The sheer volume of e-mails between ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen and Jill Kelley, the woman who initiated the FBI investigation that ended the career of CIA Director David Petraeus, is "astounding," the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.
"The number of e-mails between the two is an astounding number of e-mails," Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) told some reporters in the basement of the Capitol building Tuesday. "But if you can get over that number, then the question is, hey let the IG [inspector general] do the appropriate investigation... I'm not going to jump to any conclusions."
Levin said he had a long phone call with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Monday evening, during which Panetta explained the circumstances regarding the administration's decision to place on hold Allen's nomination to become the next Supreme Allied Commander Europe and head of Europe Command. The Defense Department's Inspector General's office is reviewing the e-mails now.
Levin, along with several other senators, have canceled their meetings this week with Allen. The Cable spotted his presumptive successor, Gen. John Dunford, in the Capitol complex Tuesday. Dunford's confirmation hearing to be the next ISAF commander will go on as scheduled Nov. 15 and he is expected to be confirmed.
Levin and SASC ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ) put out a statement Tuesday saying that the ISAF leadership transition is scheduled for February and the Europe leadership transition is scheduled for March. Until then, Allen should stay on in his post, Levin said.
"He ought to stay on unless there is some reason put forward that he has done something wrong, and then the military leaders should decide what the action should be. But until there's some acknowledged evidence he's done something wrong, there's no reason for him to leave," said Levin. "I don't know what happened there but the IG is going to find out."
Levin said he would wait to begin any congressional investigation into the matter until the IG investigation is completed.
Defense officials have said there were between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of e-mails between the two. A New York Post report said that Kelley's sister Natalie Kwaham had invoked Allen and Petraeus's names in her custody battle. She also invoked in legal papers the names of Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Spokesmen for Kerry and Whitehouse both said the senators had met Kwaham through Kwaham's boyfriend Gerald Harrington, a Democratic Party fundraiser.
Levin said he was "deeply saddened" by the news that Petraeus was resigning due to an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. He also said he agrees with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who said today that eventually Petraeus should testify about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benhgazi.
"If he has some relevant information, sure, at some point [Petraeus should testify]," Levin said. ABC news revealed Tuesday that Petraeus traveled to Libya late last month to investigate the circumstances surrounding the attack.
Levin said Senate leadership has assured him the National Defense Authorization bill will be the Senate's first order of business after Thanksgiving. Levin said he believes the Senate will have only three legislative days to debate and pass the bill.
The Cable asked Levin if he believed Kerry would make a good defense secretary, an idea floated in the Washington Post Monday evening. "I think he would be terrific," Levin said.