(CNN) – The complicated web entangling an ex-CIA director, a mistress, a military general and a woman he allegedly flirted with got no less confusing Wednesday, though the U.S. defense secretary insisted facts will emerge.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta defended his request to withhold Marine Gen. John Allen‘s nomination to become NATO’s supreme allied commander, pending an investigation into Allen’s communications with a Florida woman.
The move was “a prudent measure until we can determine what the facts are, and we will,” Panetta told reporters Wednesday. “No one should leap to any conclusions.”
That Florida woman is Jill Kelley, and the media got their first peek into the life of the Tampa socialite when they obtained a 911 call from the woman asking police to usher media members away from her house.
“You know, I’m an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability,” Kelley said. “So, um, they should not be able to cross my property. I don’t know if you want to get diplomatic, uh, protection involved as well. But now, because that’s against the law to cross my property because this is not, like, you know, um, it’s inviolable.”
Kelley is an honorary consul general of South Korea, according to Foreign Policy, a symbolic position that involves promoting the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea. This means Kelley did little more than arrange meetings between the South Korean ambassador to the U.S. and businessmen in the Tampa area.
The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which governs the treatment of diplomats, gives honorary consuls no special protection. Military officials later said it is nothing more than a symbolic title.
While it appears possible that this investigation into Allen’s will amount to nothing, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr raised a question that has many people talking this week: While these Generals may have done nothing explicitly wrong, was it good judgement to surround themselves with these women?
“We pay these men a lot of money for their good judgement,” Starr said on Piers Morgan Tonight. “What on earth were they doing surrounding themselves with these kinds of people.”
According to the Defense Department, Allen is under investigation for what one defense official referred to as “flirtatious” e-mail messages with Jill Kelley – the woman whose complaints about anonymous, harassing e-mails led to the discovery of CIA Director David Petraeus’ affair with a woman later identified as his biographer. Petraeus resigned Friday after acknowledging the affair.
Allen will retain his post as the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, pending Senate confirmation of a successor, according to the Defense Department. That vote is due Thursday, Senate officials said.
Allen has denied wrongdoing, a senior defense official said.
The investigation into Allen is in its early stages, but authorities are looking into some 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, a defense official told CNN. It is not clear how many of those might involve inappropriate communications.
A U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday that many of the documents could be innocuous, involving routine business that Allen and Kelley were both involved in at the U.S. Central Command.
“In his duties at CENTCOM, Gen. Allen conducted a lot of legitimate business. She (Kelley) did a lot of work with CENTCOM, including Wounded Warriors and such,” the official said. “It could be that 29,900 of the documents are legitimate business, and the few remaining raise a few eyebrows.”
Sources familiar with Kelley have said the relationship between the two was not sexual, but one said that the e-mails were flirtatious.
The fact that Allen remains in command in Afghanistan suggests that there is no criminal issue, another U.S. official told CNN. But the official said the Defense Department’s inspector general, an agency watchdog, could still find evidence of criminal conduct.
While the nature of the relationship between Allen and Kelley, if any, is unclear, evidence of an affair could subject the general to military prosecution. Adultery is a violation of military law.
Widespread media reports have described Kelley as a liaison at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where the U.S. Central Command is headquartered. Both Petraeus and Allen were previously stationed at the base. A Central Command spokesman said she is a volunteer with no official position.
Kelley has not responded publicly to the latest news.