New York: It all started out rather innocuously. One jealous woman sent anonymous and threatening emails to another woman with the age-old warning: "stay away from my guy."
Understandable enough. Except when the man you're talking about is married to another woman, and the head of the CIA.
When Jill Kelly, the recipient of Paula Broadwell's anonymous emails, alerted the FBI about the threats, she unwittingly opened a can of worms that has already ended the career of one of America's senior most security officials, and is dangerously close to ending that of another.
General David Petraeus, the former CIA chief, resigned last week after admitting to an affair with Broadwell who was writing a biography on the Princeton educated commander who is lauded for overseeing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While analysts doubt national security was compromised, an extra marital affair is particularly inappropriate for senior CIA officials for professional, as opposed to moral reasons, since they might unknowingly let confidential information slip and since any such affair could make them vulnerable to blackmail. The CIA has guidelines for its employees on the behaviour they are expected to exhibit in their personal lives, and it would be very difficult for a Director who had knowingly violated those to continue to maintain the respect and trust of the agency.
But that was not all. As the FBI perused the email account belonging to Kelly - who had served as a volunteer social liaison with the US military base in Tampa, and thus knew several senior Army officers - they discovered several flirtatious exchanges with General Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan.
General Allen has denied any relationship with Jill Kelly. However, military law has strict prohibitions against adultery and while an investigation is underway Allen's nomination as Supreme Allied Commander Europe has been put on hold.
While this may not yet reflect on the Obama administration, sex sells (as any media-person will tell you) and it is quite amazing how this story has displaced both the coverage of Obama's re-election and second Administration, and of the fiscal cliff the US faces in the next six weeks.