The Washington Post

Sorry, Jill Kelley, you probably don’t have ‘diplomatic inviolability’

Tampa socialite Jill Kelley never got paid for her time organizing events for staff at the nearby MacDill Air Force base and for senior officers at her home, but she did appear to earn two forms of compensation: the friendship of Gens. David Petraeus and John R. Allen, who are among America's most prominent military leaders, and, later, an unofficial title. 

When U.S. Central Command named Kelley an "honorary ambassador" last year to thank her for her time, it appears to have been wholly symbolic, carrying no official responsibilities or rights. But Kelley has been known to drop the "honorary" from that title, and appeared to represent herself as a formal diplomatic officer in a recent 911 call to Tampa police. Here's the Associated Press report on the call (emphasis mine):

In the phone call to authorities, Jill Kelley, a party hostess and unofficial social liaison for leaders of the U.S. military's Central Command in Tampa, cited her status as an honorary consul general while complaining about news vans that had descended on her two-story brick home overlooking Tampa Bay.

"You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well," she told the 911 dispatcher Monday.

Alas, Kelley almost certainly does not have diplomatic "inviolability" or right to "protection," and not just for the most obvious reason that she is not an actual diplomat. The immunity only applies to a country's official diplomatic representatives abroad, and, alas, Tampa is still not considered a foreign country.

To wit, U.S. diplomatic staffer Raymond Davis can avoid Pakistani prosecution for his role in shooting two Pakistanis, but if he comes back to Washington, D.C., and double-parks his car, it's going to get ticketed like everyone else's. But, again, unless a very surprising new piece of information emerges, to the best of our knowledge, Jill Kelley is not an official diplomat to or from any country, which means that she does not enjoy diplomatic protection.

Still, Kelley would not be the first "honorary consul" to attempt to leverage that title into actual diplomatic privileges. In 2006, an honorary consul at the Senegalese consulate in Singapore had a great idea for making some cash on the side: he converted part of the diplomatic building into a casino, which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars. Alas, the casino was illegal, and honorary consuls do not have diplomatic immunity, so the Senegalese man was arrested and charged. Kelley, if she truly does believe that she possesses diplomatic "inviolability" in Tampa, might want to keep this anecdote in mind in case she feels tempted to, say, double-park. The "Honorary Consul" vanity plates on her Mercedes-Benz S500 don't prevent her from getting tickets.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
Play Videos
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Learn to make this twice-baked cookie
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
Play Videos
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
The art of tortilla-making
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Cool off with sno-balls, a New Orleans treat
Next Story
Olga Khazan · November 14, 2012

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.