First Published: 2012-11-10

 

Extramarital affair brings abrupt end to CIA chief’s career

 

Resignation comes amid criticism in some quarters of Petraeus over his response to deadly attack in September on US consulate in Benghazi.

 

Middle East Online

By Dan De Luce – WASHINGTON

‘I showed extremely poor judgment’

CIA Director David Petraeus resigned Friday over an extramarital affair, bringing an abrupt end to a brilliant career that saw him serve as military commander in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The revelation shocked Washington just three days after the re-election of US President Barack Obama and shortly before Petraeus had been due to testify on the CIA's alleged failure to properly protect a US consulate in Libya.

"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair," Petraeus said in a message to CIA staff, released to the media.

"Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

Neither Petraeus nor the CIA explained exactly why he felt he had to step down over the affair, and whether his liaison presented a purely personal problem or raised security issues in his sensitive work as spy chief.

The affair came to light as the FBI was investigating whether a computer used by Petraeus had been compromised, the New York Times and other US media reported, citing government officials.

NBC News and other media reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating Paula Broadwell, who published a favorable biography of Petraeus, "All In: The Education of David Petraeus," for possible improper access to classified information.

Unnamed officials told the New York Times that Petraeus's lover was Broadwell, a former Army major who spent hours interviewing Petraeus for her book. She offered no public comment on the revelations.

The resignation comes amid criticism in some quarters of Petraeus over his response to the deadly attack in September on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

Petraeus was due to face a tough grilling in a series of closed-door classified hearings in Congress next week, with some lawmakers questioning the former general's handling of the incident.

Intelligence officials have defended Petraeus and his officers over the incident, saying the CIA moved swiftly to rescue the Americans under attack at the Benghazi compound.

Michael Morell, Petraeus' deputy at the country's lead spy agency, will serve as acting director and will be appearing at the hearing instead.

Obama expressed his "utmost confidence" in Morell's leadership.

The president, fresh off his electoral triumph, reportedly had no inkling that the CIA chief was about to resign until Thursday morning.

When he met with Petraeus later that day, Obama refused to accept the resignation straight away, saying he would think about it overnight, the New York Times said.

But in the end, Obama concluded he could not push Petraeus to stay on, according to the Times.

As the White House faced an unexpected vacancy at the top of the spy agency, speculation on a possible successor focused on John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism adviser and CIA veteran who has played an instrumental role in Obama's drone war against Al-Qaeda militants.

The most celebrated military officer of his generation, Petraeus, 60, took over at the CIA just over a year ago after retiring as a four-star general.

He was credited by some with rescuing a failing US war effort in Iraq in 2007, after then president George W. Bush ordered a surge of troops into the country.

Obama later turned to him to lead a similar surge of American forces in Afghanistan in 2010, leaving a top post as commander of all US forces in the Middle East to do so.

But Obama chose not to promote Petraeus to the US military's top job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as White House officials remained wary of the media-savvy general who had pushed for more troops and more time in the Afghanistan war.

It was a rare setback for the ambitious, hyper-disciplined officer, but he embraced the CIA job, adopting a much lower public profile.

His military background, however, sometimes clashed with the intelligence agency's culture and there was friction at times with the congressional committees that oversee the spy services.

After accepting the CIA chief's resignation, Obama hailed his "extraordinary service."

At the CIA, he had worked to shift the spy agency to a more "balanced" approach to intelligence gathering, after an intense focus on terror threats after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.

"He had already begun to position the agency to live in the post-911 world," he told AFP.

Senator John McCain, a loyal supporter who championed the general's surge strategy in Iraq, heaped praised on Petraeus.

"General David Petraeus will stand in the ranks of America's greatest military heroes.

"His inspirational leadership and his genius were directly responsible -- after years of failure -- for the success of the surge in Iraq," McCain said.

Petraeus has long been suspected of harboring political ambitions but he has repeatedly fended off questions about a possible White House run.

Intensely competitive and known for his sharp intellect, he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1974, where he met his wife, Holly, the daughter of West Point's superintendent.

 

Marzouki, Essebsi set for runoff in Tunisia presidential vote

After failure of boycott, Bahrain Shiite opposition resorts to accusations

Southern Morocco storms claim eight lives

Iraqi forces retake areas near Iran border from jihadists

Islamic finance doubles in size with demand forecast soaring to new heights

Biden wraps up Turkey visit without breakthrough on Syria

Sudan launches investigation into claims of 'mass rape' in Darfur village

Assad urges ‘real pressure’ on backers of 'terror'

Israel eyes powers to revoke rights of Arab residents

Iraq death sentence to ex- PM threatens to damage ties with powerful tribe

Iran hardliners resist possible nuclear deal in rare protest

Tunisia votes for president in first free and multi-candidate election

Hope for change and stability as Tunisia prepares to elect new president

Saudi detainee sent home as US speeds up Guantanamo repatriations

Economy and security top agenda of Sisi’s first European tour

Benghazi attack report clears Obama administration of serious charges

Voters bet on stability in crucial Bahrain elections

Hurdles remain high as Iran and world powers press on for nuclear pact

Shebab ‘revenge’ attack leaves 28 innocents dead in Kenya

Strains between Washington and Ankara despite declared agreement

Paypal teams up with AttijariWafa Bank to boost Morocco exports

UN begins sending winter aid to Iraq

Turkey launches all-out war against bonzai drug

Turkey to build bridge across Dardanelles to ease traffic

IS launch major attack on Ramadi

Biden: You cannot think free where you cannot challenge orthodoxy

Does Abbas have enough political influence to stop violence in Jerusalem?

Turkey offers military assistance to Iraq

Bomb hits police post near Helwan University in Egypt

UN demands staff member release in South Sudan

Tunisia goes for democracy to counter schemes of Ennahda and Marzouki

US envoy: IS ‘impaled itself’ on Kobane

Iran sees ‘no more room’ for talks on design of Arak reactor

Morocco King and Biden discuss ‘compelling alternative’ to dissuade potential jihadists

In response to Amnesty report: UAE remains committed to protection of human rights

World blacklists Ansar al-Sharia group in Libya

Dempsey places heavy responsibility on Iraq fractured army

Ladies first at Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Barbarism of suicide bombers rocks Arbil in fresh bloody attack

Egypt gives its blessing to Qatar return to Arab fold

France identifies second citizen in IS execution video

Israel returns to policy of punitive house demolitions

France reveals worrying numbers: More than 1000 jihadist nationals in Syria

Without Khamenei support, Rouhani risks much in Iran nuclear gamble

Saudi King urges Egypt to support Qatar return to Arab fold