BANGKOK: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday he was “not aware” of any other officials linked to the sex scandal that brought down CIA chief David Petraeus and embroiled another top general.
Petraeus, the most prominent US general of his generation and credited with turning around the war in Iraq, resigned last week to pre-empt revelations of an affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, a married army reservist.
The US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has also been linked to a key figure in the case, Jill Kelley, and is now under investigation for potentially inappropriate emails he exchanged with her.
Amid a widening scandal, Panetta told reporters during a visit to Thailand that he did not know of other officers possibly linked to the case apart from Petraeus and Allen.
“I am not aware of any others that could be involved in this issue at the present time,” Panetta told a news conference after talks with his Thai counterpart.
But he said the full facts would emerge once Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general completed investigations.
Panetta reiterated that he had “tremendous confidence” in Allen as commander in Afghanistan.
He has put the general’s nomination to be NATO’s supreme allied commander on hold pending the outcome of a probe by the US Defense Department inspector general into potentially “inappropriate” emails between Allen and Kelley.
After sources loyal to Allen insisted the emails were harmless and that he had done nothing wrong, unnamed officials told some news media the messages between the commander and Kelley were sexually explicit.
Asked about the reports, Panetta declined to discuss the nature of the correspondence between Allen and Kelley, saying he wanted to avoid any sign of interference with the Pentagon inspector general’s probe.
“What I don’t want to do is to try to characterize those communications because... I don’t want to do anything that would impact on their (investigators’) ability to conduct an objective review of what was contained in those emails,” Panetta said.
The scandal surrounding Petraeus follows a spate of embarrassing allegations and reprimands against senior officers, with one general demoted after a probe found he had misused government funds for lavish trips.
Panetta insisted the “vast majority” of the hundreds of generals and admirals in the US military conduct themselves with distinction and courage.
But he said he would insist that all top officers display the highest integrity.
“One thing I do demand and I think we all demand is that those who seek to protect this country operate by the highest ethical standards.”
US President Barack Obama assured Americans on Wednesday that the scandal has not compromised national security.