The career of David Petraeus, the CIA director and renowned general, was derailed by allegedly vicious e-mails his lover sent to another woman.
Now the CIA, FBI and White House face questions from Congress about Mr Petraeus’ love life and how his e-mails came under investigation.
And Mr Petraeus may not be done with Capitol Hill himself.
He quit his post on Friday night after acknowledging an extra-marital relationship.
“It was like a lightning bolt,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, who leads the Senate intelligence committee and planned to have Mr Petraeus testify this week on the 11 September attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.
Ms Feinstein said she first learned of Mr Petraeus’ affair from the media late last week and was dumbstruck when he confirmed it in a telephone call on Friday. She said she has since been briefed by the FBI but wants to know why the bureau didn’t notify her sooner that the CIA chief was at the centre of a serious inquiry.
“We are very much able to keep things in a classified setting,” she said yesterday. “At least if you know, you can begin to think and then to plan. And, of course, we have not had that opportunity.”
Mr Petraeus had been scheduled to appear before the intelligence committees on Thursday to testify on what the CIA knew and what it told the White House before, during and after the attack in Benghazi.
Meanwhile, the CIA’s deputy director Michael Morell and the FBI’s deputy director, Sean Joyce, also will be asked for answers about who they informed and when in the Petraeus investigation, in meetings with congressional intelligence committee leaders this Wednesday, according to a senior intelligence committee aide.
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was told by the justice department of the Petraeus investigation on election night, and then called Mr Petraeus and urged him to resign, according to a senior US intelligence official.
But the FBI did not inform the committees that oversee the CIA until Friday, after the news about Mr Petraeus broke.
FBI officials have explained that the committees weren’t informed, one official said, because the matter started as a criminal investigation into harassing e-mails sent by Mr Petraeus’ biographer, Paula Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the US Military Academy and an army reserve officer, to another woman.
The identity of the other woman and her connection with Ms Broadwell were not immediately known, but that probe led agents to Ms Broadwell’s e-mail, which uncovered the relationship with Mr Petraeus, a 60-year-old retired four-star general.
Concerned that the e-mails he exchanged with Ms Broadwell raised the possibility of a security breach, the FBI brought the matter up with Mr Petraeus directly.
He decided to quit, although he was breaking no laws by having an affair, officials said.
“He decided he needed to come clean with the American people,” said Steve Boylan, a retired army officer and former Petraeus spokesman who talked with him this weekend. In a phonecall, Mr Petraeus lamented the damage he’d done to his “wonderful family” and the hurt he’d caused his wife, Boylan said. Mr Petraeus has been married for 38 years to Holly Petraeus.