J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus has brought a sudden and unexpected end to the public career of a four-star general who led U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and was thought to be a potential candidate for president.
Petraeus admitted to an extramarital affair in tendering his resignation, which President Barack Obama accepted Friday.
Petraeus carried on the affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, a reserve Army officer, according to several U.S. officials with knowledge of the situation. They spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss publicly the investigation that led to the resignation.
The FBI discovered the relationship by monitoring Petraeus' emails, after being alerted Broadwell may have had access to his personal email account, two of the officials said.
Broadwell did not respond to voice mail or email messages seeking comment. Broadwell's biography, "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," was written with Vernon Loeb, a Washington Post editor, and published in January.
Lawmakers from both parties joined Obama in praising Petraeus. Obama said in a statement that Petraeus had provided "extraordinary service to the United States for decades" and had given a lifetime of service that "made our country safer and stronger."
CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell will serve as acting director, Obama said. Morell was the key CIA aide in the White House to President George W. Bush during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission," Obama said.
The resignation comes at a 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. It was an issue during the presidential campaign that ended with Obama's re-election Tuesday.
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 assault on the consulate in Benghazi, which occurred on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Petraeus, who turned 60 on Wednesday, has been married for 38 years to Holly Petraeus, whom he met when he was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. She was the daughter of the academy superintendent. They have two children, and their son led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan.
The retired general told his staffers in a statement that he was guilty of "extremely poor judgment" in engaging in the affair. "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours." He said he had offered his resignation to Obama on Thursday and the president accepted it Friday.
Administration officials said the White House was first notified about the Petraeus affair on Wednesday, the day after the election. Obama, who returned to the White House that evening after spending Election Day in Chicago, wasn't informed until Thursday morning.
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 Broadwell could have been blackmailed or otherwise compromised. Military justice considers conduct such as an extramarital affair to be possible grounds for court-martial.
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