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Lawmaker: Pentagon probe of 4-star's emails faulty

Rep. Speier: Personal emails of Gen. John Allen weren't examined

Jul. 1, 2013 - 08:46PM   |  
John Allen
Marine Gen. John Allen (Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP file)
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s inspector general failed to subpoena emails sent from Gen. John Allen’s private email account to a Tampa socialite as part of its investigation into whether Allen violated military rules or released classified information, according to a member of House Armed Services Committee who has called for a more thorough review.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., was briefed by the inspector general’s office last week on the investigation and calls it little more than a whitewash. The real story of what happened between Allen, who has since retired, and Jill Kelley is unknown, she said, because Allen refused to turn over personal emails.

“The fact that they didn’t even pursue accessing the private emails is very disturbing to me,” Speier said. “Because it would suggest that it was an incomplete investigation at the very least. At the worst: (they were) intentionally not pursuing an investigation into whether or not there was an inappropriate relationship, secrecy, national-security breaches. Classified information.”

Pentagon press secretary George Little rejected that assertion, saying the investigation was complete and that Allen had been exonerated. The inspector general’s office has refused to release the unclassified report, saying that doing so would violate privacy rights.

“Several months ago, the department’s inspector general informed former (then) Secretary (Leon) Panetta that its investigation into allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated,” Little said in an email. “We have not received any information since then from the inspector general that would indicate any change in this finding. Gen. Allen had a long and distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps and he continues to serve, following his military retirement, as a valued senior adviser to Secretary (Chuck) Hagel.”

Allen, the former top officer in Afghanistan, became entangled last year in the scandal that brought down CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen had been nominated by President Obama to lead allied forces in Europe but decided to retire earlier this year instead of moving ahead with the NATO nomination. Obama named Allen special adviser to Hagel for the Middle East in May.

Speier questioned officials in the Pentagon inspector general’s office about the Allen investigation after a USA Today story last week noted that investigators’ report was being kept secret.

The decision not to release the 21-page report is the military’s final response to USA Today’s appeal, according to the Pentagon. Release of the document “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” said Brett Mansfield, a top official with the inspector general’s office.

Reports “that do not substantiate allegations of misconduct,” such as the one involving Allen, cannot be released under the Freedom of Information Act, said Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the inspector general.

At issue are emails that Allen exchanged with Kelley, the Tampa socialite whose complaints to the FBI about harassing emails exposed Petraeus’ extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Kelley, an unpaid social liaison to the military, had hosted parties for military officials, including Allen and Petraeus, at her home on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard. The headquarters of Central Command, which oversees military action in the Middle East, is a few miles away.

The FBI initially looked at Allen’s case and referred it to the Pentagon for further review. The inspector general told Speier that Allen and Kelley exchanged 3,000 emails from July 2010 to July 2012 on his government account. Allen served at Central Command from 2008 until July 2011 when he became the top commander in Afghanistan. Of those emails, 41 were reviewed more thoroughly, Speier was told.

“So that’s two years,1,500 emails a year,” Speier said. “I don’t think I communicate with my husband by email more than 150 times a year. That’s a lot of emails. This is a four-star general in the middle of a war zone. The most disturbing part of my discussion with them was that they requested access to his private email and were denied access and took it no further.”

Access to Allen’s private email is critical, she said. Petraeus and Broadwell used private accounts to communicate, and Allen’s must be examined as well.

“You’ve got to start with the point of view that anyone who has interactions with someone who is not his spouse that many times in a year should raise some eyebrows,” she said. “I’m not interested in a Peyton Place review. That’s not what I’m interested in. I do think the American people and certainly the Congress of the United States deserves to know that there was a comprehensive investigation.”

A senior defense official, who isn’t authorized to describe the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the investigation involved tens of thousands of pages of documents, including some personal emails. A subpoena of Allen’s personal email was not deemed necessary to conclude that he was innocent, the source said.

Alan Raul, the lawyer for Kelley and her husband, said the military looked after its own in protecting Allen and trampled the rights of his clients. They are suing the Defense and Justice departments. Kelley has said there was nothing inappropriate about her relationship with Allen.

“It is ironic that the Kelleys were not afforded the same protection and respect,” Raul said in a statement. “Unfortunately, senior defense and FBI officials were not as worried about privacy invasions when they unlawfully pried into Kelley’s emails, illegally leaked her name and cast false aspersions about her character.”

Sen. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, declined to comment when asked if he would seek release of the report.

Speier called on Hagel to reopen the investigation of Allen.

“I would encourage Secretary Hagel to review it,” Speier said. “And ask the question why didn’t you access the personal emails and how can we be confident that national security wasn’t breached?”

Allen had been one of the military’s star officers. He gained prominence in Iraq in 2006 as a deputy commander in Anbar province where Marines helped tame the insurgency. It was Allen who disclosed to USA Today data on the success of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected trucks in protecting troops from roadside bombs. That story caught the attention of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates who made them the Pentagon’s top priority.

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