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WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Monday that a Florida woman can pursue her lawsuit alleging the government invaded her privacy in the scandal over former CIA director David Petraeus. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Jill Kelley of Tampa can move ahead with claims that the FBI and Defense Department violated her privacy when officials leaked information about her to the news media. The ruling does not deal with the merits of the case, but as the lawsuit proceeds, it could reveal more about the role various government agencies played as the scandal unfolded two years ago.
In 2012, Kelley complained to the FBI when an unknown person sent her harassing emails. Her complaint triggered a criminal investigation that led agents to Paula Broadwell, who was Petraeus' biographer and had been having an affair with him. Kelley's name and some of the harassing emails were leaked to the news media amid the sensational disclosures about Petraeus, a former Army general. The leaks also linked Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as being under investigation for allegedly inappropriate communications with Kelley.
According to court filings by Kelley's lawyers, the government falsely told one news outlet the emails between Allen and Kelley were the equivalent of phone sex. The lawyers argued that given the prurient nature of the investigation and the "other woman" narrative propounded by the leakers, it was likely that Kelley's treatment was motivated by sexual discrimination. The Pentagon's inspector general exonerated Allen, who subsequently retired.