WASHINGTON — The Obama administration Tuesday sought dismissal of a privacy lawsuit by Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, whose complaint to the FBI unwittingly led to Gen. David Petraeus' ouster as CIA director.
If a federal judge eventually allows Kelley's lawsuit to proceed, the case could delve into the roles played in the scandal by the FBI, the Pentagon and other parts of the administration.
Kelley had hosted military officials from MacDill Air Force Base — including Petraeus while he led Central Command — at her Bayshore Boulevard mansion.
She now wants to find out who in the government last year leaked her name and some of her emails to the media amid an uproar over Petraeus' extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, the author of a biography on him.
The leaks placed Kelley in the middle of an avalanche of unfavorable publicity and, her lawsuit contends, she shouldered blame as the villain in the downfall of Petraeus and also Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan who had also once served at CentCom.
The suit asserts the leaks about her role in sparking the scandal violated the Privacy Act, which was enacted in 1974 after revelations of illegal surveillance by federal agencies in the Watergate scandal. The law seeks to protect individuals from unwarranted invasions of privacy by federal agencies that maintain sensitive information about them.
Kelley had complained to the FBI about receiving anonymous emails that were later traced to Broadwell, exposing the affair.
Some anonymous emails ultimately traced to Broadwell also were sent to Allen. The messages included notes on the general's plans to see Kelley in Washington. Allen was concerned about how anyone else would know about his personal plans. One email mentioned Petraeus and an upcoming social event in Washington. The emails to the generals claimed Kelley was up to no good and impugned her motives for befriending the generals.
The lawsuit says the U.S. government "unforgivably transformed Mrs. Kelley's reputation from that of a respected business and community leader."
In its response Tuesday, the Justice Department said that Kelley has failed to present any facts suggesting that the FBI and the Pentagon flagrantly disregarded her privacy rights.
"A bare allegation" that information was retrieved from government files is insufficient, the Justice Department said.
The FBI and the Pentagon have exempted several of their record systems from the Privacy Act. Kelley and her husband, Scott, also a plaintiff in the case, fail to say whether the leaked information was in a system subject to the Privacy Act, the government said.