David Petraeus resigns from the CIA over an affair: What we know so far

The most famous general of his generation ends his career in disgrace. And conservatives see more behind his resignation than his stated extramarital affair

Gen. David Petraeus abruptly resigned as CIA Director sighting an extramarital affair.
(Image credit: U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Haraz N. Ghanbari/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

CIA Director David Petraeus stunned the Washington establishment on Friday by abruptly stepping down from his post, citing an extramarital affair. While other officials may have survived such an indiscretion, the nation's spy master could not. With his access to highly classified information, concerns may have lingered that by harboring a secret of his own, Petraeus could potentially be blackmailed into disclosing the country's most valuable secrets. (Update: According to Slate, Petraeus' mistress was his biographer.)

It's an ignominious end for the most famous general of modern times, who made his name leading the 2007 surge in Iraq under President George W. Bush, overseeing the war in Afghanistan under President Obama, and literally writing the book on how to use U.S. military might to fight scrappy insurgencies. Petraeus retired from the armed forces in 2011 to head the CIA, which in recent years has become one of the most active agencies in America's fight against terrorism. (The CIA operates the drones pummeling suspected terrorist havens near the Afghan-Pakistani border.)

In the Army, Petraeus had been seen as that rare breed of general who was both politically savvy and media-friendly, but he largely disappeared from public view once he became the nation's top spy. His brief tenure at the CIA had been shadowed in recent weeks by the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which led to the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The CIA had a far bigger "annex" next to the consulate that reportedly housed agents charged with securing stray rockets and missiles used by the regime of deposed strongman Moammar Gadhafi. Questions have been raised as to whether the CIA and Petraeus bungled security at the consulate.

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Petraeus was scheduled to testify before Congress next week. With his resignation, he will no longer do so. The timing of Petraeus' resignation, especially coming on the heels of Obama's re-election, has already led many conservative commentators to suggest that it is all somehow connected to Benghazi.

Fox News' Monica Crowley:

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Talk show host Laura Ingraham:

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Of course, many critics say these conservatives are reaching.

The Week's Marc Ambinder:

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Commentary's John Podhoretz:

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Talking Point Memo's Sahil Kapur:

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