CIA Director David Petraeus resigned Friday, citing an extramarital affair, ending a tenure at the agency that lasted just more than a year.
The unexpected move presents President Barack Obama with an urgent need to fill a difficult national security job and sets up an early confirmation campaign for his administration.
His resignation also throws a kink into Thursday’s scheduled Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Sept. 11 Benghazi consulate attack. Petraeus, along with other intelligence officials, was scheduled to testify at the classified hearing.
Some media outlets reported this evening that Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell is under FBI investigation for allegedly trying to gain access to his email. Petraeus has not identified the woman with whom he had an affair.
Obama praised Petraeus for both his work in the intelligence field and his 37-year career in the U.S. Army.
“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,” Obama said in a statement. “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.”
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she regretted Petraeus’ resignation and that he provided the country with prestige and credibility abroad during his time at the CIA.
“On a personal level, I found his command of intelligence issues second to none,” she said. “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.”
Feinstein said she wished the president had not accepted the resignation but added, “I understand and respect the decision.” She expressed confidence in Morell’s ability to lead until Obama nominates a replacement.
House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) called Petraeus an outstanding and distinguished military leader. King, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee, said he worked closely with Petraeus.
“I hold Gen. Petraeus in the highest regard, regret his resignation and wish him and his family the very best,” King said.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the resignation represents “the loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants,” calling Petraeus “one of our nation’s great patriots.”
Clapper said he and Petraeus had been working on issues facing the intelligence community for more than a decade.
“I’m particularly thankful for Dave’s unwavering support and personal commitment to my efforts to lead the intelligence community and integrate our intelligence enterprise,” Clapper said.
Petraeus reached the level of four-star general in the Army and rose to national prominence in 2004, after he was named as field commander of the transition command team in Iraq, where he had been serving as leader of the 101st Airborne Division. Three years later, President George W. Bush named him as the commander of all U.S. troops in Iraq.
He retired from the Army in August of 2011, the same month that Obama nominated him to head the CIA.