FBI probes Gen. Allen emails in Petraeus scandal

(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- For the first time Wednesday, President Barack Obama weighed in on the scandal that ended the career of his CIA director and derailed his nominee to lead NATO.

Obama told a news conference no classified information was compromised in the email and sex scandal that forced David Petraeus, perhaps the most distinguished army general of his generation, to resign from the CIA last week after an FBI investigation discovered he was having an affair.

"General Petraeus had an extraordinary career," the president said. "He served this country with great distinction, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and as head of the CIA. By his own assessment, he did not meet the standards that he felt were necessary as the director of the CIA with respect to this personal matter that he is now dealing with his family and with his wife. And it's on that basis that he tendered his resignation, and it's on that basis that I accepted it."

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But when asked about Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and his nominee to lead NATO, the president was silent.

The same FBI investigation uncovered emails between Allen and a socialite, Jill Kelley, who hosted functions for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, where both Allen and Petraeus worked. Based on those emails, Obama placed Allen's nomination on hold.

(Watch: Bob Orr's CBS "This Morning" report on the e-mails between Gen. Allen and Kelley)

Now, Allen's career hinges on the content of some 200 emails he exchanged with Kelley.

Sources say Allen was directly confronted with some of the emails by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Late Wednesday, Allen's attorney released a statement saying he would "fully cooperate" in the investigation and instructed his staff to do the same.

Allen has said he has done nothing wrong and has not written anything to Kelley that would preclude his nomination.

Officials have characterized Allen's communications with Kelley as "flirtatious," saying they contain "nothing of an explicit sexual nature."

But one official said the emails, if made public, "would be embarrassing."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered Allen a tempered vote of confidence Wednesday.

"No one should leap to any conclusions here," he said in Perth, Australia. "Gen. Allen is doing an excellent job at ISAF in leading those forces. He certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces and continue the fight. But his nomination has been put on hold as a prudent measure until we determine what the facts are, and we will."

The Allen-Kelley emails were discovered by the FBI in the course of an investigation that uncovered the affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, a former Army intelligence officer who was working on a biography about the retired general.

A search of Broadwell's computer turned up intimate emails with Petraeus and also revealed Broadwell may have mishandled some classified information that she'd collected for her book.

But law enforcement officials say the investigation never uncovered a threat to national security. And FBI Director Robert Mueller told House Intelligence Committee lawmakers Wednesday that was the primary reason they were not briefed on the investigation.

The White House wasn't told about the investigation until after the election. The president said Wednesday that the FBI was following its own guidelines and that he'd withhold judgment on the delayed notification.

"It is also possible that had we been told, then you'd be sitting here asking a question about why were you interfering in a criminal investigation," Obama said at the news conference.

No one has been charged with a crime in the case, but the Army suspended Paula Broadwell's security clearance Wednesday.


FULL STATEMENT FROM THE CHIEF DEFENSE COUNSEL OF THE MARINE CORPS, JOHN G. BAKER

General John R. Allen was notified that he is the subject of a Defense Department Inspector General's Investigation, and I am currently assisting him in that process.

General Allen intends to fully cooperate with the Inspector General Investigators and directed his staff to do the same. To the extent there are questions about certain communications by General Allen, he shares in the desire to resolve those questions as completely and quickly as possible.

While this Inspector General's Investigation is underway, General Allen cannot comment more specifically on these matters,but he does sincerely appreciate the support expressed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, members of Congress, and members of the public.

In the meantime, General Allen's duties as the Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan remain his primary focus.

  • Bob Orr

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