EXCLUSIVE: Producers Ron Senkowski and Michael De Luca have acquired Collateral Damage: Petraeus, Power, Politics and the Abuse of Privacy, a memoir written by Jill Kelley. They will package a limited TV series that will detail the circumstances behind the downfall of CIA director David Petraeus, the 4-star general who led the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking the top CIA post and who was considered one of the great military minds of his era. Kelley, the first Honorary Ambassador to the U.S. Central Command Coalition whose harassment became the catalyst for a huge political scandal that pitted the FBI against the CIA, published her book just before the government ordered her not to say anything publicly about her ordeal. While Petraeus, Broadwell, the FBI agents, General John Allen and others are still unable to dish, Kelley has pledged to this project her life rights and correspondence and documents that have never been made public.
This drama began when Kelley began receiving menacing and threatening anonymous emails. After reporting them to the FBI, Kelley found her life turned upside down when the sender was identified as Paula Broadwell. She was the biographer who became the mistress of the married Petraeus, and who allegedly grew jealous of his relationship with Kelley even though the latter has steadfastly maintained the relationship was platonic and that she has never cheated on the husband who was present in their social circle the entire time. The whole thing culminated in the charge that Petraeus shared classified documents with Broadwell. That brought his downfall, but the book’s title refers to the damage inflicted on Kelley, a tabloid-hounded married mother falsely depicted as the other woman, whose personal emails were obtained and scrutinized by investigators.
“In 2012, I innocently reported a life-changing stalking crime,” Kelley said in a statement to Deadline. “As a result, politically pressured government agents snooped through my private e-mails, unfairly turning my innocent family’s life upside down, and it cost my closest friends, General John Allen, FBI Agent Fred Humpheries and CIA Director David Petraeus, their reputations and careers. Even though politicians tell generals to not politicize things, it’s a farce. The government ultimately controls things in ways nobody yet fully understands, but which many are beginning to believe. Beyond what Snowden has brought to the public’s attention, my harrowing story is a cautionary tale that every American fears: the damage that can be caused by our government’s intrusive surveillance and electronic overreach — the collection of everything about everyone –and the catastrophe that can occur when government agents are given free rein to collect and dragnet private communications.”
Senkowski, whose Symply Entertainment got the rights from Kelley, is exec producing with De Luca and Samira Kawas. “Nothing is missing from this true story,” Senkowski said. “It has it all: a scorned ex-mistress entrapping the sitting director of the CIA, the FBI secretly reading CIA private communications for over six months and holding back evidence during an historic presidential election, a national manhunt called off by a Defense Department power broker who calls himself the Big Dog, and CIA bodyguards jet-skiing on the Potomac while protecting the director so he could have secret meetings while paddle-boarding. Add in sexual intrigue, exposed coverups and the fact that even today new information is being revealed, and we have a story for a very wide audience.”
To De Luca, whose screen credits range from Captain Phillips to Moneyball and the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy, the limited series format fit the material better than the movies he’s best known for making. “I thought there were so many moving parts to the story,” De Luca told Deadline. “The long form format affords you the time to set up characters with depth, and the details of their lives are like chess pieces on a board as they go on this Shakespearean journey. I’ve always been attracted to stories where you see people at the height of their powers and abilities, masters of their own destinies, only to find out we share this human quality where we sometimes serve the heart over the mind. We have two brains, and one of them is primitive and drives baser instincts. It is dramatic and relate-able, when people of exemplary behavior and credentials are capable of foibles that come from our human needs, including isolation and neglect.”
De Luca felt that there is room for Petraeus to be depicted with sympathy, as De Luca feels that the affair with his biographer left him vulnerable to be exploited by political enemies. “Any of us can make mistakes and one bad moment should not define your entire life,” De Luca said. “Add to that the invasion of Jill’s privacy, and the overreach of surveillance that is becoming more of an issue. How much privacy can we count on? As a victim of that Sony hack, this cuts very close to the bone for me.”