In particular, members of Congress and other officials demanding answers about the Benghazi attack on the US consulate that resulted in the deaths of four Americans – including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stephens, and two CIA agents – will want to know if there was any link between Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance on the night of the Benghazi attack.
More broadly, the reason for Petraeus’s departure will raise questions about any compromising of US covert operations and intelligence. The potential for blackmail of intelligence officers is always a concern about the spy corps, but the involvement of the nation’s top spy in an extramarital affair takes the concern to a new level.
In the weeks since the Benghazi attack, officials have leaked information, including how Petraeus kept information on the CIA’s role in Benghazi so private that even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was left to call Petraeus as the attack unfolded to try to get intelligence information from him.
Last week, CIA officials revealed that in fact, the intelligence agency’s operations in Benghazi dwarfed diplomatic operations at the consulate and that the CIA maintained what was described as an “annex,” about a mile from the diplomatic mission.
State Department officials have said there was an informal understanding that the annex and its agents would come to the assistance of the consulate (which had private contractors providing security) if a need arose. CIA officials insist their agents responded to the consulate’s distress calls within a half-hour.