Start Petraeus E-Mail Inquiry (by Michael S. Schmidt, Scott Shane and Alan Delaquérière, New York Times)

Online Privacy Issue Is Also in Play in Petraeus Scandal (by Scott Shane, New York Times)

Exclusive: Paula Broadwell’s Emails Revealed (by Michael Daly, Daily Beast)


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