Updated Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 05:51 AM
DOVER, Fla. — The FBI agent who helped start the investigation that led to the resignation of David H. Petraeus as CIA director is a "hard-charging" veteran counterterrorism investigator who, while based in Seattle, used his command of French in investigating the foiled "millennium" terrorist plot in 1999, colleagues said on Wednesday.
The agent, Frederick W. Humphries II, 47, took the initial complaint from Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Fla., hostess who was socially active in military circles there, about e-mails she found disturbing that accused her of inappropriately flirtatious behavior toward Petraeus. The subsequent cyberstalking investigation uncovered an extramarital affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, his biographer, who agents determined had sent the anonymous e-mails. It also ensnaredGen. John R. Allen, who now commands troops in Afghanistan, after the investigation discovered that he had sent "inappropriate communication" to Ms. Kelley.
Colleagues and news reports described the role of Humphries, in just his third year at the FBI, in building the case against Ahmed Ressam, who was detained as he tried to enter the United States from Canada in 1999 with a plan to set off a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.
In May 2010, after he had moved to the Tampa field office, Humphries was attacked outside the gate of MacDill Air Force Base by a disturbed knife-wielding man. He fatally shot the man, and the shooting was later ruled to be an appropriate use of force, according to bureau records and colleagues.
Former law enforcement colleagues said Humphries was a solid agent with experience in counterterrorism, conservative political views and a reputation for aggressiveness.
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."
Hamilton said was "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. "Fred never got tired. He would work until the job was done."
Humphries was a patriot for his country, Hamilton said.
"Fred is a passionate kind of guy," said another former colleague. "He's kind of an obsessive type. If he locked his teeth onto something, he'd be a bulldog."
That description would appear to fit his involvement in the current investigation.
Humphries passed on Ms. Kelley's complaint to the cybersquad in the Tampa field office but was not assigned to the case. He was later admonished by supervisors who thought he was trying to insert himself improperly into the investigation.
Convinced that the case was being stalled for political reasons, Humphries in late October contacted Representative Dave Reichert, a Republican from Washington State, where the FBI agent had worked previously, to inform him of the case. Reichert put him in touch with the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, who passed the message to the FBI director, Robert S. Mueller III.
Lawrence Berger, the general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, who spoke with Humphries, said that Humphries only received the information from Ms. Kelley and never played a role in the investigation.
Berger said that Humphries and his wife had been "social friends with Ms. Kelley and her husband prior to the day she referred the matter to him."
"They always socialized and corresponded," he said.
Berger took issue with news media reports that have said his client sent shirtless pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley.
"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," Berger said.
The photo was sent as a "joke" and was of Humphries "posing with a couple of dummies." Berger said the picture was not sexual in nature.
In regard to his client speaking with Cantor, Berger declined to address the issue, saying only that his client "had followed FBI protocols."
"No one tries to become a whistle-blower," he said. "Consistent with FBI policy, he referred it to the proper component."
A law enforcement official said that disclosing a confidential investigation even to members of Congress could violate FBI rules. But the official said Humphries's conduct was under review and that he had not been suspended or punished in any way.
On Wednesday afternoon, a man standing in the driveway of Humphries's home who appeared to be him said, in response to questions from a reporter for The New York Times, that his first name was not Fred. The man then walked into the house, closed the front door and did not respond to the door bell's being rung several times.
Information from Seattle Times reporter Steve Miletich was used in this report.
Michael S. Schmidt reported from Dover, Scott Shane from Washington, and Alain Delaquérière from New York. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
FBI Special Agent Fred Humphries was in charge of the Ressam case out of Seattle.
STEVE RINGMAN / THE SEATTLE TIMES
FBI agent Frederick W. Humphries II was in charge of the Ressam case out of Seattle. In this file photo, he leafs through evidence.