Petraeus quits just DAYS before he was due to testify at Benghazi hearings as FBI probes ‘massive national security threat’

  • Gen David  Petraeus, who held CIA director post for only 14 months, dramatically announced  resignation Friday
  • Had been  scheduled to testify next week in closed-door hearing about September 11 attack  of U.S. Consulate in Libya
  • Will no  longer testify as he’s left his position
  • Some have  suggested conspiracy theory and question the timing of Petraeus’ resignation  ahead of the hearings

By Beth Stebner

PUBLISHED:20:03 EST, 9  November 2012| UPDATED:01:50 EST, 10 November 2012

The dramatic resignation of CIA Director  David Petraeus on Friday threatens to  undermine next week’s hearings into the deadly attack at the U.S. Consulate in  Libya, at which he was scheduled to testify.

Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA  following revelations he had engaged in an extramarital affair and acknowledging  that he ‘showed extremely poor judgment’.

The highly-decorated general, 60, had  recently traveled to Libya and the Middle East, and was to testify about the  Benghazi attack next week behind closed doors to the House and Senate  intelligence committees.

Bad timing: Petraeus' resignation comes at a sensitive time; the CIA chief was slated to testify at the Benghazi hearings next weekBad timing: Petraeus’ resignation comes at a sensitive  time; the CIA chief was slated to testify at the Benghazi hearings next week

Fears have also emerged as his resignation  comes at an extremely sensitive time. The administration and the CIA have  struggled to defend security and intelligence lapses before the attack that  killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others.

Shocking: Petraeus resigned after an FBI investigation on his biographer Paula Broadwell was revealed
Shocking: Petraeus resigned after an FBI investigation  on his biographer Paula Broadwell was revealed

It was an issue during the presidential  campaign that ended with Obama’s re-election Tuesday.

Petraeus had led the CIA for only 14 months.  His sudden departure threatened to usher in a period of instability at the spy  agency, which is grappling with a leveling off in its budget after a decade of  steady increases.

The agency is also fending off questions  about its performance before and after the attack that led to the death of U.S.  Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya.

U.S. officials insisted that the CIA’s  handling of the Benghazi incident had nothing to do with Petraeus’ decision to  resign.

The CIA has come under intense scrutiny for  providing the White House and other administration officials with talking points  that led them to say the Benghazi attack was a result of a film protest, not a  militant terror attack.

It has become clear that the CIA was aware  the attack was distinct from the film protests roiling across other parts of the  Muslim world.

Morell rather than Petraeus now is expected  to testify at closed congressional briefings next week on the Sept. 11 attacks  on the consulate in Benghazi.

According to the New York Times, Petraeus told the White House of the affair, only one  day after Obama secured a second term in the White House.

The president did not immediately accept it,  aides told the Times, and only reluctantly agreed to it on Friday.

News Corps’ Rupert Murdoch was one of masses  who took to Twitter to voice his opinion. The 81-year-old Aussie wrote: ‘Petraeus resignation. Timing, everything suspicious. There has to be more to  this story.’

Chiming in with her own conspiracy theory,  conservative talk show radio host Laura Ingraham wrote: ‘CIA Chief Petraus  resignation…something about this stinks to high heaven.’

She added: ‘COINCIDENCE?! Petraeus is set to  testify NEXT week at a closed door session on Capitol Hill about Benghazi. Did  BHO push him out? This stinks!’

But some, like Huffington Post founder  Arianna Huffington, reacted to the news in a very forgiving fashion. ‘Turns out  Petraeus is (sic) human being. And of course we definitely can’t have human  beings in government!’ she wrote.

Highly suspicious? News Corp's Rupert Murdoch said that the timing of this was 'suspicious'Highly suspicious? News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch said that  the timing of this was ‘suspicious’
Suspicious: Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted her leering suspicion over the timing of Petraeus' resignationSuspicious: Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham  tweeted her leering suspicion over the timing of Petraeus’ resignation

For the director of the CIA, being engaged in  an extramarital affair is considered a serious breach of security and a  counterintelligence threat.

If a foreign government had learned of the  affair, the reasoning goes, Petraeus or the person with whom he was involved  could have been blackmailed or otherwise compromised. Military justice considers  conduct such as an extramarital affair to be possible grounds for court  martial.

Failure to resign also could create the  perception for the rank-and-file that such behavior is acceptable.

At FBI headquarters, spokesman Paul Bresson  declined to comment on the information that the affair had been discovered in  the course of an investigation by the bureau.

In a statement from the president, Obama  said, ‘I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry  out its essential mission.’

But there is no indication that he broke any  agency rule in connection with his admitted affair, sources familiar with the  matter said.

The CIA has no broad rule banning officials  from engaging in extramarital affairs, though if discovered, liaisons by CIA  personnel with suspected foreign agents would pose security problems for a U.S.  spy.

Obama, who accepted Petraeus’ resignation in  a phone call with him Friday afternoon, said that Michael Morell, the agency’s  long-time deputy director, would serve as acting CIA chief.

Morell, who is well respected at both the  White House and on Capitol Hill, had previously served as acting director  following the departure of former CIA chief Leon Panetta.

He is a leading candidate to be Petraeus’  permanent successor, sources said.

Other possible candidates being discussed on  Capitol Hill include John Brennan, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser;  Obama national security adviser Thomas Donilon; and former congresswoman Jane  Harman, who chaired the House intelligence committee.

Classified: A redacted copy of an email discussing the attack of the Benghazi, Libya mission two hours after it happenedClassified: A redacted copy of an email discussing the  attack of the Benghazi, Libya mission two hours after it happened

Petraeus’ resignation also adds a new vacancy  on Obama’s national security team. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said  she will leave after Obama’s first term, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is  widely expected to leave as well.

Petraeus’ wife, Holly, has been an advocate  for U.S. veterans and head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the U.S.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Last month, Petraeus and Holly appeared  together at a reception at the Canadian Embassy in Washington to celebrate the  premiere of the Ben Affleck film ‘Argo,’ which chronicles a successful operation  in which the CIA and Canadian diplomats smuggled a group of U.S. officials out  of Tehran during the 1979-80 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis.

In a letter to the CIA workforce, Petraeus  said that he met with Obama at the White House on Thursday and asked ‘to be  allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position.’

‘After being married for 37 years, I showed  extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,’ he  wrote.

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

Obama, who was re-elected to a second term on  Tuesday, said in a statement that he accepted Petraeus’ resignation, praising  him for his work at the CIA and for leading U.S. troops in Iraq and  Afghanistan.

The sudden and dramatic turn of events  appeared to end the public career of a widely admired man who played a key role  in the Iraq war, led the U.S. Central Command and commanded U.S. and NATO troops  in Afghanistan.

Petraeus’ name had circulated speculatively  as a possible Republican presidential nominee before Obama tapped him as CIA  chief. Before taking the CIA post, he retired as an Army general after nearly  four decades of military service.

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