Like a set of Russian dolls, in which each doll contains a slightly smaller version of itself hidden inside, the sex scandal that forced
Since Friday, we've been deluged with tantalizing details about the affair between Mr. Petraeus, 60, and
Initial reports indicated that Mr. Petraeus had stepped down after
But the FBI found no evidence of a crime or national security threat in their correspondence, and as a result Mr. Petraeus, who had broken off the relationship with Ms. Broadwell by then, apparently believed he could continue on as head of the CIA as long as the matter remained secret.
And that is where things get tricky. The FBI says its investigators did not report Mr. Petraeus' affair to higher-ups in the
Neither Mr. Clapper nor Mr. Petraeus has said why Mr. Petraeus had to resign even though the affair and the FBI investigation that uncovered it had not been made public until then. The only reasonable explanation for Mr. Petraeus' abrupt departure is that they knew it would soon come out and wanted to get ahead of events to minimize the political damage from the scandal.
That suggests they already knew someone in the FBI had leaked the story, and the most likely person to have done so is the as-yet-unidentified agent in
In an even more bizarre twist, on Tuesday the Pentagon announced that the FBI had discovered between 20,000 and 30,000 "potentially inappropriate" emails between Ms. Kelley and Gen.
What the heck is going on here? Why did Ms. Kelley's FBI contact report the investigation of Mr. Petraeus to Mr. Cantor's office even though he had been off the case, and what was Mr. Cantor's role in potentially making that information public? What was the relationship between General Allen and Ms. Kelley that raised such red flags for Mr. Panetta that he was willing to derail one of the military's most important command appointments? And what other scandals may be lurking just out of view, waiting to throw a monkey wrench into the heart of the country's military and intelligence establishment?
It's hard to believe something as trivial as extramarital fling between a powerful official and a younger woman could wreak such havoc, and it's inevitable that conspiracy theorists on the right and on the left will interpret what happens next in light of their particular obsessions and paranoia. Already, some
One needn't subscribe to such an outlandish theory to suspect there are forces at work that we still can't quite see, a common denominator that ties all the pieces of this unexpected scandal in a way that makes sense. We can accept that Mr. Petraeus may have resigned simply because he felt he had violated his own personal code of honor in entering into an affair with Ms. Broadwell, and we can respect him for that decision.