THE SCANDAL


ONE BAD AFTER ANOTHER

As if the incompetence of those who wrote base procedures, Wing commanders who knew little, Engineers who had a lot on their plate, a JAG officer with nothing better to do, and a damn war, you call it what you want.  But what was going on at the higher levels that we could not get to and how did it affect our program.  

It was another curare tipped arrow, and changed the dynamics of access at the base and we became the forgotten ones. Pushed so far back we could not recover.  It closed in on the ‘Friends of MacDill Program’.

I would have never included nor used this as an excuse for sensationalism but what occurred had national consequence, a large dose of stupidity and as far as I am concerned part of our tribulations,  but I developed a complete disrespect for some of the men,  these higher-ups leaders and in the same breath great respect for some,  who served and set the moral grounds and bars for the lower ranks.

I have shared time with General Petraeus and aside from what occurred in a moment of poor decisiveness  I would follow him into any conflict this country has or will be shown.  None of us are perfect and we are all humanly frail and once in a while we go FUBAR.  But it was the total picture that draws one in, and one mistake is countered by almost forty years of gallant and perfect service to the country.


PART ONE - SOME THINGS NEVER GO AWAY

TAMPA— But for the drab taupe paint and flat maroon rooftops on nearly every building, the military base that has become the focus of fallout over Gen. David Petraeus’s resignation as director of the CIA last week could be mistaken for a sprawling tropical resort.

Higher-ranked officers at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa live in Bayfront homes on stilts, with three-car garages and covered porches. There’s a beachside restaurant, SCUBA lessons, boat rentals, a skeet and trap range, golf course, a gleaming hospital, a top-of-the-line gym and a tidy tax-free commissary. 

A jogging path lined with recycled rubber snakes around the water’s edge, past C-37 and KC-135 aircraft parked in the lot, awaiting their next mission. The streets are wide and quiet, lined with palm trees dancing in the warm Florida breeze.

MacDill is an oasis at the end of a seedy stretch of Dale Mabry Drive, which is lined with strip clubs, liquor stores, and pawn shops. Homeless veterans ask for spare change outside the gates, and crime is rampant in the run-down neighborhoods within spitting distance of this opulent military mecca. 


THERE IS MORE, LOTS MORE

If it has shocked America to learn of lavish parties and sex scandals that have ensnared some of the military’s top brass, it shouldn’t, say several people familiar with the culture of MacDill. The high-ranking officials here are celebrities in Tampa, big wigs, and socialite Jill Kelley is one of the many MacDill liaisons described by some as eager to curry favor with some of the most powerful men on the planet.

“It’s no different from Washington, DC,”  Aaron Fodiman, editor of Tampa Bay Magazine, told The Daily Beast. “These are some of the most important people in the world. They are warriors out there, protecting our country and leading the world, why shouldn’t they be admired, and why wouldn’t people want to be in their presence?”

That intoxicating draw to power may lie at the heart of the scandal that broke this week in South Florida in the wake of Petraeus’s resignation and admission that he had an affair.  His paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell got herself caught by allegedly sending threatening emails to Kelley, who lives just outside the base in a million-dollar mansion on the city’s most coveted boulevard.   Kelley, in turn, allegedly exchanged “flirtatious emails” with another general now embroiled in the scandal, John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan.

Kelley flirted her way into the good graces of high-level officers all over MacDill, according to reporting in several media outlets. The same has been said of her twin sister, Natalie Khawam.

People in Tampa call Bayshore Boulevard—which extends from the base into downtown Tampa—as  “Wisteria Lane,” referring to the street where the fictional “Desperate Housewives” live. “Its well-known in social circles that all the big wigs do a lot of partying,” said Jack X,  a private investigator in nearby St. Petersburg. “That’s just part of the way they operate over there, and Tampa has always had these social gadflies and liaisons.”

“We go to parties every night,” Fodiman said, and Kelley as a “charming, lovely, vivacious” host is not a unique figure. “There are hundreds like that around here.”

While some have described Kelley as an aggressive social climber, Fodiman says she’s just like anyone else who “likes to rub shoulders with people they admire.”

If the MacDill community kept to itself, though, it didn’t keep community members like Kelley off of the base.  In fact through influence by the ****’s  she became an Honorary Consul to South Korea  with a special rag.  She was one of about 800 members of Friends of MacDill allowed daytime access to the base without an escort. 

We are bringing a million dollar project a gift to the service men and women of our armed forces and she gets an Honorary Consul License plate and free access.  Why not just hire dancers from Dale mabry and be done with it, No security breaches.


PART TWO - REVOKED!

The Florida socialite who exposed the affair which brought down David Petraeus has been sacked as an honorary consul for South Korea.  Jill Kelley was so proud of her status, which she was awarded thanks to her friendship with the country’s ambassador, that she had a custom license plate made boasting of it.  But now the title has been taken away from her after a senior Korean official said she had tried to ‘peddle influence' in a way that was 'inappropriate'.

Proud: Kelley boasted of her $2,500-a-year position on several different car license plates.  Kelley, a Tampa housewife who works as an 'unpaid social liaison' at MacDill Air Force Base, unwittingly sparked the Petraeus scandal telling the FBI about 'threatening' emails she had received from author Paula Broadwell.

A subsequent investigation revealed that Broadwell had been having an affair with Petraeus, who was subsequently forced to resign as director of the CIA.  

Jill Kelley was appointed honorary consul for South Korea in August after becoming close to former ambassador Han Duk Soo, who is said to be troubled by his unwitting role in the Petraeus affair.

When he recommended her for the post, he apparently alluded to her links with senior officials such as Petraeus and General John Allen, who was dragged into the scandal when it emerged that he and Kelley had exchanged thousands of emails.

As well as sporting a plate describing her as 'Honorary Consul', she requested 'diplomatic protection' from media camped outside her door in the wake of Petraeus' resignation.

Timm Sweeney, a fellow Friends member “The vast majority are motivated by noble motives, rather than financial or self-aggrandizing,” Sweeney said. “People don’t just get into it because it’s a way to make money or get their name in the paper.”

That said, Tampa’s high-ranking military officers are certainly the type people like Kelley “want to glom onto,” Sweeney said. “MacDill folks are the closest thing Tampa comes to having real celebrities. The Kelleys are clearly the exception to the rule. I just think it was a way for them to become socially prominent in the community.”


PART THREE - THE PETRAEUS CONNECTION
By Howard Altman | Times Staff Writer   Published: January 31, 2016, Updated: February 1, 2016 

Just three days before he would be lavishly praised in a ceremony honoring his retirement after 37 years in an Army uniform, Gen. David Petraeus did something that would help tarnish his stellar reputation as a military leader.

It was something that, nearly five years later, is still sparking questions.

Sometime around Aug. 28, 2011, Petraeus delivered eight black books to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve major who was staying at a private residence in Washington, D.C., during a weeklong trip to the nation’s capitol. 

The black books, according to court documents, contained classified information about the identity of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes, and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and Petraeus’ discussions with President Barack Obama.

In short, some pretty interesting stuff. But it was material that neither of them should have had in their possession in an unsecured location.  A day after the retirement ceremony, Petraeus retrieved the black books from Broadwell. Five days later, Petraeus was sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The transaction over the black books would likely have remained in the shadows were it not for the fact that Broadwell and Petraeus had an affair. It was discovered after Broadwell began sending emails to Scott Kelley, who along with his wife Jill hosted parties at their big, brick, Bayshore Boulevard manse for Petraeus and other military leaders and diplomats visiting MacDill Air Force Base.

For the major players in this story, the saga continues.

Petraeus, who rose to fame for his role in helping blunt the insurgency in Iraq, later became head of U.S. Central Command, and was in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring and running the CIA, now has a criminal record. On April 23, 2015, he was ordered by a federal judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, to pay $100,000 in fines and serve two years’ probation after pleading guilty to the misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

While Petraeus famously resigned from the CIA over the affair, he is still well-respected for his military acumen and frequently sought out for his advice on matters of great import. But the issue of the black books  possible retroactive demotion, and with it, a sizable chunk of retirement money stories that were put to bed Friday.

The case also lives on because Scott and Jill Kelley have an ongoing lawsuit against the FBI and Defense Department over the leak of Jill Kelley’s name to the media. It’s a suit that has ensnared a sitting Cabinet member, former military leaders and several journalists. 

Which brings me to Broadwell.

A recent story in the Washington Post provided an inside look at the decision to charge Petraeus with a misdemeanor instead of felonies over the way he handled the black books. The story pointed out that the Justice Department opted not to prosecute Broadwell for possessing the classified materials because of her status as a journalist. She received the black books as part of her research into “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” which was published in 2012.

When it comes to Broadwell, at least two questions remain.

Should the Justice Department have spent the time and effort it did investigating her? And did she deserve to be treated as a journalist, and thus afforded protection from prosecution by the Justice Department?

Broadwell declined comment, but her lawyer shared the statement he gave to the Post.

“We established that Paula Broadwell was a fully credentialed member of the media and entitled to all the protections under the First Amendment and DOJ policy,” said Bob Muse. 

“Ultimately the government’s decision is consistent with what the attorney general told Congress and what President Obama stated: Namely, members of the media would not be prosecuted for doing their job.”

But the issue really isn’t that cut and dry, for Paula Broadwell is not your average journalist. She is also an Army officer, who had security clearance and thus signed the required statements vowing to protect classified information.  Other things muddy the water as well. The affair.  Setting off the investigation that uncovered the affair, and ultimately, the black books. And emailing Scott Kelley what he and his wife consider threatening emails that resulted in security concerns for a couple of four-star generals and an FBI investigation. The investigation cleared Broadwell of any wrongdoing.

I reached out to First Amendment lawyers, attorneys specializing in military justice and national security issues, and reporter rights groups to get their opinions.  Their answer to whether the government was justified in investigating Broadwell and justified in not seeking prosecution because of her status as a journalist was, by and large, yes and yes.

Given the totality of factors, the government was “absolutely” justified in investigating Broadwell, says Mark Zaid, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer specializing in national security issues.

“She is an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve with security clearance,” says Zaid, “She is talking with a four-star general. He is discussing classified information that he has, that she has to know she shouldn’t have.”

That’s also the view of Charlie Rose, a director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy and Professor of Excellence in Trial Advocacy at the Stetson University College of Law and a former Army Judge Advocate General officer, military lawyer and Army intelligence officer who retired in 2004 as a major. 

Broadwell “violated” Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information rules “you are required to follow when you have access,” says. When she received the black books from Petraeus, Broadwell “received classified information that she is not read on and did not have the right to receive. It was not properly secured.”

Given all that, prosecutors “were cherry-picking statutes to make the case go away,” Rose says, “probably in some combination that they went too far in trying to bring a case against Petraeus and some other national security issue or issues they don’t want out in the public.”

That Broadwell received the information in her capacity as a biographer gave her protection that the experts say is a First Amendment-inflected policy decision by the Justice Department.

“Take out the more scandalous aspects, she was clearly acting as a journalist,” says Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for The Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press.

“It is the right policy choice” Zaid says. “Prosecuting Broadwell would open a Pandora’s box, because then, how do you distinguish between Paula Broadwell and the New York Times. There is no difference, from a legal standpoint.”

When it comes to prosecuting Broadwell, there’s another thing to consider, says Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale University.

“It would be unconscionable really to treat her materially worse than he was treated,” Fidell says. “He got what strikes many as a very lenient outcome.”

Aside from the civilian justice system, Broadwell was at risk for having charges brought against her by the Army. But in December, Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman, told me there is no active investigation against Broadwell. Friday, when I asked her about a Jan. 8 Charlotte Observer story quoting U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose saying that the Army’s investigation of Broadwell continues, Smith repeated that there was no active investigation. Rose did not respond to a request for comment and her office could not provide much clarity on the matter.

haltman@tampatrib.co


PART FOUR - THE TWIN SISTERS AND ITS ALL OVER THE PRESS
The scandal swept through Tampa society like a late-season hurricane, taking down no less than the retired four-star general running the CIA.  But the news two years ago this month of David Petraeus' career-ending extramarital affair had nothing on the local sideshow: doe-eyed, raven-haired, twin sister socialites who partied with top military officers — Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam.

Stories detailed their social connections to the brass at MacDill Air Force Base and recounted how some in genteel South Tampa considered them pushy arrivistes in short skirts. Reports described glittering parties and a lavish life in a waterfront mansion despite the sisters' financial woes. Headlines did not spare a nasty custody battle over Khawam's young son, and the high-ranking military men who reached out to a Washington, D.C., court to try to help her. 

The Real Housewives of Tampa, the sisters were dubbed — this town's Kardashians, Kartampians or Kartrashians, if someone was being especially unkind. "All we need now," drolled the New York Post, juxtaposing Khawam's photo with that of an actual Kardashian, "is a sex tape."

"Bonkers," pronounced Khawam, 39, in a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times at her downtown law office, breaking her silence in the company of her boyfriend and her publicist.

"Surreal," she said.

Real Housewives? "I'm not a housewife, I'm an attorney," Khawam said, with a degree from Georgetown law school. Socialite? She prefers "member of the community." She said stories did not take into account the strong friendship between her family and the Petraeus family.  “I think a lot of what was said was inaccurate and improper," Khawam said. 

“If anything, silly." “There were a lot of things that were said by people I never met in my life.


PART FIVE - THE MAYOR OF TAMPA SPEAKS
Two years later, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn put it this way: Every city has its colorful characters and also its “ boneheaded moves."  "I think most of us approached it with a collective eye-roll," he said. And most people have written off that moment in time for Tampa.  Long gone is the pack of reporters from far-flung cities who camped outside the Kelley family's Bayshore Boulevard mansion, hoping for a glimpse of the twins.

So why is Khawam speaking up now?   In pearls and a lawyerly gray suit — decidedly un-party girl clothes — Khawam wanted to talk up her Whistleblower Law Firm that represents, among others, clients who allege wrongdoing occurring in an organization.  She said she did not respond to the unflattering coverage back then — painting the sisters as MacDill groupies who befriended graying generals — in part to protect her son.

"I don't think I know those people" who were quoted in news stories about her, she said. "I don't think they know me."

Reports said the duo seemed to focus on the military after they realized old-line Tampa wasn't that interested. That said, parties at the Kelley mansion — where Jill Kelley lives with her husband, cancer surgeon Scott Kelley, their three daughters and her twin sister — did not lack for assorted local politicians and muckety-mucks.

These were often charity events and fundraisers that were not as wild or glamorous as stories made them sound, Khawam contends. "CentCom would have a community leaders event. There was nothing party-ish about it."


PART SIX - THIS IS THE RUB

Kelley's role as a civilian liaison to MacDill Air Force Base — "Jill's always been very gracious with her home," Khawam said — had them rubbing elbows with the likes of Marine Lt. Gen. Michael "Rifle" DeLong, Marine Gen. John Allen and Army Gen. John Abizaid.  ( I know all of them and worked with them)

Before long, Petraeus, who was commander of U.S. Central Command at MacDill, and his wife, Holly, were regularly at the Kelleys' for dinner. "That really was family," Khawam said. "That's the not-so-sexy part the media missed."

Petraeus experienced his first Gasparilla, the massive pirate party that is Tampa's biggest bash, from a breezy white tent on the Kelleys' sprawling lawn. Together the Petraeuses, the Kelleys and Khawam posed for pictures draped in traditional pirate beads. "Awesome," Petraeus pronounced it.

Then came the fall.

THE THREAT, THE DOWNFALL
Jill Kelley was getting anonymous emails telling her to back off Petraeus.  They were coming from Paula Broadwell
"If you received one of those emails," Khawam said, "you would have been like, 'Holy mackerel.' " She urged her sister to go to the FBI. The emails led investigators to Petraeus' biographer Paula Broadwell and the disclosure of their affair. 

With that, a CIA director and retired four-star general once thought to have presidential potential resigned.  Reporters came on the run. From the New York Daily News to Town & Country, Khawam was part of the story, smiling in Chanel in party pictures with her sister.

"That Jill Kelley thing just went viral and everybody had to put their two bits in," recalled former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, who attended at least one Kelley event. "I just think it was unbelievable," Greco said. "It just went on and on and on. Probably that got about as much publicity as anything around here."

Said Khawam: "It was really just a very strange, complex, overwhelming situation. … It made good juicy headlines, but that wasn’t really accurate.”  In stories, they were "hilariously over the top, stars of their own imaginary reality show." Petraeus was "an American hero brought down."

Khawam said she wanted to let the stories — the "storm," she called it — run their course without responding, not even to book deal offers. People close to her knew who she was, she said. She only worried when her face made the cover of a New York tabloid, which her son might spot at a newsstand in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his father.

Their divorce and custody fight was ugly, with allegations that she brought their son to Tampa without his father's permission and her claim of domestic violence.

The court in Washington would receive rather remarkable letters on her behalf — one from Gen. Allen praising Khawam's "maturity, integrity and steadfast commitment to raising her child," and another from Petraeus, who wrote that Khawam went to great lengths and expense to spend quality time with her son.

Apparently, a judge did not agree. He cited "Mrs. Khawam's pattern of misrepresentations about virtually everything," "severe" psychological deficits and an "unsteady moral and ethical compass." Today she has supervised visitation with her son, now 6, in Washington, though she is trying to change that. An amicus brief was filed on her behalf by the National Organization for Women Foundation regarding the "extraordinary award of attorney's fees" against her.


THE BOOTYDOOM LINE
The news blitz about the Kelley sisters did have one positive: It showed the world Tampa’s deep, longstanding connection to MacDill Air Force base at its southern tip. When reporters called, former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman expressed concern about seemingly easy access to high-ranking officers. She also gave an apt description of the city's social structure: old-line South Tampa families, new money and wanna-bes like the twins.

Not from here, Khawam had to ask her publicist who Freedman was.

There was more fodder for headlines: Khawam was and still is embroiled in a legal battle with her former employer, prominent local lawyer Barry Cohen. She accused the firm's business consultant of sexual harassment and says she is owed money from a whistleblower case she brought in. Cohen says she is not entitled to a dime.

Meanwhile, her sister is suing the federal government, accusing the FBI and Defense Department of violating her privacy by leaking information to reporters — including a false intimation that she and Gen. Allen had the email equivalent of phone sex.

Kelley emailed a brief statement for this story, expressing admiration for her sister and writing, “  am very happy that people are finally able to hear from Natalie."  Khawam would not say whether they maintain a friendship with the Petraeus’s.  She said she has not spoken to Holly Petraeus in “probably six months."  "There was no negative falling-out," she said. "We just all moved on."

Khawam says she still attends fundraisers and legal community events. "I just don't feel like (what happened) was a reason to deter me from still contributing and being a part of the community." On the whole, she says she would rather be on a boat trout fishing with her boyfriend, Atlanta businessman Mike Boone, or hanging out at a favorite hole-in-the-wall near the water.

She still gets recognized. "You look like Jill Kelley," people say. She's two minutes older than her sister — her best friend, she says — and also very different from her. "No," she says back. "Jill Kelley looks like me."

When she got here before the scandal, Khawam found Tampa friendly. She thought it was great turf for a lawyer. She took her son to the pumpkin patch in Hyde Park. Neighbors came over to watch the Sopranos.

After the headlines, did she think of leaving?  It was "unflattering, to say it nicely," she says. "But no. I dug my heels even deeper in the ground.”   "This is my town," she says. "I'm not leaving. I love this place."

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