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Socialite at centre of Patraeus scandal

When news vans camped outside her stately home, a Florida socialite tied to the sex scandal around U.S. Gen. David Petraeus tried to use her unofficial credentials as a social ambassador for top military brass: She asked police for diplomatic protection.

In the emergency phone call, Jill Kelley, a party hostess for leaders of the U.S. military's Central Command, cited her status as an honorary consul general while complaining about the media that had descended on her two-story home overlooking Tampa Bay.

"You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well," she said in the call Monday.

Nearly all lines in the increasingly tangled sex scandal involving Petraeus lead back to Kelley, the daughter of a Lebanese-born couple whose complaint about anonymous, threatening emails triggered the FBI investigation that led to the retired general's resignation Friday as director of the CIA. Now Kelley is in the middle of an investigation of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan over alleged "inappropriate communications" between the two.

Kelley's friendship with Petraeus and his wife began when the general arrived in Tampa about 2008. Kelley and her husband, Scott, a cancer surgeon, had moved to the area a few years earlier and threw a welcome party at their home, a short distance from Central Command headquarters, introducing the new Central Command chief and his wife, Holly, to Tampa's elite, according to staffers who served with Petraeus.

Such friendships among senior military commanders and prominent local community leaders are common at any military base, a symbiotic relationship where the officers invite top locals to exclusive military events and functions and the invitees respond with everything from morale-boosting "Welcome Home" parades to assistance for injured troops.

Kelley also met Gen. John Allen while he was at Central Command, and now investigators are looking at 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Kelley and Allen, some of which have been described as "flirtatious." The general has denied any wrongdoing.

Kelley has taken a low profile since Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, became public. The Kelleys have retained high-powered Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, who did not return a call.

Petraeus' affair with Broadwell was discovered after Kelley told an FBI agent friend she had received email warning her to stay away from Petraeus. The email turned out to be from Broadwell, who apparently regarded Kelley as a rival for Petraeus' affections. Kelley's family and Petraeus aides have said Petraeus and Kelley were just friends.

In a strange footnote to the scandal, long before the case involving Petraeus got under way, the FBI agent sent Kelley shirtless photos of himself, according to a federal law enforcement official.

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Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier and Pauline Jelinek in Washington and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press


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