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Department of Defense offers wiki clues in Petraeus affair

General David Petraeus in 2007
General David Petraeus in 2007
Photo by Robert D. Ward, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, in the public domain

By now, unless you live in a cave in Uruguay, you know that former CIA director General David Petraeus resigned his post amid allegations he was having an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer. You probably also know about the Florida socialite Jill Kelley who was allegedly subjected to threatening and jealous e-mails sent by Broadwell, which is how this scandal came to the attention of the FBI.

What you may have missed, though, is that today we learn how Wikipedia and other online wiki sites may have been the medium chosen by a Department of Defense worker (or workers) to hint at elements of the story as far back as 2011.

But first, as reported by Gawker's West Coast editor Cord Jefferson less than four days ago, it appears that an anonymous Wikipedia fiddler using a Cisco Internet connection ( edited the Paula Broadwell biography on Wikipedia in January 2012 to include the snarky (but since stricken from public view) comment, "Petraeus is reportedly one of her many conquests."

Tantalizing as that may be, the story gets a little more interesting when we learn of another quasi-anonymous IP address that did some wiki editing back in February about Jill Kelley. And it turns out the IP resolves to a Department of Defense address,, which geo-locates to Tampa, Florida, where Kelley lives.

Today, however, even more details about that DoD address have been posted on a Wikipedia criticism site, (Disclaimer: that domain is owned by this Examiner reporter, but the site is administered independently by another team of people.) What Wikipediocracy has uncloaked are the following curious edits to another wiki site that was co-founded by the spiritual leader of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales.

* In May 2011, a question was posted on Wikia Answers by someone at a Department of Defense computer: "When should you report a sexual assualt incident?" Over four days later, it received the not very helpful answer, "within 24 Hours".

* In June 2011, a question was posted, "Your primary references for guidance on workplace safety include everything except?" The question was never answered, suggesting that Wikia Answers is not a thriving site.

* In August 2011, the DoD user asked, "What is a threat?" Over a year later, an answer was provided, "A threat is anything that has the potential to change the status quo (current status) of something." Note that Jill Kelley reported to the FBI that she felt threatened by Broadwell's e-mails.

* Then in November 2011, something curious was posed. "How many calories does running or walking burn per mile?" Broadwell's book about Petraeus documented how their conversations often centered on long runs together in either Washington, DC or in Afghanistan. The preface of All In even mentioned,"the talk turned to heavy breathing and we reached a 6-minute-per-mile pace." It certainly could be just a coincidence that someone at the DoD with an editorial interest in Jill Kelley, Broadwell's accusor, would have this caloric question about running miles. At any rate, Wikia Answers never provided an answer.

* In March 2012, after the IP's edit to Wikipedia about Jill Kelley, another Wikia Answers question was posted: "The Resource/Financial Manager is responsible for ensuring fund availability prior to purchase.?" That fiscal question was never answered, pointing to a real pattern of uselessness on Wikia.

* On March 29, a very interesting question was again posted from the Department of Defense in Tampa. "A friend sends you an email with a bunch of funny pictures showing text messages that have been autocorrected in the most unlikely way. It is okay to forward funny emails and chain letters from your DoD email account.?" Note that the Defense Department has reported that Afganistan commander General John Allen had exchanged over 20,000 e-mails with Kelley. How likely might it be that this Wikia Answers query was related to either Kelley or the office of General Allen?

Not the first time

This would not be the first time that strange "leaks" or hints at non-public information have been exposed on Wikipedia.

In 2007, before the bodies of Canadian professional wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife, and their son were found by police, an anonymous user had edited Wikipedia to say that the reason Benoit was missing was "stemming from the death of his wife Nancy."

In 2008, in the day before Sarah Palin was announced as the surprise running mate of presidential candidate John McCain, her Wikipedia biography underwent a series of feverishly-added edits to enhance her compelling family story.

And also in 2008, the Wikipedia biography of Canadian pundit Rachel Marsden was fiddled by a high-profile Wikipedia administrator "JzG", otherwise known as UK cycling advocate Guy Chapman. Chapman left the curious edit summary on Marsden's wiki bio, "Controversy: Hmmm. This story is a bit tangled." Indeed, it would become even more tangled, as within hours of Chapman's edits, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales would be having a sexual liason with Marsden in a Washington DC Doubletree hotel. After the affair broke in the media, Wales' divorce from his wife would be finalized in April 2011.