Released emails detail relationships between Tampa socialite and top military leaders

By Brett Gillin

In the saga of the downfall of David H. Petraeus, one of the more interesting players has to be Florida socialite Jill Kelley. Although there has been no evidence that Kelley had any sort of inappropriate relationship with Petraeus, many believe that it was Kelley’s communications with him, as well as several other top military commanders, that triggered the investigation that would conclude with Petraeus resigning from his position and Marine Gen. John Allen retiring earlier than anticipated.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information request from the Washington Post, a new batch of emails between Kelley and several top military officials has been made public. In these emails, as the Post points out, it is clear to see that Kelley was star-struck (or at least playing the role of a star-struck young woman) with these powerful military commanders. It is also clear that the feeling was mutual, as the men she corresponded with clearly took a liking to Kelley.

To help illustrate this point, a 2012 email from Kelley to Marine Gen. James N. Mattis reads “Everyone thinks you’re a RockStar! We agreed how amazing it must be that you’re single-handedly re-writing history,” Kelly wrote, referencing her conversations with foreign ambassadors during the Republican National Convention in August of 2012.

Kelley also corresponded with Mattis’s deputy, Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, writing “What a Leader you were to these heads of State. You ROCK!!!” Howard replied “YOU ROCK MORE!”

It was the seemingly innocent, or playful email exchanges such as these that brought the attention of Paula Broadwell. Broadwell is now known as Petraeus’s biographer and mistress. According to this article from Newsmax,  Broadwell caught wind of these emails and sent threatening emails to Kelley. This prompted Kelley to contact the FBI, which in turn launched an investigation that would lead to the downfall of Petraeus and Allen.

Perhaps the most puzzling part of this story, as reported by the Washington Post, is the volume of emails exchanged between Kelley and Allen. By their estimations, some senior defense officials are estimating that between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of emails were exchanged between the two, even while Allen was busy overseeing the war in Afghanistan. Defenders of Allen say that number is artificially inflated, claiming that only 300 total e-mails were exchanged between Kelley and Allen.

Kelley was not simply a star-struck fan sending emails to military commanders, however. Kelley parleyed her relationships into a position as Honorary Ambassador to Central Command in Tampa and as an Honorary Consul for the Republic of Korea. Kelley, along with her husband Scott, regularly hosted large events at their mansion in Tampa, honoring military officers from MacDill Air Force Base.

While the investigation and decision pertaining to Petraeus continues, it is still not clear why Broadwell saw Kelley as a threat. According to this article in the Washington Post, Kelley claim that she has never met Broadwell and that she has never had an affair with Petraeus, Allen, or anyone else.

Kelley is also in the midst of a lawsuit of her own. Originally dismissed by the federal government, a judge has recently ruled that Kelley’s lawsuit against the FBI and the Defense Department over violation of her rights to privacy by leaking her name and personal information to reporters, can proceed.



  • Brett Gillin is a journalist and fiction writer based in South Florida. Many of his friends and family members have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, as Police Officers, and first responders. Gillin is currently working on several screenplays, and his writings have been published in numerous national and international publications and websites.

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