CIA Director David Petraeus, one of the country’s most revered military leaders, abruptly announced his resignation Friday, admitting to an extramarital affair that until now had never been disclosed.
Petraeus, in a message to staff, said President Obama accepted his resignation letter after the two met on Thursday afternoon. Petraeus said that he asked “to be allowed” to step down.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” Petraeus said. “This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.”
The move comes amid the unfolding controversy surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Scrutiny has fallen on a range of agencies including the CIA. The director had been expected to testify at hearings next week. But Petraeus, in his resignation message, cited strictly “personal reasons” surrounding his affair which until now had not been disclosed.
Obama, in a written statement, said Petraeus provided an “extraordinary service to the United States 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,” Obama said. He said he has named Michael Morell, the agency’s deputy director, to serve as acting director.
The decision abruptly ends the public-service career of one of the military’s most vaunted leaders. He led the surge in Iraq, and was later tapped to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan – following two years at the helm of U.S. Central Command. In April 2011, Obama again tapped Petraeus to lead the CIA.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Petraeus’ resignation “represents the loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants.”
Petraeus’ wife, Holly, also works in the Obama administration, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.