ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. It was just your average Friday after a presidential election - and then, a stunning announcement. CIA Director David Petraeus resigned, saying he engaged in an extramarital affair. In a letter to the CIA workforce, Petraeus - a retired, four-star, Army general - said his behavior was unacceptable, and that he had shown extremely poor judgment. President Obama accepted the resignation, in a statement this afternoon.
Joining us with more on the story is NPR's Tom Gjelten. And Tom, hard to know where to begin here. This is quite an extraordinary development.
TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: It's an extraordinary development, Melissa, on several levels. Within the Army, General Petraeus was a huge figure. He was seen as something of a hero in Iraq, basically, because he directed the surge of forces there, which was seen as turning fortunes around in Iraq. On a personal level, he was - just considered to be the epitome of discipline and virtue. Some in the Army used to tease him, by calling him "Saint Petraeus." He's been married for 37 years and Holly Petraeus, his wife, was the daughter of the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where General Petraeus went to school.
And she's an important figure, in her own right. She works at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; basically, counseling and educating military families on financial affairs. And I have to read - because it's so sad - I have to read this line from General Petraeus' letter to the CIA workforce: "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."
BLOCK: A timing question here, Tom. Why this revelation now?
GJELTEN: Well, Melissa, we have an idea. We know, from our own sources, that evidence of this affair came up in the course of an FBI investigation. And in the course of that investigation, the investigators found, according to our sources, hundreds of - maybe thousands - of emails between General Petraeus and this woman with whom he was having an affair. That would certainly catch the bureau's attention because it raises the possibility of someone getting unauthorized access to classified information. That could be a big security risk, and it would be the FBI's responsibility to check into it. So apparently, it was not just General Petraeus coming forward on his own. The FBI knew all about this affair.
BLOCK: The resignation of David Petraeus, Tom, comes in the midst of a lot of questions about the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, back in September; and the administration's response to that. The CIA, a big part of that complicated picture; and hearings are coming up on that - on that very issue.
GJELTEN: Next week, in fact, and General Petraeus was supposed to testify. And he would have been a very important witness because - as you say, the CIA has emerged as a key agency. Some of the big security decisions before - and during - the Benghazi assault were CIA decisions. Two of the four Americans killed were CIA contractors. General Petraeus took a lot of responsibility for this. And that gave the Obama administration some cover, precisely because he was very highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats. But now, this raises a question of whether General Petraeus will be testifying, or whether he's out of it. He has resigned; he's now a private citizen.
BLOCK: Who's will be replacing him at the CIA?
GJELTEN: The acting director will be - is Michael Morell, who was the deputy director of the CIA, under General Petraeus. He's a 32-year veteran of the agency. It's unlikely, however, that he would stay in that position permanently. Generally, the CIA director comes from outside the agency.
BLOCK: Tom, thank you.
GJELTEN: You bet.
BLOCK: That's NPR's Tom Gjelten, on the news that CIA Director David Petraeus has resigned because of an extramarital affair.