Michael Morell to take over CIA in short term after Petraeus said in resignation letter he had shown ‘extremely poor judgment’
The head of the CIA David Petraeus resigned on Friday, saying that he had shown “extremely poor judgment” by having an extramarital affair.
It is an embarrassing downfall for one of America’s most senior generals and one of the most high-profile members of the Obama administration.
Petraeus, who went to see Barack Obama on Thursday to offer his resignation, said in a letter published on Friday it had been for personal reasons.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extra-marital affair,” the letter said. “Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours.”
He met his wife Holly when he was a cadet at West Point. Her father was the superintendent at West Point at the time. Mrs Petraeus is an official with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, working with the office of servicemember affairs, which looks after the financial interests of those serving in the military.
The argument for resignation was that the affair had left him vulnerable to blackmail. All spy agencies warn their agents against affairs for that reason, and the head of the organisation could not then ignore the advice given to those further down the chain.
One of the reasons the CIA chief may have felt it necessary that he should resign is consistency. His predecessor at the CIA, Leon Panetta, now defence secretary, was reported to have insisted during his time at the agency that a senior official resign in similar circumstances.
But an alternative version circulating in Washington, particularly among Republicans, was that Petraeus was under pressure over the killing of the US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the US embassy in Benghazi in September.
That speculation will be fuelled by the fact that Petraeus will no longer have to testify next week before a congressional hearing on the issue. The session had been expected to be tough as the CIA has faced criticism for its handling of Benghazi, with White House officials privately blaming the agency for the administration’s mistaken insistence in the days following the attack that it had been born out of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim film.
The deputy CIA director, Michael Morell, an Asia specialist, is to take over in the short term on the understanding that Obama will nominate him to take over on a permanent basis. The nomination has to be formally approved by the Senate.
In his statement, addressed to colleagues, Petraeus said: “As I depart Langley, I want you to know that it has been the greatest of privileges to have served with you, the officers of our nation’s Silent Service, a workforce that is truly exceptional in every regard. Indeed, you did extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director, and I am deeply grateful to you for that.”
He added: “Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.”
Obama issued a statement praising Petraeus for what it called “extraordinary service” to the US for decades.
“By any measure, he was one of the outstanding general officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end,” the president’s statement said.
“As director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he has continued to serve with characteristic intellectual rigor, dedication, and patriotism. By any measure, through his lifetime of service David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.”
Obama added: “My thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time.”
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement: “Dave’s decision to step down represents the loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants. From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one’s country.”
Petraeus only took over the CIA post in September 2011 after what was regarded in Washington as a glittering military career. He was credited with crafting – after listening to younger officers – the counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq that helped the US beat al-Qaida with the help of Sunnis.
Afghanistan was more difficult but again he was given credit in Washington for having done a good job given all the problems stacked against him.
He was frequently tipped in Washington circles as a potential Republican presidential candidate.
Senator John McCain, a champion of Petraeus down the years but now one of the leading critics of the administration’s handling of Benghazi, issued a statement praising the former CIA director. Notably, McCain’s praise was directed at his time as a general rather than at the CIA.
“General David Petraeus will stand in the ranks of America’s greatest military heroes. His inspirational leadership and his genius were directly responsible – after years of failure – for the success of the surge in Iraq,” McCain said.
Petraeus belonged to a new generation of officers who like to describe themselves as scholar-warriors, having spent part of his career in academe. He was different from them though in one important way, in that he was also extremely political, good at courting people in various administrations and in Congress.
He left West Point in 1974 and followed a conventional career. It was his time in academia that made him different and helped him to the top of the military. While taking time out, he wrote extensively about the US experience in Vietnam, developing an alternative counter-intelligence philosophy.
He caught the attention of senior figures during his command of northern Iraq in the early days of the 2003 and George W. Bush sent him back in 2007 with overall command of US and other international forces during the so-called surge. He then implemented the ‘hearts and minds’ policy he had developed during his Vietnam study, winning over Sunni tribal leaders and others to engage in operations against al-Qaida elements in what became known as the Sunni Awakening…
35:40 “A group of Delta Force operators are very…the most talented guys we have in the military. They could have come and reinforced the consulate and CIA annex that were under attack,” said Ms. Broadwell. “Now I don’t know if a lot of you have heard this, but the CIA annex had actually had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to get these prisoners back. It’s still being vetted.”
General Petraeus resigned his CIA position late last week as reports of his affair with Broadwell surfaced. Petraeus was expected to testify on Capitol Hill regarding the attacks in Benghazi, and GOP lawmakers plan to subpoena him if he now refuses.
36:10 “The challenging thing for General Petraeus is that in his new position he’s not allowed to communicate with the press. So he’s known all of this. They had correspondence with the CIA station chief in Libya within 24 hours,” said Ms. Broadwell.
Lawmakers want to know among other pieces of information a fuller timeline as to what happened in Benghazi on the day of the attacks and why the Obama White House failed to react to secure the staff at the embassy. Additionally, many want to know why the administration initially and wrongly blamed an obscure online video written by a southern California man, for the Benghazi attacks.
Broadwell also mentioned why she believed the video was blamed saying, “They kind of knew what was happening, but if you remember at the time, the Muslim video–the Mohammed video that came out–the demonstrations that were going on in Cairo, there were demonstrations in 22 other countries around the world–tens of thousands of people and our government was very concerned that this was going to become a nightmare for us,” she said. “So you can understand if you put yourself in his shoes or Secretary Clinton’s shoes or the president’s shoe’s, that we thought that it was tied somehow to the demonstrations in Cairo.
36:53 Broadwell then added, “And it’s true that we have single intelligence that shows the militia members in Libya were watching the demonstrations in Cairo and it did sort of galvanize their effort. We’ll find out the facts soon enough. As a former intel officer, it’s frustrating to me because it reveals our sources and methods.”
Petraeus had reportedly already broken off the relationship with Broadwell when she gave the talk the the University of Denver at that point several months prior. The trouble with Petraeus’s affair began to catch up with him, when Broadwell reportedly sent threatening e-mails to Jill Kelly, another woman based in Tampa who Petraeus spent time with.
If you have an affair while you have a security clearance, you are a fat target for a blackmailer, so it makes sense that he had to resign.
Alex Jones had a guest on who said that the Libya attack was not a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists, but was, rather, the snuffing out of a diplomat who would no longer play ball. That kind of weird rumor may explain why lawmakers wanted to question Petraeus behind closed doors. Now they won’t have the chance. It is hard to know what is really going on. Perhaps it will all come out in 100 years… something involving space aliens and our secret bases on Mars. 😉