A CIA sex scandal seemingly torn from the pages of a best-selling spy novel is enthralling the United States despite the aftermath of a presidential election that has spurred a substantive debate about the changing face of America.
Divided as they may be politically, however, Americans are united in their fascination with the scandal engulfing David Petraeus, the director of the world-renowned spy agency who quit last week after admitting an extra-marital affair.
The relationship was revealed when the FBI discovered his lover, Paula Broadwell, had sent threatening emails to yet another woman, Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite who insists she's a close family friend of Petraeus and his wife, not a second paramour. The messages warned Kelley to stay away from Petraeus.
According to a blog written by Petraeus's adult daughter, Anne, Kelley and her husband were close to the Petraeuses. The two families and their children often spent Christmas and Thanksgiving together in recent years.
Kelley complained to the FBI when the menacing emails began appearing in her inbox in May.
Petraeus, 60, was reportedly stunned to learn from the FBI that his girlfriend was behind the harassment of the woman she believed was her romantic rival.
In emails to Broadwell mid-summer, he asked her to stop bothering Kelley. Their relationship ended soon after he was made aware of the harassment, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The celebrated four-star general and Broadwell, 40, had known one another for six years, but their affair didn't start until after he left the U.S. army last year, said Steve Boylan, a retired colonel and close friend of Petraeus's.
An 18-month-old news photo has also become a sensation.
As the general and his wife arrived at a Senate hearing into his nomination as head of the CIA in June 2011, Broadwell was captured by news cameras beaming up adoringly at Petraeus in a shot reminiscent of Monica Lewinsky's loving public gaze at former president Bill Clinton more than 15 years ago.