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Petraeus Matter May Be Just Sordid Mess, Not Conspiracy

I’ll be the other woman

Just as long as I know

I’m the only other woman

You make love to

“The Other Woman”—Written and produced by Homer Banks and Carl Hampton, sung by The Soul Children

Those lyrics from an old blues song stuck in my head after I read the news that retired 4-star Gen. David Petraeus had stepped down as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after it was revealed that he had carried on an extramarital affair with a woman who was also his official biographer.

It wasn’t some horrible breach of national security or racy photos or wiretap that brought down the highly decorated and well-respected military man who transitioned from military service to the nation’s chief spy.

It was his chick on the side.

More specifically, according to accounts by FBI and Justice Department officials, it was harassing emails sent by Petraeus’ mistress to a woman she believed to be competing for her lover’s affection that led investigators to the general.

According to authorities, emails between Petraeus and his biographer and former Army officer, Paula Broadwell, indicated an extramarital affair. The affair reportedly began last year a couple of months after he became CIA director and ended about four months ago.

Meanwhile, Petraeus and his wife had befriended Jill Kelley and her husband the general was head of the military’s Central Command, which has its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

In a statement released Sunday, Kelley said she and her husband had known Petraeus and his wife for more than five years and federal officials say they have found no evidence so far that the relationship between Kelley and Petraeus was anything other than a social friendship.

Authorities say Kelley was upset by a series of anonymous emails that accused her of flirting with Petraeus and reported them to a friend who was also an FBI agent.

According to The New York Times, “Because the sender’s account had been registered anonymously, investigators had to use forensic techniques …to identify who was writing the emails.”

It was after that search led authorities to Broadwell that they obtained access to her regular email account and found sexually explicit emails from another account, which was eventually identified as belonging to Petraeus.

No one outside of the FBI or Justice Department were immediately notified, The Times reported, “because the investigation was incomplete and initial concerns about possible security breaches, which would demand more immediate action, did not appear to be justified, the officials said.”

But the lack of a smoking gun to indicate that this was nothing more than a garden variety extramarital affair – except it involved a high-ranking official – didn’t stop speculation and conspiracy theories.

Some members of Congress have suggested the Justice Department deliberately withheld information from key congressional committees, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, until after the election.  Still others immediate sought to question whether news of the affair was released to help Petraeus avoid testifying on possible security lapses involving the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Eventually, there will be congressional hearings on what happened in Benghazi and just because he has stepped down as CIA chief doesn’t mean Petraeus is off the hook for testifying.

What few are willing to say at this point, however, is that as embarrassing as this episode is, it could well turn out to be nothing more than a jealous reaction by a mistress—or former mistress, according to Petraeus—to someone she believed had or was about to usurp her role as the “only other woman” in the general’s life.

Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”

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