CIA chief Petraeus steps down, having failed to keep his drone in his pants

David H. Petraeus, the head of America's Central Intelligence Agency, resigned just days after the election after issuing a statement saying he had engaged in an extramarital affair.

"By acknowleding an extramarital affair, Mr. Petraeus, 60, was confronting a sensitive issue for a spy chief," reports the New York Times. "Intelligence agencies are often concerned about the possibility that agents who engage in such behavior could be blackmailed for information."

In an email to Wired's national security blog Danger Room, a former confidant says of the disgraced general, “He feels that he screwed up. He did a dishonorable thing and needed to try to do the honorable thing.” The source says the affair began after Petraeus retired from the military and became CIA director.

Petraeus is a retired four-star U.S. Army general, and was once considered a possible presidential candidate. He has been married to Holly Petraeus, an assistant director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for 37 years.

Paula Broadwell, the author of Petraeus' biography, "All In," is now under investigation by the FBI: her role gave her access to his email, and to the the general in person in Afghanistan.

Petraeus was due to testify in Washington about Benghazi next week. Some are questioning the timing of his resignation, believing that it is political in nature: did the White House stall the bad news until the election was won? Is there a Libya connection?

The woman with whom he had the affair has not been identified. Update: The woman with whom he had the affair has been identified as the aforementioned biographer Paula Broadwell, who was, uh, embedded with him in Afghanistan.

Greg Miller, intelligence reporter for the Washington Post, tweets: "Officials confirm Petraeus affair surfaced during FBI probe of his email. He called [National Security Advisor Thomas] Donilon Thursday asking for time with the president."

Just last week, the Daily Beast published an excerpt from Broadwell's book. The excerpt was titled, "General David Petraeus’s Rules for Living." Among those rules:

We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear­ view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

Michael J. Morell, the CIA's deputy director, will take over as acting director. The account at Danger Room is worth reading for a deeper look.


  1. I’m all for Obama, but even I don’t believe the reason for this resignation. An affair is a private matter between this guy and his wife. And one extra person. It has nothing to do with his job, unless he was having an affair with a terrorist. Seriously this would be like, oh I don’t know, an Amish person resigning from being CIA Director because he forgot to wear his hat.

    1.  Actually, it has everything to do with his job, because it opens him up for blackmail.  Blackmail is no small matter when you have (one of) the highest security clearances in the country.

        1. Maybe there’s more? Like, if he’s on the hook for blackmail over XYZ, and Z being just an affair is the most innocuous, so that’s what he states in his resignation, thus removing the incentive to blackmail him, even for XY (because he’ll no longer be in charge.)

        2.  Well, firstly there’s the violation of various rules. And then there’s the question of judgement. If his judgement’s so wonky that he thought having an affair was OK, how can it be trusted on other things? And finally, the $64 thousand question: is this the *only* skeleton in his closet? Or is it just the only one that leaked out? If this is lurking in there, he may have other things there that he can be blackmailed over. Or is being blackmailed over.

          1. “If his judgement’s so wonky that he thought having an affair was OK, how can it be trusted on other things?”

            Um, we’ve had several presidents who thought having an affair was OK too, from Kennedy to Clinton. Many senators have mistresses. From what else I’ve now read, it appears that the reason for the resignation is that his mistress read some of his email. The question of “how can he be trusted on other things” is of course an unanswerable question. There have always been ideas about how to find a trustworthy person – don’t hire a gay person, don’t hire someone whose parents aren’t American, don’t hire a [insert religious affiliation here]. But these “formulas” are just nonsense designed to make the person doing the hiring feel better, they don’t predict who is trustworthy with national security secrets and who is not. Even Petraeus’ affair doesn’t mean he isn’t the best, most trustworthy person. The reading of the email does however mean he’s a person who let his guard down, and that may be a sacking offense.

        3. Because, regardless if the blackmail is still possible, he engaged in blackmailable behavior, i.e. he *was* blackmailable. “What else don’t we know that someone else does?” is how the logic goes.

      1. This what the time machine in 7 days was built for. Not to protect the country, but to protect the reputations of the CIA and NSA muckity mucks. The TV show didn’t show how the real program works because they want people to think the CIA and NSA use the program for the good of the country. HA! Mr. Parker is always going back in time and fixing wrongs to the right person. He saved Cheney twice and Bush a bunch of times (but he didn’t fix 9/11. Why? Because 9/11 gave Bush/Cheney what they want. 

        BTW, the biggest use of the machine was back in 2000. In one timeline Bush lost, and H.W. Bush’s buddies at the CIA had the Chrononauts go back and put in the “Butterfly ballots” Subtle, but effective. 

    2. Director of the CIA is banging a journalist who then gets caught by the FBI accessing said Douchbag’s CIA email.

      Yeahhhhh… that’s not quite “between this guy and his wife.”

      At least it would have been nice if the embedee would have let us know who killed Kennedy and where the Cheney clones are manufactured while she was riffling through Petraeus’s CIA computer..

    3. But a US governments employees perfomance at his job is not half as important as what he does with his genitals.

  2. He just up and admitted it without three weeks of shrieking denials?  That must be a bitter disappointment to the infotainment industry.

    1. This will make the REAL papers soon. The National Enquirer! 
      You know she writes for the soon to be late Newsweek (or maybe just the Daily Beast, Tucker Carlson’s Vanity Gossip website.

    2. And he didn’t say anything as memorable as “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”.

  3. Blackmail is an excellent tool in recruiting spies.  So I’m with franko — the resignation was mandatory.

    1. Blackmail only works if other people don’t know about it.  The possibility of blackmail is a compelling reason not to keep a secret.  But what’s a blackmailer going to do now that everyone knows?  Threatening to tell the world about his affair isn’t going to be super compelling at this point

      1.  So the head of the CIA violates a conduct rule, and may have put his mistress in the unique and very dangerous position of hacking his email.  He needs to go.  Not because he can no longer be blackmailed, but because he can no longer enforce the policies of the CIA.  It doesn’t have to be more sinister than that.

      2. At one point he prioritized having a romantic relationship over keeping CIA information private.  Would you want that guy running your spy ring?  If you were the owner of a business/corporation, would you want him in charge of your company’s trade secrets, credit card records, personnel records, etc?

        1. You think no one in your company’s HR department has ever had an affair?

          I believe that there was a compelling reason for Petraeus to step down.  I don’t think that blackmail is that reason.

  4. Well, I guess this goes to show that the practice of ’embedding’ journalists with military units in order to generate emotional engagement and favorable coverage in the media is a smashing success!

  5. Although he was a civilian at CIA, Petraeus was career military.  In the US military, adultery is grounds for court martial.  So I guess he’s just being true to his values…  well, sort of.

    1.  There are policies like this at the CIA for the reason of preventing blackmail.  Whether or not blackmail wouldn’t work in this case, how is the HEAD OF THE CIA going to enforce the rules when he’s had to admit to violating them?  That, and the whole mistress hacking the head of the CIA’s email investigation?  He opened himself up, and he must go.

    2. There is probably more reasons why he resigned.

      Like the fact that the Republicans would spend every possible resource trying Obama for harlotry if he remained in his position?

  6. Reading the Wired story it appears that his biographer gained access to his email probably by virtue of being his mistress. That right there is certainly a reason to resign if those emails contained any classified information (and considering he was head of the CIA that seems pretty likely). I suspect that if he’d had an affair with someone who didn’t get access to his email that it wouldn’t have led to his resignation.

    1. The CIA uses gmail?  For classified information?  That doesn’t seem very likely to me somehow.

  7. Can’t help but think of the catch phrase from a couple of years back: General Petraeus or General Betray Us

  8. So I took a look at his “Rules for Living” article in the Daily Beast/Newsweek. And I wrote what they really might mean now that we know more about his leadership. Lots of snarky comments. What is strange is that I wrote my funny comments BEFORE I knew the person who he had an affair with was the author of the article!
    All I knew was that she was the author of this story..
    Here is the link to my hopefully amusing article.
    and the book, All In? Comedians please.

  9. OK, as CIA director, David Petraus orders airstrikes on funerals. With children in attendance. That’s his day job. So can anybody explain to me how having an extra-marital affair with a non-subordinate renders him morally unfit to serve? It’s a pretty morally-unfit job.

    1. It’s not so much about the affair itself, but about the blackmailability. Though I’d expect that would have been fixed by coming clean about the affair.

      Anyway, blackmailability is not just an issue for intelligence agencies, but for any organization dealing with even slightly sensitive information.

    2. Just apply MPAA movie ratings logic:

      Air strikes, assuming you keep the cuts tasteful, are somewhere between PG and PG-13.

      Affairs, depending on exactly how much ‘sexual nudity’ you show rather than insinuate, might need a bit of editing before they could hit an R rating and general distribution. 

    3.  David Petraus orders airstrikes on funerals.

      And weddings, so he has plenty of experience in breaking up marriages.

  10. Family Values: Adultery is worse than all the political assinations and killings of innocent civilians that the CIA does every day. 

  11. Any head of the CIA will have done things in their ordinary duties that are grounds for blackmail. Many, many such things. This is just a drop in a big bucket of skeletons in his (or any CIA director’s) closet.

  12. And now he wont have to testify in congress.

    Its a LOT easier to get his wife to cooperate than it would be to stay out of jail for lying about what the CIA is up to. (She may have been the one to suggest it.)

  13. So very weird.

    As a kid–from roughly 14 to 16 years old–I lived next door to the general and his wife Holly (as in: their townhouse was joined to mine) in Lawrenceville, NJ for a couple of years while he was at the Woodrow Wilson School in Princeton. My mom is still on the Petraeus family Christmas letter list.

  14. So our top spymaster can’t keep his affair a secret?  Of course he has to go, that’s one even a lot of regular guys seem to keep under wraps without any training.

    1. If only he had used Ashley Madison (r) They should really get on this and get him as a spokesperson.
      “Hi, I’m 4 star General David Patraeus, recently I had to resign as the head of one of the world largest clandestine spying agencies because even with all my resources I couldn’t hide an affair. I was too emotional and although the heart want what the heart wants, and the FBI takes advantage of this. If only I had gone to Ashley Madison to help me hide my affair, they will do the thinking with their big head while I was thinking with my little head. They are used to dealing with love struck busy executives like me and would have reminded me to put a password protected screen saver on my computer that had top secret military ops on it along with my love letters. 
      Don’t be like me don’t let your little head do the thinking for you, let Ashley Madison help, you’ll be glad you did.” 

  15. The old Hollywood joke has to be updated: did you hear about the CIA director who was so dumb he f**ked the writer?

  16. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Broadwell is revealed to be spy or a wannabe spy for some foreign state.

  17.  I find this very suspicious considering that just a week earlier, Petraeus was being criticized for the CIA’s response to the Benghazi attacks, and to force his resignation in election season would have legitimized all of the Republican critique thrown at Obama for that attack.

    1. Why is it so hard to believe he chose to resign out of his sense of honor? And once that choice was taken, is it that hard to believe almost anybody would decide to wait until after an important election? Your peccadilloes are not the president’s fault, but would still have been used as a club in the election.

      I understand Obama’s opponents wish Petraeus hadn’t denied them the opportunity to use this bombshell during the campaign, but that doesn’t make it a White House conspiracy. It was the choice of a man who saw it as a personal matter.

  18. As to why she was trying to hack his Gmail account…something I saw on a TV show comes to mind.  Can’t remember what show it was (“Fringe” or maybe “Strike Back”).  There was a technique used by the “bad guy” under investigation where he was communicating with someone else using an e-mail account but they weren’t sending e-mails.  Both parties knew the login and password, and would communicate using saved drafts.  They never send the drafts, just edit, delete, or start new ones, saving them to the accounts draft folder.  Every couple days or so the other party logs in and reads the new drafts, deletes it, starts a new one.  
    I wonder if that’s what she was doing.  

  19. But he’s a SPY! This is what spies do when they’re not spying! Didn’t any of these anti-spy-sex do-gooders watch James Bond, Matt Helm, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, etc.?

  20. I fully support’s coverage of the coverage of the CIA head Gen. Penis’ affair, as well as the fantastic comments both serious and comical. Bravo!

    I should mention, however, that when I was telling my wife about what I had been reading here, she thought I said I had been following the story on “boinkboink” ;-)

  21. If the investigation found unlawful leaks of ‘secret’ information will the perpetrators be prosecuted? Unlikely as there will be selective ‘non-prosecution’ of an inner circle darling/s.

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