The network pool traveling to Australia with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reports that Panetta commented for the first time about the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus. The comments were given during a mid-flight press conference:
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: “First, obviously, it was a very sad situation to have a distinguished career like that end in this manner. And my heart obviously goes out to him and his family, but I think he took the right step and I think its important when you’re director of the CIA with all the challenges that face you in that position, that personal integrity comes first and foremost.”
“With regards to the future, you know, having served there the first 2 years of this administration, I think its really important to continue to have the CIA stay on track doing the job that is absolutely essential to our national security. They have very important mission focused on intelligence and intelligence operations and I think it’s very important to get someone strong and capable and dedicated to be able to continue that effort. This is a critical time to make sure that with all the threats that we’re dealing with in the world, that we maintain a strong intelligence operation.”
REPORTER QUESTION: Any indications the Petraeus affair started while he was on active duty? Could he be prosecuted? Would that be your call? (NOTE: CNN has learned that the affair started after Petraeus was already serving as CIA director)
PANETTA: “You know, I don’t know the answer to that. I guess, I’m reading the papers like you are to determine just what the committees finds out, what the ultimate investigation determines on that issue. We obviously are going to watch this closely to determine just exactly when that took place. But I think right now my view is lets see what the investigation turns up and what the congress, these committees are able to determine just exactly what took place.”
REPORTER QUESTION: As a former member of congress – do you think Capitol Hill should have been briefed sooner?
PANETTA: “That’s another issue I think we ought to look at, because as a former director of the CIA and having working very closely with the intelligence committees, you know I believe there is a responsibility to make sure that the intelligence committees are informed of issues that could affect, you know the security of those intelligence operations.”