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Petraeus admits affair, steps down as CIA director

WASHINGTON - JUNE 16:  (FILE PHOTO) Commander United States Central CommArmy Gen. David Petraeus testifies during hearing before House

WASHINGTON - JUNE 16: (FILE PHOTO) Commander of the United States Central Command Army Gen. David Petraeus testifies during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee June 16, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama is replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as the top commander of the U.S. Force in Afghanistan June 23, 2010 after a Rolling Stone magazine article quoted Gen. McChrystal disparaging Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other leaders in the administration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0060846870.jpg

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Updated: December 11, 2012 6:11AM

NEW YORK — In a surprise move, CIA Director David Petraeus suddenly resigned on Friday — departing because of an extramarital affair that he said “showed extremely poor judgment.”

CNN was reporting on Friday that the FBI Counterintelligence unit was investigating Petraeus over the affair — which is what is done to determine if an official is in position to be blackmailed, and the situation could turn into a national security threat. No one on Friday was suggesting that anyone was compromised.

Petraeus rushed out the door — and could not or did not want to hang on until Thursday, when he was among the witnesses to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Petraeus said in a statement to CIA employees that he told Obama Thursday he wanted to quit “for personal reasons” and on Friday Obama accepted his resignation.

“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,” he said.

Petraeus cited former President Teddy Roosevelt, who 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.”

Because of the resignation, Obama now has one more spot to deal with as he shuffles his Cabinet and other top positions for his second term.

Petraeus, the Army general in the news because of his Iraq and Afghanistan war commands, was tapped by Obama to be CIA Director to replace Leon Panetta, who was moving over to the Pentagon to be Defense secretary.

Petraeus, who turned 60 on Wednesday, came to the CIA last September after a long Army career. He is a West Point graduate — and married his wife, Holly, the West Point superintendent’s daughter, in the school chapel. He holds a doctorate from Princeton.

Obama praised him in a statement, saying Petraeus “has provided 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.

“. . . 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.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement she wished Obama had not accepted his decision. Now that Petraeus is not testifying before Feinstein’s panel on Thursday over Libya, Deputy Director Michael Morell — who will serve as acting director — will take his place.

“I very much regret the resignation of David Petraeus as director of the CIA. This is an enormous loss for our nation’s intelligence community and for our country,” she said.

“. . . On a personal level, I found his command of intelligence issues second to none. He was especially cooperative with Congress as we executed our oversight responsibility, and he was responsible for improving American relationships with intelligence agencies in countries around the world.

“I wish President Obama had not accepted this resignation, but I understand and respect the decision.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) praised him for getting the U.S. out of wars: “His inspirational leadership and his genius were directly responsible — after years of failure — for the success of the surge in Iraq. General Petraeus has devoted his life to serving the country he loves, and America is so much the better for it. We are immensely grateful for General Petraeus’s decades of work on behalf of our nation, our military, and our security. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

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