Just when I thought the Petraeus story couldn't get any weirder, along comes a story in the Wall Street Journal reporting that an FBI official allegedly sent shirtless pictures of himself to Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who has emerged as a key player in this increasingly bizarre drama:
The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.
However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.
The FBI officials found that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley, according to the people familiar with the probe.
That same agent, after being barred from the case, contacted a member of Congress, Washington Republican David Reichert, because he was concerned senior FBI officials were going to sweep the matter under the rug, the officials said. That information was relayed to top congressional officials, who notified FBI headquarters in Washington.
By that point, FBI agents had determined the harassing emails had been sent by Paula Broadwell, who had written a biography of Mr. Petraeus's military command.
So that's strange. But here's what is truly weird: The emails in question don't seem to be a big deal. Wired's Kim Zetter says they "reportedly told Kelley to 'back off' and 'stay away' from the unnamed man." According to the Journal:
The accusatory emails, according to officials, were sent anonymously to an account shared by Ms. Kelley and her husband. Ms. Broadwell allegedly used a variety of email addresses to send the harassing messages to Ms. Kelley, officials said.
One asked if Ms. Kelley's husband was aware of her actions, according to officials. In another, the anonymous writer claimed to have watched Ms. Kelley touching "him'' provocatively underneath a table, the officials said.
A Daily Beast story cites a source "who was until recently at the highest levels of the intelligence community" characterizing the emails as “More like, ‘Who do you think you are? … You parade around the base … You need to take it down a notch.'"
Either way, that doesn't sound like the kind of thing that merits an FBI investigation, bureau officials' insistence notwithstanding.
One more thing: The New York Daily News spoke with Broadwell's father, Paul Krantz, who told the paper: “This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out."
“There is a lot more that is going to come out,” said Krantz, claiming he was not allowed to elaborate. “You wait and see. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye."
I suspect we'll know more soon -- and I wonder if what we learn will reflect well on the FBI.
UPDATE: NBC News has a possible explantion for why the FBI was concerned:
“Menacing” anonymous emails that launched the FBI investigation which ultimately brought down CIA Director David Petraeus contained references to the “comings and goings” of high-level U.S. military officials, raising concerns that someone had improperly gained access to sensitive and classified information, a source close to the recipient tells NBC News.
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