The few details that have been released by the Defense Department suggest that Allen has much explaining to do. The printouts of the exchanges and associated documents stretch for 20,000 to 30,000 pages. Some of the messages were “flirtatious,” according to a senior Pentagon official. Another called them “potentially inappropriate.”
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta continued to deflect questions about the nature of the e-mails between Allen and Kelley and would not say why the Pentagon considered them “potentially inappropriate.”
“No one should leap to any conclusions here,” he told reporters in Perth, Australia, where he was visiting as part of a week-long trip to Asia.
President Obama had nominated Allen last month to take a new job as NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe and as head of the U.S. military’s European Command. But Panetta said that nomination would not proceed until the Defense Department’s Inspector General can complete its investigation into Allen’s relationship and communications with Kelley — something that possibly could take several months.
“His nomination has been put on hold until we can determine what the facts are, and we will,” Panetta said.
Allen remains in charge of all NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, although a Senate panel will meet Thursday to question his appointed successor, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford. Obama nominated Dunford last month, before the scandal erupted.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also in Perth to meet with Australian leaders, said U.S. officials have explained the Allen probe to NATO members and other allies with troops in Afghanistan.
“There’s been a lot of conversation, as you might expect,” she said, “but no concerns.”
Officials close to Allen insisted that he did not have a sexual relationship with Kelley. Allen’s partisans proffer a more innocuous explanation for the volume of messages, which, they contend, was in the hundreds, not the thousands described in news reports. The officials say that Kelley was a close friend to Allen and his wife, Kathy. Although Allen, who was raised in Virginia, sometimes used words such as “sweetheart” in addressing Kelley, the officials said, he intended it as a term of platonic friendship, not romantic interest.