Kadner: Generals just trying to help a friend
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org November 14, 2012 9:54PM
FILE POOL - In this July 9, 2011 file photo, USMC Gen. John Allen, left, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and incoming CIA Director, greet former CIA Director and new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, right, as he lands in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul J. Richards, Pool)
Updated: December 19, 2012 12:02PM
Government employees should never use their official positions to help friends win their court cases.
That’s a simple matter of right and wrong as far as I’m concerned.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, crossed that line.
Both men apparently enjoyed the company and friendship of Jill Kelley, a prominent socialite who hosted parties for the military brass in Tampa, Fla.
Kelley is the woman who sparked the FBI investigation into Petraeus by complaining about threatening emails. The investigation found that the emails came from Paula Broadwell, the married mistress of Petraeus, who was jealous of Kelley.
Kelley has a twin sister, Natalie Khawam, who was involved in a nasty custody battle with her husband over their young son. She was asking a judge to broaden her visitation rights and apparently sought the help of two of our country’s brightest military stars.
Allen and Petraeus wrote letters to the judge on Khawam’s behalf, extolling her virtues as a mother. They used their military titles under their signatures, in case the judge failed to understand that they were special people.
Here’s what District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz had to say about Khawam: She “has extreme personal deficits in the areas of honesty and integrity.”
The judge gave Grayson Wolfe, the father, sole custody, after ordering a psychological examination of Khawam that found her allegations of domestic violence to be “part of an ever-expanding set of sensational accusations that are so numerous and so extraordinary and distorted that they defy any common-sense view of reality,” according to a story in the New York Post.
I really don’t care about the child custody case, except that two men who attained high military rank tried to use their influence to sway the judge.
“My wife, Kathy, and I came to know Natalie when I served at Headquarters, U.S. Central Command, as the Deputy Commander,” Allen wrote. “Natalie clearly loves (her child) and cherishes each and ever opportunity she has to spend time with him. She is a dedicated mother, whose only focus is to provide the necessary support, love and care for her son.
“I have noticed the particular care she exhibits to ensure all his needs are taken care of, not only material needs, but emotion, educations and interpersonal ...”
The letter is signed John R. Allen, General, United States Marine Corps.
Petraeus, who signed his letter, “General, U.S. Army (Retired),” was equally supportive of Khawam.
“My wife and I have known Natalie for approximately three years, getting to know her while serving in Tampa, Florida,” Petraeus wrote on Sept. 20, 2012. “... Natalie clearly dotes on her son and goes to great lengths — and great expense — to spend quality time with him.”
If these two men wanted to support Khawam as private individuals, I wouldn’t have much of a problem with their attempt to influence the court. Sure, the judge might have recognized the names, but there would be no blatant attempt to influence him.
They chose instead to use their honored positions as military leaders to help out a friend.
There’s nothing illegal about that.
Mayors, congressmen, police chiefs and many others in elected and appointed government positions have written letters to judges, attempting to influence decisions when it comes to sentencing crooks.
Michael Corbitt, the former police chief of Willow Springs who was convicted of conspiring to murder Moraine Valley Community College vice chairman Dianne Masters, had more than 30 public officials write letters on his behalf to a federal judge.
Corbitt would later write a book about his life — confessing that he got his first law enforcement job through Chicago mob chief Sam Giancana and was a bag man for organized crime (collecting from brothels and illegal gambling joints) while he was police chief.
His buddies, many of them public officials, begged the judge to go easy on the guy.
People who are elected or appointed to high public office are not entitled to use those positions of trust for personal benefit. When they use their titles to help a friend, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Petraeus was at least honorable enough to resign his position as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Allen has been nominated to be supreme commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe. President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have both indicated they believe an investigation will eventually clear Allen’s name.
I don’t need the results of an FBI investigation to know what I think.
Allen used his office to help a friend in a child custody battle. He got involved with people who, at the very least, made it their business to ingratiate themselves with powerful people.
That’s really bad judgment.
And if he made that mistake, you have to wonder how many others the public doesn’t know about.