(WASHINGTON) — Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite at the center of the Petraeus scandal, has lost the privilege of visiting MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa without an escort.
The base is home to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and Kelley, who enjoyed rubbing shoulders with top military brass, had been granted unescorted access to the base under a program initiated by the Air Force unit that runs operations at the base.
A Defense official confirms to ABC News that Kelley participated in a base program known as the “Friends of MacDill” where she was placed on a master list that allowed her to clear security when entering the base.
A person must be nominated to enter the program, and must pass a background check by the wing’s security office. The official did not know who nominated Kelley for the program.
The Defense official said Kelley’s privileges under the program have been taken away “as she is involved in an ongoing investigation.”
Kelley, her husband and her twin sister, Natalie Khawam, hosted parties and became friendly with top military officials in Tampa, including both Gen. Petraeus and Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
After Kelley reported that she had received harassing emails from an unknown source, FBI investigators determined that the emails had come from Paula Broadwell, co-author of the Petraeus biography All In. They also found evidence that Broadwell and Petraeus were having an affair. Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA last Friday.
ABC News has learned that Gen. Allen also received an anonymous e-mail traced to Paula Broadwell, claiming Jill Kelley was a seductress. Investigators determined that Kelley also exchanged a large volume of emails with Gen. Allen. Gen. Allen has denied having an affair with Kelley, and Kelley’s family has also denied an improper relationship.
A Tampa Bay Times report from January 2011 explained that base commanders saw the Friends of MacDill program as a way to break down barriers between the base and Tampa’s civilian population.
The program envisioned inviting as many as 200 civilians to participate in the program so they could have unescorted daytime access to the base. They in turn could bring in as many as five guests.
Initial reports of Kelley’s relationship to CENTCOM mentioned she was an “ambassador,” which led to incorrect reports that she may have had a role with the State Department. The State Department has stressed that it has no relationship with Kelley. Additional reporting determined that she had been provided by CENTCOM with the title of “honorary ambassador.”
The Defense official said the title was actually nothing more than “a certificate provided by CENTCOM’s Coalition Coordination Center (CCC).” He explained that Kelley was one of six Tampa area citizens to receive such recognition.” A U.S. official previously told ABC News that Kelley would sometimes omit “honorary” and tell people she was an “ambassador.”
The Coalition Coordination Center consists of military representatives from countries working in the coalition with the United States in the War on Terrorism. It was they who recommended that Kelley receive the certificate.
The Defense official added that as part of her duties, Kelley “has acted as an interlocutor to reach out to other community leaders in the area, and facilitated visits and unclassified briefings for them.”
As for Kelley’s role in hosting events on behalf of the military community in Tampa, the official said no CENTCOM funds were used to pay for the events she hosted.
The official also said that none of the events were hosted at MacDill or CENTCOM headquarters.
Kelley’s hosting of events to honor the military continued up until the very moment her name became public. News of her role in the Petraeus scandal broke as she was hosting an afternoon event at her house that included Vice Admiral Robert Harward, CENTCOM’s Deputy Commander, as a guest.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire