Friday, November 09, 2012

CIA Chief Resigns Over Affair

WASHINGTON—Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus resigned after a probe into whether someone else was using his email led to the discovery that he was having an extramarital affair, according to several people briefed on the matter.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into use of one of Mr. Petraeus's personal email accounts led agents to believe the woman or someone close to her had accessed them, the people said.

Multiple officials familiar with the investigation identified the woman with whom Mr. Petraeus had the affair as Paula Broadwell, who wrote a biography of him called "All In: The Education of Gen. David Petraeus.'' Efforts to reach Ms. Broadwell on Friday weren't successful. A spokeswoman for her publisher didn't immediately comment.

The resignation, which surprised the nation's capital on Friday afternoon, represented an abrupt fall in the career of a man who had been one of the most celebrated military leaders of his time, a four-star general credited with turning the tide in Iraq and reversing the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The computer-security investigation points to one reason Mr. Petraeus and the White House believed the popular official couldn't remain in the senior intelligence position: The affair raised the possibility his improper relationship could have compromised national security.

Administration officials said the White House was briefed on the affair on Wednesday, the day after the election. President Barack Obama was informed of the affair on Thursday by his staff and met with Mr. Petraeus that day. Mr. Petraeus then offered to resign.

"After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair," Mr. Petraeus said in a statement to CIA employees Friday. "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

Mr. Petraeus leaves the CIA at a time when it is embroiled in controversy surrounding the events of Sept. 11, 2012, when four Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. After weeks of conflicting accounts of what happened that night, the CIA acknowledged that it had played a central role in gathering intelligence and providing security for the U.S. presence there.

Mr. Petraeus's wife, Holly, works at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as the head of its office for service-member affairs.

The leading contenders to succeed Mr. Petraeus include acting CIA Director Michael Morell and Defense intelligence chief Michael Vickers. Another option mentioned was Rep. Michael Rogers (R., Mich.), who is chairman of the House intelligence committee.

A former CIA official called Mr. Morell an "odds-on favorite," adding "he would bring over three decades of experience inside the agency. He's the consummate straight shooter. He's very well liked inside the agency. He has enormous street creds on Capitol Hill. He projects an image of calm."

The computer probe began this spring, according to a person familiar with the investigation. Mr. Petraeus, however, was not interviewed by the FBI until recently.

While Mr. Petraeus was still a general, he had email exchanges with the woman, but there were no physical transgressions, the person said. The affair began only after Mr. Petraeus retired from the military in August 2011, and ended months ago, the person said.

An extramarital affair has significant implications for an official in a highly sensitive post, because it can open the official to blackmail and compromise of his security clearance.

Mr. Obama praised Mr. Petraeus on Thursday for his "extraordinary service to the United States for decades," and added: "By any measure, through his lifetime of service, David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger."

Mr. Obama tapped Mr. Petraeus, a favorite of President George W. Bush, to serve as his top commander in Afghanistan after the abrupt resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal in 2010. Mr. Obama nominated him as CIA director in 2011. Messrs. Petraeus and Obama did not have the close chemistry that the president has with other top officials in his cabinet.



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