The FBI agent who started the email inquiry that eventually led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus is known for his work in Seattle leading the investigation into millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam.
The FBI agent who initiated the investigation that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus said Thursday a shirtless photograph of him found in the email of Tampa socialite Jill Kelley “was a tongue-in-cheek joke” sent to dozens of friends and acquaintances and was meant to be self-effacing, not sexual.
The picture, which was sent to a reporter at The Seattle Times in 2010, was taken following a “hard workout” with the SWAT team at MacDill Air Force Base. He’s posed between a pair of target dummies that have a remarkable likeness to the buff agent. The caption on the photo, which was sent from a personal email account, reads, “Which One’s Fred?”
Humphries, who works out of the Tampa, Fla., FBI office, has found himself swept up in the intrigue and mystery surrounding revelations that Petraeus was having an affair with his biographer.
The relationship was revealed after Kelley went to Humphries, who is a family friend, with concerns over disturbing emails she had received. That email, it turned out, was sent by Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s lover.
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Humphries took Kelley’s concerns to the FBI cybercrime division, but later was worried that the FBI was dragging its feet — possibly for political reasons — and took his worries to U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.
Humphries’ actions have resulted in him being internally investigated for sending the picture and reprimanded for interfering in the Kelley investigation, according to sources.
Humphries has a history of bucking the system on principle, once agreeing to testify for the defense of convicted would-be “millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam about Ressam’s harsh treatment by the agent’s colleagues after the 9/11 attacks.
He was outspoken in opposing the FBI’s decision at the time to turn Ressam over to agents from New York after the attacks, and warned their tough tactics were undoing the cooperation Humphries had coaxed out of the al-Qaida-trained terrorist. Eventually, Ressam ceased cooperating, as Humphries predicted.
Humphries found himself sharply criticized within the bureau. He insisted he had done right and owed it to Ressam.
That same sense of right and duty may be what drove Humphries late last month to contact Reichert.
Reichert, R-Auburn, took Humphries’ concerns to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who took the message to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Congressional leaders have since complained that they weren’t told about the probe until Petraeus resigned three days after the election.
Humphries, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, acknowledged he sought out Reichert, through his former boss, retired Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Mandigo, but declined to elaborate.
Humphries said his motives were not political.
Humphries, 47, said he sent the photo to Kelley and others in the fall of 2010, shortly after he had transferred to the Tampa office from Guantánamo Bay, where Humphries had been an FBI liaison to the CIA at the detention facility there.
Indeed, among his friends and associates, Humphries was known to send dumb-joke emails in which the punch line was provided by opening an attached photo.
Mandigo confirmed he received a copy of the photo as well and described it as “joking.” The photo was sent from a joint personal email account shared by Humphries’ wife. Humphries said that, at one point, his supervisor posted the picture on an FBI bulletin board as a joke and that his wife, a teacher, has a framed copy.
Humphries joined the FBI after serving as an Army infantry and intelligence officer, leaving with the rank of captain. He had been with the FBI for just two years when he was made the case agent in the Ressam investigation, involving a 1999 plan to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.
The trial judge in the Ressam case, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, praised Humphries’ efforts and integrity repeatedly.
In Tampa, he and his wife also dipped into the party circuit that featured CENTCOM brass. In an October 2008 email to friends and acquaintances, including a Seattle Times reporter, he said they had just had “a phenomenal evening at a private residence on Davis Island with MG Jay Hood (former commander at GTMO; now Chief of Staff, CENTCOM) and General Petraeus. Also in attendance, Former Governor Bob Martinez, Mayors, who’s who in Tampa and the State of Florida.”
The email referred to the two generals as “great leaders.”
The New York Times quotes Humphries’ attorney, Lawrence Berger from the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, as saying that the Humphries and Kelleys socialized, and that was part of the reason Jill Kelley went to him about the troubling emails.
In May 2010, while an agent in the Tampa field office, Humphries shot and killed a disturbed, knife-wielding man outside the gate of MacDill Air Force Base, where Humphries was training with SWAT and special-forces soldiers.
In an email to The Seattle Times reporter several months later, Humphries described the incident.
“I had 4 seconds, that seemed like 40, to go through my mental checks,” he recalled. With cars and civilians around, he waited “’till he was five feet from me before firing two rounds … after repeatedly warning him.
“I worried it was a FT Hood scenario,” he said, referring to the shooting spree in 2009 at the Texas Army base that left 13 dead and dozens wounded. “I didn’t even have time to put on my ballistic vest. Crazy world.”
The shooting was deemed justified. Locally, Humphries is remembered as a driven and dedicated counterterrorism agent whose first big case was Ressam, during which he wound up traveling nearly 300,000 miles. Ressam is serving a 37-year sentence.
Humphries also was a key agent in the investigation into James Ujaama, a Seattle man who tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
Andrew Hamilton, a King County senior deputy prosecutor and former federal prosecutor in the Ressam case, said of Humphries on Wednesday, “I can honestly say he was one of the finest agents I have ever worked with.” He said “one of the reasons” Ressam cooperated with federal investigators “is the way he was treated by Fred Humphries.”
“I think Fred was very caring, he was honest and very professional,” Hamilton said of the agent’s dealings with Ressam. “Let me just say this, Fred never got tired,” Hamilton added. “He would work until the job was done.”
Staff reporter Steve Miletich and editor James Neff contributed. Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org