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Petraeus tells senators he wanted CIA job

By the CNN Wire Staff
Gen. David Petraeus speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Gen. David Petraeus speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
  • NEW: Petraeus backs enhanced interrogation in "ticking bomb" scenario
  • Gen. Petraeus says he will retire from the military if confirmed as CIA director
  • Petraeus pledges independence from the military as director of the spy agency
  • He is leaving the job of commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan

Washington (CNN) -- Gen. David Petraeus told his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday that "I wanted this job" as he explained his willingness to retire from the military after 37 years to become CIA director.

The 58-year-old commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan told the Senate Intelligence Committee he would lead the nation's largest intelligence agency fully independent of his ties to the military.

Petraeus acknowledged that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is the "leader of the intelligence community," and that the CIA plays a major role in U.S. intelligence gathering, but is part of a larger team.

He assured the committee that under his leadership, the CIA would be "relentless" in pursuing intelligence needed by the government, and said that serving as director of dedicated CIA personnel "would be a tremendous honor and a tremendous privilege."

Afghan withdrawal more 'aggressive' than military wanted

Asked about enhanced interrogation techniques widely considered to be torture, Petraeus reiterated his past opposition to them, saying methods permitted in the military interrogation manual he helped oversee have proven effective.

Petraeus talks Afghan withdrawal plan

However, Petraeus said enhanced techniques could be considered in a so-called "ticking bomb" scenario -- such as questioning someone who planted a nuclear device in New York set to go off in 30 minutes.

"I do think there is a need at the very least to address the possibility," Petraeus said of such a scenario. He called for discussing and working out a process ahead of time that would enable authorization from top leadership in order to prevent lower-level officials from being forced to consider the matter while "reacting under extreme pressure."

Petraeus assumed command of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan on July 4, 2010, after serving for more than 20 months as commander of United States Central Command. He previously commanded multinational forces in Iraq, leading the so-called "surge."

During his time commanding the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, he oversaw the development of the Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, and his experience in working with the CIA on counterinsurgency efforts in the field was cited as a reason for his nomination by President Barack Obama to succeed Leon Panetta, who will take over as defense secretary when Robert Gates steps down at the end of June.

Committee members praised Petraeus for his military successes and indicated no opposition existed to his nomination.

If confirmed, Petraeus would continue overseeing the Afghanistan mission during the first phase of troop withdrawals beginning in July before retiring his commission to be a civilian head of the nation's top spy agency.