Panetta: Petraeus resignation ‘right step’

The resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus was the “right step," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who preceded Petraeus as CIA chief.

Panetta made his first comments on the Petraeus scandal Monday on his way to Australia. He told reporters it was a “sad situation” but that the resignation was the proper action to take under the circumstances.

“My heart obviously goes out to him and his family, but I think he took the right step and I think it's 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,” Panetta said, according to CNN, which posted a transcript of the exchange.

Petraeus was tapped to become CIA director last year as Panetta's successor when Panetta left the CIA to lead the Defense Department. 

Panetta was asked about potential military implications of the affair for the former four-star general, as adultery is a violation in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Panetta did not speculate on possible military discipline, saying that the Pentagon would “watch this closely.”

Reports have indicated that the affair with Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell did not begin until he retired from the military to become CIA director, which would mean the UCMJ would not apply.

“I think right now my view is let's see what the investigation turns up and what the Congress, these committees are able to determine just exactly what took place,” Panetta said.

Asked about lawmaker criticism that the Intelligence committees were not notified of the investigation, Panetta said that was another issue “we ought to look at.”

“As a former director of the CIA and having worked 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 the security of those intelligence operations,” Panetta said.