'Shirtless' FBI agent in Petraeus scandal has links to Port Angeles al-Qaida arrest
The Seattle Times via The Associated Press (click to enlarge)
This undated photograph obtained by The Seattle Times shows FBI Special Agent Frederick W. Humphries posing with target dummies following a SWAT practice in an unknown location. The Times says Humphries sent the photograph to friend and Florida socialite Jill Kelley and others, including one of the paper's own reporters, in an email Sept. 9, 2010.
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SEATTLE — An FBI agent formerly assigned to the Seattle office contacted a former law-enforcement-colleague-turned-congressman to advance emails incriminating the CIA director in an extramarital affair.
Special Agent Frederick Humphries — who made a name for himself in federal circles for his interrogations of terrorist Ahmed Ressam after Ressam was captured in Port Angeles in 1999 — (see related story at left — was identified this week as the agent who sent the emails to U.S. Rep. David Reichert, R-Auburn.
Reichert was King County sheriff when Humphries served in the Seattle FBI office.
Humphries' and Reichert's connections are the latest turn in a complicated affair that has led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair and the involvement of Marine Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, who allegedly had sexually explicit email exchanges with Tampa, Fla., socialite and friend Jill Kelley.
Humphries, the Tampa-based FBI special agent who was identified Wednesday night by law enforcement colleagues, took the initial complaint from Kelley, who is active in Tampa-St. Petersburg military circles, about anonymous emails that accused her of inappropriately flirtatious behavior toward Petraeus.
The FBI's subsequent cyberstalking investigation uncovered an extramarital affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, his biographer, who agents determined had sent the anonymous emails to Kelley.
Humphries, apparently disturbed that upper echelons in the FBI were holding up the email investigation — possibly, he thought, for political reasons as the Nov. 6 election neared — contacted Reichert through retired Seattle FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Mandigo late last month.
Reichert relayed Humphries' concerns to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who discussed the matter with Humphries and then took the matter to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Other congressional leaders since have complained that they weren't told about the probe until Petraeus resigned three days after the election.
Kelley, a friend of Humphries and his wife, first contacted Humphries last summer about the emails, according to Humphries and news reports.
Humphries referred Kelley's complaint to the bureau's cybercrime unit and was not directly involved in the investigation, The New York Times reported.
Separate reports in The New York Times and The Seattle Times quoted sources as saying that Humphries decided to go outside the bureau when his concerns about the progress of the investigation — which he believed involved national security — were met with an internal investigation into his shirtless photograph found in Kelley's email.
Lawrence Berger, general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association who is acting as Humphries' lawyer, told The New York Times:
“That picture was sent years before Ms. Kelley contacted him about this, and it was sent as part of a larger context of what I would call social relations in which the families would exchange numerous photos of each other.”
The photo was sent as a joke, he said, and was of Humphries “posing with a couple of [target] dummies.”
Berger added that it was not sexual in nature and was sent to Kelley and dozens of other friends and acquaintances — including a Seattle Times reporter, Mandigo and his wife — in the fall of 2010, shortly after Humphries had transferred to the Tampa office from Guantanamo Bay, where he had been an FBI liaison to the CIA at the detention facility in Cuba.
In May 2010, after he had moved to the Tampa field office, Humphries fatally shot a knife-wielding man near a gate to MacDill Air Force Base on Tampa Bay.
A state prosecutor declined to prosecute the case, and the Justice Department's civil rights division and an internal FBI review board each also found that the use of force had been justified, according to bureau records.
“I worried it was a Fort Hood scenario,” Humphries 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.”
In regard to his client's speaking with Rep. Cantor, Berger declined to address the issue, saying only that Humphries “had followed FBI protocols.”
“No one tries to become a whistleblower,” Berger said.
“Consistent with fBI policy, he referred it to the proper component.”
Cantor said he had no intention of “politicizing” the tip from an FBI agent whom he did not name.
“The information that was sent to me sounded as if there was a potential for a national security vulnerability,” the House majority leader said.
Notes from The New York Times and The Seattle Times were used in the compilation of this report.
Special Agent Frederick W. Humphries II, now 47, was assigned to the Seattle FBI office the night of Dec. 14, 1999, and used his classroom French to interrogate Ahmed Ressam, who had just brought a rental car loaded with explosives off the MV Coho ferry from Victoria.
At the time, Humphries' time —three years — with the FBI was considered short, but his fluency in French was vital in interrogating Ressam, a French-speaking Algerian.
In fact, it was Humphries who determined that the man who then insisted he was a Canadian named Benni Noris was speaking an Algerian dialect of French, not Quebecois.
Flash forward to 2012.
Humphries was identified by law enforcement colleagues as the FBI agent who took the initial complaint from Jill Kelley.
She is a Tampa woman active in Florida military circles and a personal friend — Humphries included her in a joke email to friends in 2010 showing him shirtless next to two shirtless target dummies — who received emails that accused her of inappropriately flirtatious behavior toward Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director.
The subsequent cyberstalking investigation uncovered an extramarital affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, his biographer, who agents determined had sent the anonymous emails.
The scandal also ensnared Gen. John R. Allen, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, after FBI agents discovered what a law enforcement official described as sexually explicit email exchanges between him and Kelley.
But more than a decade ago, Humphries, a former Army paratrooper from Steilacoom near Tacoma, helped set up a command center at William R. Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles following the Ressam arrest.
The next day, he accompanied the Algerian in a Clallam County sheriff's car to Seattle, where interrogation continued for months.
He obtained a wealth of intelligence from Ressam that triggered investigations of alleged al-Qaida operatives from Paris to Guantanamo Bay.
When Ressam stopped talking to Humphries and other interrogators after a couple of years, Humphries agreed to testify for the defense about Ressam's harsh treatment by the agent's colleagues after the 9/11 attacks, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.
That trial was held in Los Angeles and also included testimony from customs inspectors who collared Ressam for bringing the explosives in a rented Chrysler 300M off the Coho and then leading them on a foot chase through downtown Port Angeles.
Ressam finally was tackled by customs inspector Mike Chapman.
Chapman left the customs service shortly afterward and recently was re-elected to his fourth four-year term as a Clallam County commissioner.
After years of quashed sentencings and legal maneuvers that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ressam, now 45, finally was sentenced Oct. 23 to 37 years in federal prison, including time served, for plotting to blow up the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport around the turn of the millennium.
Earlier in the investigation, Humphries was outspoken in opposing the FBI's decision to turn Ressam over to senior agents from New York after the 9/11 attacks and warned that their tough tactics would stop the cooperation that Humphries had coaxed out of him.
Eventually, Ressam ceased cooperating, as Humphries predicted.
After his defense testimony, Humphries found himself sharply criticized within the FBI.
He insisted he had done right and owed it to Ressam, the man with whom he spoke just four hours after Ressam drove off the Coho ferry and into the clutches of the customs inspectors in Port Angeles.
According to investigation documents relating to the Ressam case, Humphries was phoned the night of Dec. 14, 1999, by fellow FBI Agent Patrick Gahan, who was in Port Angeles.
The suspect only identified himself as Benni Noris, a Canadian, and only spoke French.
Humphries, an American-born who learned French as a high school student in Canada, was needed.
Humphries obtained a copy of the standard arrest-rights card in French.
He phoned the customs staff in their trailer on Railroad Avenue in Port Angeles and spoke directly to the suspect on a speakerphone.
He quickly returned to a private conversation with Gahan after realizing Benni Noris' French accent was Algerian, not Quebecois.
Humphries, Gahan and customs officials decided to hold Noris/Ressam in Clallam County jail for investigation of using false identification.
It bought them time to sort this out.
The next day, at a command post at the Port Angeles airport, the federal agents received a faxed photograph from an FBI agent based in Ottawa that had been given to him by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
It appeared that Benni Noris wasn't who he said he was, based on the Canadian agencies' tracking and tracing of Ahmed Ressam and “other guys” suspected of being in a terrorist cell.
Seattle FBI Agent Humphries' first terrorism case turned out to be a big one, made even bigger by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Humphries and another FBI agent were in Algeria on 9/11 gathering evidence for Ressam's pending trial.
Altogether, Humphries traveled nearly 300,000 miles — to France, Algeria, Germany and England — establishing Ressam's links to Islamic terrorists.
That evidence led to Ressam's numerous court hearings and eventual conviction last month.
By then, Humphries was assigned to the Tampa field office.
He had moved on to forwarded emails about the CIA director.
Notes from The Seattle Times, The New York Times and The Associated Press were compiled for this report.
Last modified: November 16. 2012 2:56AM