Gen. John Allen cleared of wrongdoing in misconduct investigation

Because it will never get as much press as the original accusations against Gen. John Allen in the sordid speculation surrounding the Gen. David Petraeus affair, we’ll do our part by giving his exoneration its own post. If you’ll remember, when the FBI looked into the allegedly harassing e-mails Tampa Bay socialite Jill Kelley had been getting, they found the author was Petraeus’ mistress, Paula Broadwell, who was apparently threatened by Kelley’s attempts to ingratiate herself with top military brass. Then, Kelley’s e-mails led to another member of said brass, Gen. Allen, who was accused of writing “questionable” e-mails to Kelley. Sec. Leon Panetta, smarting from the Petraeus scandal, ordered an inquiry of the top commander in Afghanistan.

The findings:

The Pentagon’s inspector general has cleared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan of wrongdoing following an investigation into whether he exchanged inappropriate e-mails with the same Tampa socialite involved in the scandal that prompted David H. Petraeus to resign as CIA director, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The FBI uncovered messages from Marine Gen. John R. Allen during its investigation of Petraeus last year. The tenor of some of the e-mails, which senior defense officials described as racy and flirtatious, prompted Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to order a formal inquiry.

In a letter sent to Allen on Friday, the inspector general wrote that Allen had not violated military prohibitions against conduct unbecoming an officer, according to the senior U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter on the record. “He was completely exonerated,” one of the officials said.

Panetta was informed that the investigation had exonerated Allen, according to Pentagon spokesman George Little. “The secretary has complete confidence in the continued leadership of General Allen, who is serving with distinction in Afghanistan,” Little said.

Even in November, there wasn’t much there there. Sources told reporters Allen’s e-mails to Kelley were largely routine, but the term “questionable” was vague enough and the Petraeus scandal lascivious enough that imaginations ran wild. After the inquiry started, Allen’s appointment to his next slot as supreme allied commander in Europe was put on hold. Let’s hope it gets unheld.

The verdict on the exchanges, judging from such evidence we have, seems to be that they were in PG territory, with no sexual relationship, and there were far fewer e-mails than initially suggested:

Although the messages have not been released, some military officials sympathetic to Allen questioned whether Panetta overreacted, placing a cloud over the general’s head at a critical juncture in the Afghan war. A senior defense official said Panetta referred the matter to the inspector general upon the recommendation of civilian and military attorneys…

Although initial reports described the volume of messages between Allen and Kelley as up to 30,000 printed pages, the two exchanged only a few hundred messages over a multi-year period, one of the U.S. officials said. “Some of the messages are not the sort of things you would print in a family newspaper,” the official said. “But that doesn’t mean he violated military regulations by sending and receiving them.”

Officials close to Allen have long insisted that he did not have a sexual relationship with Kelley. Allen’s partisans said that Kelley was a close friend to Allen and his wife, Kathy.

Many of the messages related to social events or to items Kelley had seen in the news, said a senior official close to Allen. Sometimes she wrote to compliment the general on a television interview, the official said, and sometimes she copied him on a message intended for his wife. “He returns almost every e-mail,” the official said soon after the investigation commenced. “To him, it’s a sign of politeness.”

The disclosure that Allen exchanged potentially inappropriate messages with Kelley prompted disbelief among many officers who worked with him. The 6-foot-tall, silver-haired Allen has the demeanor of an avuncular professor, not a hard-bitten Marine prone to flirting and carousing.

Best to Gen. Allen in his very important job in Afghanistan and in his career beyond it.