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6 lingering questions about the exit of Gen. David Petraeus

November 10, 2012
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Source: Politico

Resignations over scandals often raise more questions than they answer, and that’s true of Gen. David Petraeus’s abrupt exit from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some have already been put to rest: Paula Broadwell, the author of “All In: The Education of David Petraeus,” has been identified as the woman at the center of the FBI email probe that ultimately toppled him.

But many questions remain.

Here are POLITICO’s six most important:

1. Why resign now?

The Obama administration’s first sex scandal exploded just three days after the president was reelected at the end of a hard-fought campaign and just days before Petraeus was scheduled to appear at a congressional hearing about the attacks in Benghazi.

The White House says no one there knew about the Petraeus situation before Wednesday and the president himself was informed Thursday. But if the story had broken a week earlier, those headlines would have overtaken much of the president’s message about the middle class and his work in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Who made the decision to wait, and why, is going to be the subject of scrutiny as this scandal continues to unfold.

Petraeus’s departure now has also thrown a whole new pile of grist into the Benghazi controversy. Already, the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others was being called an intelligence failure — both the failure to anticipate it and the decision to identify it as a riot rather than a terrorist attack.

Acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, Petraeus’s deputy, will go to the Hill instead for Thursday’s hearing. But already, there’s a clear sense that going public with his affair and resigning from his job isn’t enough to get Petraeus off the hook.

“David Petraeus testifying has nothing to do with whether or not he’s still the CIA director, and I don’t see how the CIA can say he’s not going to testify,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN. “He was at the center of this and he has answers that only he has.”

2. What else was part of the FBI probe?

The FBI’s toppling of the CIA director seems like the ultimate in intelligence sibling rivalries. It didn’t start that way.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the FBI investigation began because a woman close to Petraeus sought protection after receiving several threatening emails from Broadwell. After a deeper look at the general’s personal email account, there were initially questions about whether it had been hacked. But investigators soon concluded from the content of the emails that they were evidence of an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell. According to the Post, weeks of probing culminated Tuesday, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was told that compromising material had been found. Clapper subsequently told Petraeus to resign.

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