General David Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA last Friday after an FBI investigation (into cyber-harassment) uncovered an affair he was having with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Both were married, and President Obama accepted Petraeus' resignation. On Friday Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wished the president hadn't accepted it, and this week the committee announced it will actually be investigating the FBI's investigation into the CIA director. Feinstein also wants Petraeus to testify about the Benghazi attack, which, before resigning, he was expected to do this week. Last week's presidential election did not abate the need to delegitimize questions about Benghazi, and that delegitimization is now moving forward to extend to questions about the mechanics and motives of power shifts in our government. MSNBC helpfully put together the four "wildest conspiracy theories" about Petraeus' resignation as the head of an agency for which obfuscation and secrecy is the name of the game. They came with the warning that "many are downright silly." Is 4 many?
1. He is trying to get out of testifying about Benghazi
Conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham suggested Petraeus' resignation is to get out of testifying about Benghazi. "COINCIDENCE?!" Ingraham tweeted. "Petraeus is set to testify NEXT week at a closed door session on Capitol Hill ab[ou]t Benghazi. Did [Obama] push him out? This stinks!"
2. Obama totally knew about the affair before the election, and lied about it
Conservative website Breitbart.com's Ben Shapiro is convinced the Petraeus affair demonstrates the Obama administration "hid information vital to the American people" during the last days of the election.
The fact that the most respected soldier of his generation, Petraeus, would be leaving the administration during an Obama second term, had to be known by the White House prior to the election," Shapiro continued. "And they said nothing in order to run out the clock… The Petraeus resignation is only the most recent evidence that the Obama administration will lie to the American people to achieve its ends.
The National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke repeated the claim, saying "Politics is politics, but if this Petraeus stuff wasn't known prior to the election, I"ll eat my shoes."
3. Someone was trying to destroy Petraeus' career
Wired's Noah Shachtman tweeted, "I hate to say I told you so but…" On Nov. 1, Shachtman took to Twitter to say "Wow. Someone is trying to end Dave Petraeus' career" and linked to aWall Street Journal piece called "CIA Takes Heat for Role in Libya." The story pointed out that Petraeus was missing from the ceremony honoring the four Americans killed in Benghazi.
4. He was being blackmailed.
Michael D. Shear of The New York Times notes that "Intelligence agencies are often concerned about the possibility that agents who engage in behavior [like having an affair] could be blackmailed for information." Fox News' Greta Van Susteren says "Why did he go public? Blackmail? The woman still 'friendly' or did she turn on him?"
How wild right?
It appears Eric Holder knew about the investigation in July. Government officials insist President Obama wasn't informed until last Thursday. The FBI, sources told Fox News, doesn't brief Congress or the White House on criminal investigations that don't involve a security threat. Why did Petraeus resign? The FBI's e-mail-based investigation into Petraeus' affair, meanwhile, has uncovered just how easy it is for the government to snoop through your e-mail, with the bonus tidbit that apparently the director of the CIA and his girlfriend used an email tactic popular among terrorists and teenagers of using draft e-mails in shared accounts to communicate. Wild.