When President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C. at 1:30 p.m. EST, there will be questions about Mr. Obama’s plan on how to reach a deal with Republicans to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ – a mix of across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts that many fear could stall the economic recovery.
But, in fact, it will be the president’s first opportunity to address the growing scandal that led to the sudden resignation of CIA director David Petraeus and threatens America’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen.
In the last 12 hours, new details have emerged about the Petraeus affair. The first photographs of 40-year-old Paula Broadwell – the biographer and former mistress of Mr. Petraeus – surfaced Tuesday night showing the former army officer and married mother of two at her brother’s home in Washington, D.C. She can be seen through a kitchen window wearing a pink sweater and holding what appears to be a glass of red wine.
There was also new information regarding the Tampa socialite who triggered the FBI investigation in to harassing e-mails that were traced back to an e-mail account belonging to Ms. Broadwell. Jill Kelley, according to the Wall Street Journal, was told by friends that the FBI probe would only create further problems for her and her family and that it should be halted. During the summer, Ms. Kelley tried to do exactly that. As it became apparent that broader national security issues might be involved and she began to worry about personal information being given to FBI investigators.
Also, audio emerged late Tuesday of Ms. Kelley calling 911 on Sunday to complain about people trespassing on her property. The call has raised eyebrows because in it, Ms. Kelley, who was involved in planning social activities at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, can be heard telling the dispatcher: “I’m an honourary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property.” Ms. Kelley then suggests that she might be entitled to protection: “I don’t know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well, because that’s against the law to cross my property because, you know, it’s inviolable.”
In fact, Ms. Kelley is an honorary consul of South Korea – a symbolic title that can be seen on her Mercedes sedan license plate, as reported by Foreign Policy magazine.
"She is an ‘honorary consul' of the Republic of Korea," an official with knowledge of Ms. Kelley’s unpaid role tells the magazine. "She assumed this position last August thanks to her good connections and network."
Her work, according to the unnamed official, was to arrange meetings for the South Korean ambassador to the U.S. during a visit to Florida. She also promoted a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea.
But as for diplomatic protection for honourary consuls: There is none.
As President Obama prepares to take question on the Petraeus affair Wednesday afternoon, the focus will be on when Mr. Obama learned that the head of America’s spy agency was in trouble and whether he and Congress should have been notified sooner. He and congressional leaders were informed of the extramarital affair and the likely Petraeus resignation last week, just days after the presidential election.
But the questions will also probe any security breaches as a result of the extramarital relationship between Mr. Petraeus and his biographer, Ms. Broadwell. It will also be an opportunity for Mr. Obama to address the broader issue of why he accepted Mr. Petraeus’ resignation – an explanation that will provide a glimpse in to Mr. Obama’s expectations of other top administration officials.
FBI investigators removed boxes of files and computers from the home of Ms. Broadwell on Monday night – a further sign that investigators are trying to get to bottom of whether she came into possession of any classified documents.
According to an unnamed law enforcement official quoted by Reuters, one of the key reasons the FBI launched the initial investigations is that e-mails sent to Ms. Kelley from an e-mail account now linked to Ms. Broadwell suggested detailed knowledge of the CIA director’s movements that was not publicly available.
On Monday, a news report indicated that classified information was, in fact, found Ms. Broadwell’s computer. However, during interviews with Ms. Broadwell and Mr. Petraeus both denied that the documents came from the retired general. What exactly those documents contained – or who gave them to Ms. Broadwell – is unclear. There have been no criminal charges in the case.
On Tuesday, the Petraeus scandal engulfed America’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, who is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Defense regarding up to 30,000 pages of e-mail communication – which the Pentagon initially described as potentially “inappropriate” – between Gen. Allen and Ms. Kelley.
Ms. Kelley and her husband entertained the top U.S. military brass in Tampa – where Mr. Petraeus was head of U.S. Central Command from 2008 until 2010, overseeing military operations and strategy in 20 countries including Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Allen was his deputy during the same period and succeeded his boss when Mr. Petraeus moved to Afghanistan to become the top U.S. commander and oversee the 30,000-troop surge to help turn back the Taliban.
In September of this year, both Mr. Petraeus, as head of the CIA, and Gen. Allen, as head of the war effort in Afghanistan, found themselves intertwined in the life of Ms. Kelley and her family.
Both four star generals submitted letters to a Washington court regarding a custody battle between Ms. Kelley’s sister, Natalie Khawam, and the father of the four-year-old boy at the centre of the fight.
Mr. Petraeus and Mr. Allen offered glowing reports about Ms. Kelley’s sister – accounts that the court flatly rejected, according the Tampa Bay Times.