WASHINGTON (AP) — CIA Director David H. Petraeus abruptly resigned yesterday after a brief but troubled tenure as head of America’s clandestine spy service, citing his “extremely poor judgment” for engaging in an extramarital affair that the FBI had uncovered in an unrelated investigation.
The scandal threw the CIA into turmoil three days after the presidential election, and caused consternation at the White House, which had assumed the widely respected former war commander in Iraq and Afghanistan would keep his national security position in the second Obama administration.
In a written statement to the CIA workforce, Petraeus said he went to the White House on Thursday afternoon and asked President Barack Obama “to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign.” He said Obama “graciously accepted” his resignation yesterday.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus wrote. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.”
Citing the “extraordinary work” the CIA had performed, Petraeus added that he “will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.”
The acknowledgement of an affair came as a shock to the national security community. Intelligence officers who engage in illicit behavior may be vulnerable to blackmail by foreign spy services. The CIA has an unusually high turnover rate of directors, but none previously resigned after publicly acknowledging a sexual affair.
Two former CIA officials told the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau that the FBI inquiries led Petraeus to disclose the affair. Another U.S. official, who was briefed on the case, said Petraeus was not the target of the investigation.
NBC News reported that Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell “is under FBI investigation for improperly trying to access his email and possibly gaining access to classified information,” citing law enforcement officials.