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Jill Kelley Files Suit Against Feds Over Petraeus Scandal

Jill Kelley, outside her home in Tampa.
Brian Blanco
Reuters /Landov
Jill Kelley, outside her home in Tampa.

Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite whose complaints to the FBI sparked the discovery of an extramarital affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, has filed a lawsuit against the federal government.

In the lawsuit, Kelley and her husband, Scott, are seeking unspecified damages and an apology for what they allege was the violation of their privacy. According to USA Today, the Kelleys say federal agents should have protected their privacy.

"Instead we received highly hurtful and damaging publicity from willful leaks from high-level government officials that were false and defamatory," Kelley said in a statement. "In addition, we also learned that our personal emails were wrongfully searched, and improperly disclosed."

Back in January, the Kelleys wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in which they aired most of their complaints. They wrote:

"Ours is a story of how the simple act of quietly appealing to legal authorities for advice on how to stop anonymous, harassing e-mails can result in a victim being re-victimized. The word 'victim' is, we know, better reserved for those who have suffered far worse than we pray we'll ever experience. But the reality is that we sought protection, not attention, and received the inverse.

"After our names were linked to the Petraeus story, a horde of paparazzi stormed our front lawn. Our young daughters were terrified. We didn't want our silence to validate false headlines, but we did what most people unaccustomed to such a blitzkrieg would do: walled it off in the hopes the storm would fade or pass."

As we reported, the Petraeus scandal began when Kelley told an acquaintance who works for the FBI that she was receiving threatening emails. Authorities traced those emails to Paula Broadwell, the biographer who was having an affair with Petraeus. Broadwell was investigated, and that's when investigators stumbled upon the affair.

The Department of Defense dropped a cyberstalking investigation against Broadwell. No one in the case was charged with anything.

NBC News reports that Kelley is advocating for stricter controls on these kinds of investigations.

"Our government can and should do better than intrude on the privacy and dignity of citizens like my family and yours, and our public officials should treat our personal lives with the respect that our Constitution, laws like the Privacy Act, and standards of common decency require," she said in her statement. "Until our privacy laws and practices truly give us both privacy and protection, I'll continue to advocate for reform, so others don't go through the challenges my friends and family endured."

NBC News reports the FBI declined to comment on the case.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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