Judge seals most files in court case over CIA sex case leaks

AP News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2016 3:06 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. judge has ordered the most sensational court records to remain sealed in the now-abandoned lawsuit over leaks in the investigation that led to the resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus.

The files include transcripts of sworn interviews with senior Obama administration officials about the sex scandal and its fallout.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson late Thursday accepted objections by the Justice Department to keep the files private, saying government lawyers "have identified compelling confidentiality, privacy and law enforcement interests served by maintaining those records under seal that outweigh any need for public access."

The judge added, "No one has asserted any public need for the material." It was unclear whether Jackson intended to revisit her decision in the future, but she ordered that the "records will remain sealed for the time being."

Among the files were notes from confidential FBI interviews with Petreaus weeks before his resignation; his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair; and Jill Kelley, a friend to Petraeus and his wife. Kelley had complained to the FBI in June 2012 about harassing emails from an unknown person who turned out to be Broadwell.

The sealed records also include emails between Petreaus and Broadwell about Kelley — describing an incident at dinner with their spouses when Petraeus said he and Kelley had inappropriately touched each other's upper thighs — that Broadwell had forwarded to the FBI. Kelley has said nothing inappropriate happened. The harassing emails from Broadwell, accusing Kelley of "promiscuous and adulterous behavior," started shortly after Petraeus privately mentioned the incident to Broadwell.

In a barb aimed at Kelley, the judge allowed the release of one court filing that she said contained a "general description" of Kelley's new book and her efforts to publicize it.

"The fact that plaintiff was advancing a public relations campaign and orchestrating the publication of her book at the same time that she was seeking discovery from the defendants in what she characterized as a lawsuit to protect her privacy can be a matter of public record," the judge wrote.

Kelley said in a statement Friday that her lawsuit had been about holding political officials accountable and that unsealing the records would prevent it from happening again.

"It's disappointing that the court confused what my lawsuit was about," she said. "It was not about protecting my privacy. My privacy was already lost. My lawsuit was about holding the political officials accountable and sanctioning them so what happened to my family never happens to another innocent family."

Government lawyers had said the files should remain sealed because they contained or described confidential statements provided to FBI agents, documents sealed by another court, or material that should be kept secret to protect the privacy interests of people connected to the case.

Kelley had objected to the release of some files that include copies of emails she sent to some of her lawyers or advisers, which she said should remain privileged, and files that described a draft proposal for a book, "Collateral Damage," which Kelley published last month. The judge had cited a 2001 appeals court decision citing "a strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial proceedings." But she said she was accepting Kelley's request even though her legal arguments were "weak and largely unsupported."

The case included FBI files and deposition testimony from or about such senior U.S. government officials as Petraeus; Defense Secretary Ashton Carter; former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta; Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; Marine Gen. John R. Allen, then-commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan; former Pentagon chief of staff Jeremy Bash; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aide Phillipe Reines; and former Pentagon and CIA press secretary George Little.

As the scandal was publicly unfolding, Pentagon officials acknowledged in depositions that they developed a "press plan" with members of an unspecified delegation from the White House in November 2012 to tell reporters that emails between Allen and Kelley were "potentially inappropriate" and to suggest that the two had a sexual relationship. Kelley denied this, and Allen later was exonerated by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Kelley, along with her husband, Scott, had sued the government in June 2013 in Washington, alleging that officials violated the U.S. Privacy Act by disclosing information about them during the FBI's investigation of Petraeus. The former CIA director pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information relating to documents he had provided to Broadwell, who has not been charged with any crime.

The Kelleys' civil lawsuit collapsed last month after her lawyers asked the judge to let them withdraw from the case. The lawyers cited irreconcilable differences, just weeks after the Justice Department declined a secret $4.35 million settlement proposal.