WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, November 10, 2012 - After General David Petraeus resigned as CIA director yesterday, a large number of people began speculating that the true reason for his actions was to avoid providing information on Benghazi.
That angle would make far more sense and seems a far better reason to resign than his infidelity, only it simply does not add up. America has lost a top national security official due to his personal failing and fear of being found out.
Petraeus’ resignation comes, most likely, after the FBI discovered the affair, concern that the press would find out about the affair and the realization that an official whose role in national security was at risk for blackmail by forces opposed to the United States for years.
If Petraeus did not resign over Benghazi, then why did he resign?
According to Washington insiders, Petraeus chose to “get in front” of the issue rather than being forced to defend himself after it became public. The move was to preempt the media frenzy.
Which may have been the smart move as it appears the press was precariously close to learning about the affair. The FBI had discovered the affair, opening the door to further revelations.
Insiders also note there is reason to believe that a clear decision to wait until after the election to make the announcement was made. Choosing to announce two days after, to avoid announcing two days before and impacting the election.
Will the resignation impact Petraeus’ responsibility to testify?
The resignation was not to detract from the Benghazi investigation. If the administration wanted to avoid discussions on Benghazi, they would not have allowed Petraeus to resign, and reports are that President Obama did not readily accept his resignation.
Instead of distracting from Benghazi, the resignation brings the discussion back to the forefront increasing discussion of the tragedy.
Additionally, if the President wants Petraeus to take the fall for Benghazi, the Administration would be trumpeting “removing” him because of the security breach, deflecting attention from President Obama and placing it on the CIA.
There is also the meme that Petraeus was just about to testify on Benghazi and now he can avoid that. Actually, even with his resignation, Petraeus will still have to provide information on Benghazi. His requirement to testify is not tied to his position and should an investigative panel finds him responsible for inappropriate actions during the Benghazi tragedy, he will face repercussions for his actions.
Actually, as a private citizen, he may not have the same protections he had as a high-ranking government official.
If President Obama and the administration did not want Petraeus to testify, they have a number of options available to them. As head of the CIA, Petraeus was privy to a bevy of classified information, and he and the administration can invoke state secret to avoid providing information. Those protections may now be removed.
Right now, it is unclear whether Petraeus will in fact testify or, if he does, how much information he will give. What is known is that his responsibility to testify does not depend on whether he is head of the CIA.
Is the reason for the resignation that knowledge of the affair opens Petraeus to blackmail?
Isn’t that a bit dramatic?
Foreign governments have no hesitation about collecting information on high-ranking American officials. They search for vulnerabilities and exploit them as appropriate. Many countries, such as China, not only spy on government officials, but also on corporations in an effort to gain the upper hand both diplomatically and economically.
A secret extramarital affair by one of the highest-ranking national security officials in the United States strikes glee in the heart of foreign governments. In fact, because the United States does not pry into the private lives of its officials, it is often the case that foreign governments know about personal vulnerabilities long before American officials know.
Remember infidelity inside the beltway is hardly new. The Kennedy brothers were notorious womanizers, remaining in office as the press largely ignored what can only be seen as “open secrets.”
Since Watergate, the press has become far more aggressive in outing officials who act inappropriately, pressuring them to resign (or at least confess). Yet President Bill Clinton’s particularly tawdry affair with a very young woman, an intern in his staff, had him walking through it relatively unscathed, performing a vital role for Obama in the 2012 election.
So why is the Petraeus affair different? Technology allows the unprecedented spreading of information.
Computers, video, texts and social networking record and spread information at lightening speed. Not only does that give the information to the press and the public, it also gives Intel previously not readily available to those interested in espionage.
It does make a far better story to say that Petraeus resigned due to Benghazi, but it simply does not make sense. If he wanted to avoid providing information on Benghazi, Petraeus would have been better protected if he remained CIA director.
One most also remember that with Fast and Furious, President Obama has already shown that he is willing to use executive privilege to prohibit testimony by government officials. He could have easily used the same tactic with Benghazi, keeping Petraeus from providing information.
Another potential scenario to the question of why he resigned over an extra martial affair, which in itself is not an offense requiring him to step down, is that by resigning Petraeus does not have to exhibit the same level of loyalty to Obama that he had when he was serving in the administration.
The potential to lose a top position as the President reshuffles his administration no longer applies.
Sometimes the obvious is the truth.
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