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David Petraeus Resigns As CIA Director Over Extramarital Affair [Updated]

Days after the reelection of Barack Obama, CIA director David Petraeus has submitted his resignation, citing an extramarital affair. "Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA," Petraeus wrote, according to the letter obtained by CNN. "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. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation."

"David Petraeus has provided extraordinary service to the United States for decades," said President Obama in a statement. "Today, I accepted his resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission, and I have the utmost confidence in Acting Director Michael Morell and the men and women of the CIA who work every day to keep our nation safe. Going forward, 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."

"CIA employees must take — and pass — a polygraph test as part of the process to receive a security clearance, and must regularly undergo reinvestigations to maintain that clearance," explained spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood about the agency's conduct rules to Reuters earlier this year. "The CIA takes very seriously any allegations of wrongdoing, and has a variety of administrative, security and, if needed, disciplinary procedures to review these types of issues."

Considered a military leader with few equals, the retired four-star general has long been floated as a candidate for public office, most recently as a potential vice-president to Mitt Romney. Petraeus was always quick to bat down the speculation and has insisted repeatedly, "I will not, ever, run for political office, I can assure you." Andrea Mitchell reported in August, "sources close to Gen David Petraeus laugh off Drudge report he is a Romney veep possible." 

More recently, the New York Times reported that Petraeus was interested in becoming the president of his alma matter, Princeton University, when the job opens up at the end of the year. (Needless to say, that seems unlikely now.)

Petraeus has also been questioned recently over the CIA's handling of the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, and he was scheduled to testify in front of the Intelligence Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives next Thursday. He won't now, and so the conspiracy theories have started already: "This is only the latest in a string of groundshaking events demonstrating that the Obama administration hid information vital to the American people during the last days of the 2012 election cycle," writes Ben Shapiro of Breitbart.com. "Timing, everything suspicious. There has to be more to this story," tweeted all-seeing eye Rupert Murdoch.

"This had nothing to do with Benghazi or relationship with the White House — which by the way was excellent — or anything else for that matter," a former Petraeus aide told Wired's Danger Room. "Just his flawed behavior."

This week, in a coincidence of truly awful timing, Newsweek published "General David Petraeus's Rules for Living," including, "Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally — if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops." And more relevant now: "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."

Update: At Slate, Fred Kaplan reports, "The woman with whom Gen. David Petraeus was having an affair is Paula Broadwell, the author of a recent hagiographic book about him, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."

It had long been rumored that something was going on between Petraeus and Broadwell. Her book, co-written with Vernon Loeb, is widely regarded as a valentine to the general. When she was embedded with him in Afghanistan, they went on frequent five-mile runs together. But Petraeus went on five-mile runs with many reporters, and few people who knew him took the rumors seriously. In his personal life, he’s always been seen as a straight shooter, a square. Few could have imagined that his end would come as the result of a morals scandal.

Broadwell, whose bio says she is married with two children, discussed the time she spent with Petraeus on The Daily Show earlier this year. "No dirty secrets," she told Jon Stewart. (She also wrote the Newsweek article about him cited above.)

NBC reports that the FBI is investigating Broadwell for improperly trying to access Petraeus's e-mail. This is officially a huge mess.

This post has been updated throughout.

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Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images