Former CIA Director David Petraeus has expressed regret anew in an appearance that marked his first official business since he resigned in disgrace over an extramarital affair.
The former four-star general was sneaked into a secure room beneath the US Capitol in Washington DC to escape a clamorous crowd of photographers and television cameras. After more than four hours, Gen Petraeus was seen departing in a two-vehicle motorcade.
About 20 minutes later, Gen Petreaus was photographed entering his home - one of the only public images of him since he resigned.
The scandal over Gen Petraeus' affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, has preoccupied Washington, coming at a delicate time in the war in Afghanistan and even as the possibility of war loomed in Israel.
The US government also is facing a market-rattling "fiscal cliff", as a convergence of tax hikes and spending cuts are coming due with the new year and could imperil the economy.
So far, the scandal has ensnared Gen Petraeus; the top American commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen; two Florida socialites; and a decorated FBI counter-terrorism agent.
The White House acknowledged Friday that Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite who inadvertently triggered the FBI investigation that uncovered Gen Petraeus's affair, visited the Executive Mansion three times in the last three months with her sister, Natalie, twice eating in its cafeteria.
Ms Kelley and her sister, both are friends with Gen Petraeus and Gen Allen, were guests of a mid-level White House aide, according to an Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because those visitor records have not yet been made public. Ms Kelley and her family also received a tour of the mansion. The White House also acknowledged that Ms Broadwell visited there twice since 2009.
In his Capitol Hill appearances, Gen Petraeus, who was among America's most respected military leaders, discussed with the House and Senate intelligence committees the September attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead.
He did not discuss his adultery with Ms Broadwell, except to say that he regretted his behaviour and that his departure was unrelated to the deadly violence in Libya. The scandal has led to a new CIA internal investigation. He was very clear his resignation was tied solely to his personal behaviour," said Sen Mark Udall, a member of the Intelligence Committee. "He was apologetic and regretful but still Gen Petraeus."