Rushing to Judgment: A Word on General Allen

Posted on November 15, 2012

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As it happens, I knew General Allen slightly.  When he was still a one-star, he and I worked some of the same regional security and policy issues for our respective bosses, and had occasion to meet a few times.  He was intellectually brilliant, of a serious mind, and dedicated to his job.  He moved quickly – sometimes almost brusquely – from one task to the next.  He was busy, and didn’t waste a lot of time.  He just doesn’t strike me as the type to neglect his duty or imperil his marriage.

By now, we have all heard of General Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.  The public details are still muddled, but apparently Broadwell precipitated Petraeus’ downfall – and now, an investigation into General Allen’s conduct – by going a little crazy-jealous, setting up an email account called “KelleyPatrol,” and sending out harassing emails to Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite acquainted with Petraeus and Allen (along with a lot of other top brass).  Turns out, Broadwell also sent an email to General Allen, describing Mrs. Kelley as a seductress and warning Allen to beware of her.  Allen, concerned, forwarded the email to Mrs. Kelley.  Maybe if he had not tried to warn her about that nutty email, he might not have been pulled into this whole thing.  Then again, maybe Broadwell doomed him to this scrutiny as soon as she hit “send” from her silly little not-so-secret account (apparently, a Harvard education doesn’t guarantee good judgment or common sense).

What bothers me the most about all of this is how very public it is, dragging General Allen through the headlines with precious little evidence so far of any actual wrongdoing.  Allegations of misconduct, especially of sexual misconduct, have a way of leaving a permanent stain, a cloud of suspicion that is never quite dispelled even when such allegations are proven false.

Having found no classified information floating about in General Allen’s messages, nor any criminal activity, the FBI provided the emails to the Department of Defense, where Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered an Inspector General investigation.  I don’t know if he’s just trying to be thorough (he has since urged the public not to jump to conclusions), or if someone really thinks there’s something wrong going on; but so far, no smoking guns have appeared, and in the press, the flaming insinuations of yet another torrid affair are already beginning to wither.

The allegation that Allen exchanged “inappropriate” and “flirtatious” emails with Kelley has amounted, thus far, to this, as reported by CBS News correspondent David Martin:  “Kelley would say, ‘Saw you on television and you were terrific,’ and Allen would write back with ‘thanks sweetheart.'”  ReallyThat’s somebody’s definition of “inappropriate” or “flirtatious?”

Some officials have said that there is more questionable material there, or they wouldn’t still be investigating.  Two officials described some of the emails as “sexually explicit” and “the equivalent of phone sex.”  But others who have seen the messages say there is nothing of a sexual nature.  One must wonder, too, why the two would exchange explicit emails using an email account that Mrs. Kelley shared with her husband.

It was also reported (and is still being reported) that Allen had exchanged some 20,000 to 30,000 emails with Ms. Kelley from 2010-2012.  Whoa, wait a minute.  I did a little math.  Assuming a period of about 2.5 years, that amounts to more than 20 emails per day?!  That couldn’t be correct.  And sure enough, as NBC News later reported, that number was “inflated.”  According to a Pentagon official, “That is a mischaracterization.  The communications with General Allen were lumped in with a lot of other email traffic.”  Messages that included, apparently, communications between Mrs. Kelley and Mrs. Allen, on which General Allen was simply copied.  Yeah, there’s a lot of mischaracterization going on here, and I’d like to see it draw quickly to a close.

General Allen insists he has done nothing wrong, and – from what little I know of the man – I believe him.  I hope I’m right, and I hope that once this tawdry media storm is over with, his nomination and confirmation hearings proceed as if none of this had happened.

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