Panetta: 'I'm Reading the Papers Like You Are' to Learn More About Petraeus

By Susan Jones | November 13, 2012 | 6:40 AM EST

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks to the media during a briefing aboard his airplane in flight over the Pacific Ocean en route from Honolulu to Perth, Australia, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)

( - Speaking with reporters on a flight to Perth, Australia Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was asked about the scandal engulfing Gen. David Petraeus, the man who replaced Panetta as CIA director.

Is there any indication that Petraeus' affair with Paula Broadwell started while he was on active duty in Afghanistan, and if so, would Panetta make the decision to prosecute him?

"You know, I don't know.  I don't know the answer to that," Panetta said. "I guess I'm reading the papers like you are to determine just what the (intelligence) committee finds out, what the ultimate investigation determines on that issue.

"We, you know -- we obviously are going to watch this closely to determine just exactly, you know, when that took place.  But 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 as to what exactly took place."

Panetta said as a former CIA director, "I believe that 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."

Asked if Petraeus should have resigned, Panetta said yes -- because "personal integrity comes first and foremost," given all the challenges the CIA director faces.

"I think it's really important to continue to have the CIA stay on track doing the job that is absolutely essential to our national security," Panetta said. "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."