Just a couple days after we learned about a nameless FBI agent who launched the investigation that eventually uncovered David Petraeus's extramarital affair, we know that agent's name: Frederick W. Humphries II. This is Jill Kelley's friend, the guy she called to look into a string of harassing emails that turned out to be from Paula Broadwell and the one who sent her shirtless pictures. He's the agent who grew "obsessed" with the investigation, and eventually called his old contact Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican from Washington State, to intervene. We imagined this FBI agent to be a man of mystery, a maverick, maybe a little bit crazy. We hate to break it to you, though. Frederick W. Humprhies II actually sounds like a bit of a Boy Scout. An obsessive Boy Scout, but a Boy Scout, nonetheless.
Indeed, Humphries found his way into the Petraeus mess entirely by chance. It was hardly his beat. Humphries, a former captain in Army intelligence, has been working on the FBI's counterterrorism unit for over a decade, and based on what we know about his record, he's pretty good at it. While working from the Bureau's Seattle office back in 1999, Humphries played a key role in bringing down Ahmed Ressam, the terrorist also known as Benni Norris also known as the Millenium bomber who tried and failed to bomb LAX airport that year under orders from Osama bin Laden. Locals were still sweeping up the broken glass from the World Trade Organization protests, when the Feds took the French-speaking Ressam into custody, but they had no idea who he was. Humphries, who went to high school and learned French in Canada, identified the suspect's accent as Algerian and the case unravelled from there.
A decade and change later, Humphries found himself working in Tampa, Florida, the hometown of Jill Kelley. It's unclear exactly how the two met, but The New York Times, who first reported on the agent's identity, described one episode in which a "disturbed knife-wielding man" attacked Humphries at the gate of MacDill Air Force Base, where Kelley "worked" as an "unpaid social liaison." Humphries shot and killed the man. This is perhaps part of how the paper came to describe Humphries as "a solid agent with experience in counterterrorism, conservative political views and a reputation for aggressiveness" based on interviews with his former colleagues. "Fred is a passionate kind of guy," said one of the agents. "He's kind of an obsessive type. If he locked his teeth onto something, he'd be a bulldog."
After speaking to Humphries, the FBI's general council Lawrence Berger was able to clear up some of the confusion about the veteran agent's role in the Petraeus investigation. At first, aside from relaying Kelley's reported harassment to the appropriate unit, Humphries played no role. Berger told the paper that Humphries and his wife were "social friends with Ms. Kelley and her husband prior to the day she referred the matter to him." Once the case began to grow into a major political scandal, however, Humphries came back into the picture with his call to Reichert and eventually a conversation with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who eventually contacted FBI director Robert Mueller. Nevertheless, Berger says that Humphries' actions "had followed FBI protocols." Berger added, "No one tries to become a whistle-blower."
Now about those shirtless photos. It was evidently had nothing to do with the Petraeus affair whatsoever. It was sent years before Ms. Kelley contacted him" about the harassing emails as just part of some silly game that Humphries and Kelley were playing "in which the families would exchange numerous photos of each other," Berger told The Times. It was a "joke." Just Humphries "posing with a couple of dummies."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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