TAMPA — Just days after she was identified as the woman who set off an investigation that brought down the CIA leader, Jill Kelley was the subject of an email conversation between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a top advisor.
The email from Sidney Blumenthal to Clinton, one of 7,800 pages of emails on Clinton’s private server that were released Monday by the State Department, is far from flattering to Kelley or the Tampa military culture at the time.
The emails were released to comply with a court order demanding the State Department publicly release work-related emails stored on the private server of Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton and now the Democratic presidential frontrunner.
In the email, Blumenthal was advising Clinton on what to do about the controversy raging over the deaths of four Americans in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“My advice to you?” Blumenthal concluded. “Publicly and directly puncture conspiracy fever on Benghazi before any closed hearing, in response to press question that you make yourself available to.”
But before offering that advice, Blumenthal skewered Jill Kelley and the close relations she had with military leaders at MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Central Command, which leads the war effort in the Middle East, and U.S. Special Operations Command, which synchronizes the global war on terror.
British Ambassador Peter Westmacott “volunteered that he had been at MacDill and witnessed the financially and personally sketchy Jill Kelley’s appalling social envelopment of virtually the entire social life of the base, coopting the generals, admirals and their wives with herself at the center as queen bee,” Blumenthal wrote to Clinton on Nov. 15.
“So who the hell is she? South Korean honorary consul? Huh? Even if she is just an ambitious dope (or in another jargon, unwitting asset of someone or some power), the scene is squalid. This is the center of the war on terror? Or is it the set of the next season of Homeland?”
Kelley, who had been honored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for her work on behalf of Centcom and its international coalition, hosted parties for military leaders and visiting foreign dignitaries at her Bayshore Boulevard home. She was also an honorary consul for the South Korean government.
The email was one of four from Blumenthal to Clinton between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17, 2012, that contained references to Kelley. The others are limited to citations of news reports in which she is mentioned.
On Nov. 11, 2012, Kelley was identified in leaks to news organizations as the woman who complained to the FBI about what she considered harassing emails. Her complaints touched off an investigation that uncovered an affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. The emails were sent by Broadwell to Jill Kelley’s husband Scott Kelley.
“While the Petraeus scandal was over three years ago, my name is again being disdained, disparaged and dragged through the mud,” Kelley said in a statement to the Tribune. “My innocent family has been irrevocably damaged by the government’s intrusion into my personal life and its release of my name to the media.”
The Blumenthal email, Kelley said, is a reminder of privacy concerns.
“What happened to me and my husband provides a sorry example of the risk to other innocent citizens of the government’s indiscriminate and massive collection of emails from a private email account — and by that I mean ‘our’ entire Yahoo email account, not Hillary’s.”
Broadwell declined comment.
The Kelleys eventually sued the FBI and Pentagon over the leak of Jill Kelley’s name. One count in the complaint, alleging a Privacy Act violation, is still working its way through the court system.
Jill Kelley wasn’t the only target of vitriol in the email from Clinton advisor Blumenthal, a former reporter, Clinton White House advisor and liberal activist.
Others included Republican lawmakers who criticized Clinton and the Obama administration for its handling of security in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack as well as its response. It was a political contentious time. President Barack Obama was re-elected Nov. 6, 2012, Petraeus resigned three days later, and Kelley’s name was leaked two days after that.
“H: whole lot of things. Sid,” Blumenthal wrote to Clinton. “See below. Projection, madness, revenge -- you pick the Shakespeare plot. Most of them truly believe in their fevered visions. McCain? Back to Shakespeare, last category. Not to mention the Dittohead FBI agent. Eric Cantor’s explanation that he wanted to prevent the investigation from being “politicized” doesn’t rise to risible.”
McCain is Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the military hero and former presidential candidate, and Cantor is the former House majority leader from Virginia.
The FBI agent mentioned is apparently Fred Humphries of Tampa, a Kelley family friend to whom Jill Kelley turned about the emails later determined to be from Broadwell. Humphries had contacted Cantor about the Petraeus scandal before it became public.
Humphries declined comment.
Blumenthal also crticizes people who attended the “Hero Summit,” put on by then-editor Tina Brown of the news website The Daily Beast, including former Socom commander William McRaven.
Blumenthal said he “spoke at length” with Ambassador Westmacott “at strange Tina sponsored event, “Hero Summit,” where Petraeus was to be keynote and McRaven delivered a testimonial to Petraeus’ character as the finest officer he had ever met, etc. to stormy applause (what the hell, see brain washed testimonials to Raymond Shaw in Manchurian Candidate).”
The Blumenthal email was part of the seventh batch of Hillary Clinton emails release so far by the State Department. More are expected.
Nearly 1,000 of Clinton’s messages have been marked as classified — including 328 in the current batch — though both the State Department and Clinton’s presidential campaign insist nothing was marked as classified at the time it was sent or received by Clinton, according to The Hill newspaper.
Critics question that claim, alleging that the presence of classified information should have been obvious to the nation’s top diplomat.