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FBI ‘stumbled’ on to news of Petraeus affair

Washington, Nov. 10: David H. Petraeus, the director of the CIA and one of America’s most decorated four-star generals, resigned today after an FBI investigation uncovered evidence that he had been involved in an extramarital affair.

Petraeus issued a statement acknowledging the affair after President Obama accepted his resignation and it was announced by the CIA The disclosure ended a triumphant re-election week for the President with an unfolding scandal.

Government officials said that the FBI began an investigation into a “potential criminal matter” several months ago that was not focused on Petraeus. In the course of their inquiry into whether a computer used by Petraeus had been compromised, agents discovered evidence of the relationship as well as other security concerns. About two weeks ago, FBI agents met Petraeus to discuss the investigation.

Administration and Congressional officials identified the woman as Paula Broadwell, the co-author of a biography of Petraeus. Her book, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, was published this year. Broadwell could not be reached for comment.

Broadwell, a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, spent 15 years in the military, according to a biography that had appeared on her website.

She spent extended periods of time with Petraeus in Afghanistan, interviewing him for her book, which grew out of a two-year research project for her doctoral dissertation and which she promoted on a high-profile tour that included an appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Married with two children, she has described Petraeus as her mentor.

Senior members of Congress were alerted to Petraeus’s impending resignation by intelligence officials about six hours before the CIA announced it. One Congressional official who was briefed on the matter said that Petraeus had been encouraged “to get out in front of the issue” and resign, and that he agreed.

As for how the affair came to light, the Congressional official said that “it was portrayed to us that the FBI was investigating something else and came upon him. My impression is that the FBI stumbled across this”.

The FBI did not inform the Senate and House Intelligence Committees about the inquiry until this week, according to Congressional officials, who noted that by law the panels — and especially their chairmen and ranking members — are supposed to be told about significant developments in the intelligence arena. The Senate committee plans to pursue the question of why it was not told, one official said. The revelation of a secret inquiry into the head of the nation’s premier spy agency raised urgent questions about Petraeus’s 14-month tenure at the CIA and the decision by Obama to elevate him to head the agency after leading the country’s war effort in Afghanistan.

White House officials said they did not know about the affair until this week, when Petraeus informed them.

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus said in his statement, expressing regret for his abrupt departure. “Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”

More than most of his flag officer peers, Petraeus understood how to navigate Washington politics and news media, helping him rise through the ranks and obtain resources he needed, although fellow army leaders often resented what they saw as a grasping careerism.

“To an important degree, a generation of officers tried to pattern themselves after Petraeus,” said Stephen Biddle, a military scholar at George Washington University who advised Petraeus at times. “He was controversial; a lot of people didn’t like him. But everybody looked at him as the model of what a modern general was to be.”

At the CIA, Petraeus maintained a low profile, in contrast to the celebrity that surrounded him as a general. But since the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans two months ago, critics had increasingly pressured him to give the agency’s account of the chaotic night. Mr. Petraeus was scheduled to testify before a closed Congressional hearing next week.

White House officials say they were informed on Wednesday night that Petraeus was considering resigning because of an extramarital affair. Intelligence officials notified the President’s national security staff. Obama at the time was on his way back to Washington from Chicago, where he had gone to receive election returns.

On Thursday morning, just before a staff meeting at the White House, Obama was told. “He was surprised, and he was disappointed,” one senior administration official said. “You don’t expect to hear that the Thursday after you were re-elected.” The President was in the White House all day on Thursday, getting back to his old routine after months on the campaign trail. That afternoon, Petraeus came in to see him, and informed him that he strongly believed he had to resign.

Obama did not accept his resignation right away. “He told him, ‘I’ll think about it overnight,’” the administration official said. After months on the road, the disclosure of a career-killing extramarital affair from his larger-than-life CIA director was the last thing that Obama was expecting, the official said.

The President, officials said, did not want Petraeus to leave. But he ultimately decided that he would not lean heavily on him to stay. Yesterday, he called Petraeus and accepted the resignation, “agreeing with Petraeus’s judgment that he couldn’t continue to lead the agency,” a White House official said.

 
 
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