Months ago, the FBI linked the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan to a widening scandal that resulted in CIA director David Petraeus' resignation last week, a federal law enforcement official said Tuesday.
But the White House learned of Marine Gen. John Allen's involvement only last week, days before he was to appear before a Senate committee as President Obama's nominee to be the chief U.S. military commander in Europe.
On Tuesday, Allen's confirmation hearing set for Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee was postponed pending the outcome of a Defense Department review of Allen's questionable e-mail communications with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, 37, who triggered the broader FBI inquiry that ultimately cost Petraeus his job last week.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama continues to have faith in Allen.
The e-mails, described by the law enforcement official as flirtatious, were contained in thousands of documents recovered from Kelley's computer. A separate source familiar with the case said Kelley, who is married, was not involved in a sexual relationship with Allen, who also is married. He has denied wrongdoing.
Yet, Allen's involvement represented a dramatic widening of an inquiry that began in late spring when cyberstalking allegations were first brought to the FBI by Kelley.
The harassing e-mails were later traced to Petraeus' biographer Paula Broadwell, whose records revealed an affair between Broadwell and the then-CIA director and raised concern that classified material might have been compromised.
The law enforcement official, who has been briefed on the matter but is not authorized to comment publicly, said Allen was never a subject of the criminal investigation. Investigators also have since concluded that no classified information was leaked.
Allen, however, was regarded as a potential witness in the harassment inquiry because of his connection to Kelley, the official said, adding that Broadwell is believed to have also communicated with Allen. Those communications were not of a romantic nature, the official said.
Carney sidestepped questions on whether the president was satisfied with the FBI's handling of the probe. Petraeus' link to Broadwell was reported to the White House last week.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said there was no immediate reason for Allen to step down. "I'm not going to jump to conclusions."
Contributing: Susan Davis, Jackie Kucinich
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