WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge refused to dismiss privacy claims against the FBI filed by Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and her husband, whose connections to top military officials and concerns over threatening emails exposed Gen. David Petraeus’ extramarital affair and railroaded his career.
Gilberte Jill Kelley and her husband Scott, a doctor, claimed last year that they had gone to the FBI for help in May 2012 after receiving threatening emails from an anonymous source. The messages disparaged Jill Kelley and referred to planned events involving the Kelleys and senior intelligence and defense officials, including Gen. John Allen.
The couple turned the over emails to the FBI, and asked the bureau to respect their privacy, but according to their complaint, government officials snooped through their email accounts, launching “an unprofessional, frivolous and scurrilous investigation into Mrs. Kelley’s private relationships and affiliations that had no bearing on any pending criminal investigation or other legitimate concern to the FBI.”
The FBI traced the emails to Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ biographer and mistress, then leaked Kelley’s name to the press, the couple said, leading to Petraeus’ resignation and “Saturday Night Live” skits pinning Kelley as his mistress.
U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson dismissed most of the Kelleys’ claims against the FBI, but allowed their Privacy Act violations claim to proceed.
“The amended complaint is a long, overwrought, and argumentative document, and its 225 paragraphs are full of indignation while being thin on facts,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote. “But the Court finds that plaintiffs have set forth sufficient factual allegations to withstand the motion to dismiss Count 1 to the extent that it asserts unlawful disclosure of information to the media because there are sufficient facts presented in the amended complaint to satisfy plaintiffs’ burden to state a plausible Privacy Act claim.”
According to the Kelleys, the FBI discovered that Broadwell was the anonymous stalker, but kept the information to itself, and instead investigated the Kelleys, leaking false information to the press that accused Jill Kelly of having an affair with Gen. Allen.
“Eventually, plaintiffs will need to come forward with specific information linking the alleged disclosures to defendants FBI and DOD [Department of Defense], as opposed to ‘unnamed’ government sources, but they have met their burden at this time to allege sufficient facts to support a plausible inference that the disclosures came from defendants and were intentional and willful, as well as sufficient facts to support an inference that whoever disclosed the information actually retrieved it from a protected Privacy Act system of records,” the judge wrote.
Jackson spent the bulk of her 76-page ruling dismissing the Kelleys’ other 11 claims, for failure to state a claim, dismissing other Privacy Act claims regarding the bureau’s methods of storing records, as well as counts for defamation and false light.
Jackson also dismissed their claims under the Stored Communications Act, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendment for lack of jurisdiction.
The Kelleys claimed they discovered that the FBI knew Broadwell to be the source of the threatening emails on Nov. 9, 2012, the same day Petraeus resigned from the CIA amid reports of his affair.
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