Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Obama FBI Nominee Defends NSA's Dragnet Surveillance

Bush's former deputy attorney no defender of civil liberties, critics warn

Jacob Chamberlain

President Obama’s nomination for FBI director, James B. Comey, said before his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he supports the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance programs including the monitoring of U.S. citizens' phone calls and online communications.

Comey said that while he is currently "not familiar with the details of the current programs," he insisted that he does know "as a general matter" that "the collection and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counter-terrorism."

His comments come amid growing criticisms of the agency's all-encompassing spying techniques.

Later, while promising to be a "voice for transparency" and a protector of whistleblowers within the Bureau, Comey simultaneously suggested that the so-called "shield law," which protects journalists from having to reveal their sources, should be subject to exception in national security cases.

"I can only say with confidence that it's very important for the next director to continue the transformation of the FBI into an intelligence agency," Comey added during the three-hour hearing, which the Guardian's Spencer Ackerman said was more "like a coronation" than a confirmation hearing, where Comey enjoyed "very solid support."

Comey, a former deputy attorney general and federal prosecutor from the George W. Bush administration, also said that he believes the secretive FISA court system provides adequate checks and balances, particularly for the FBI. That same court, however, has come under vast scrutiny for its secretive and far reaching practices following NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's recent groundbreaking leaks—with the latest criticisms coming from a former FISA judge who spoke out against the program on Tuesday.

Pointing to Comey's record in the Bush administration, Laura W. Murphy, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington, wrote in the Guardian Tuesday that Comey is "hardly a poster-child for civil liberty."

Murphy writes:

While Comey deserves credit for stopping an illegal spying program in dramatic fashion, he also approved or defended some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration during his time as deputy attorney general. Those included torture, warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention.

A senior Bush administration official who worked closely with Comey told the New York Times that “he was quite comfortable with a whole bunch” of government surveillance programs and that he had repeatedly signed off on their authorization.

_______________________


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Policy of Death': Amazon Guardians Sue Ecuador's President Over Oil, Mining Decrees

"We are fighting to defend our territory, our rivers, our forest, our fish, and our animals," one Indigenous leader explained. "Without our forest and without water, we cannot live."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Just Cancel the Debt,' Advocates Say as Biden Admin Develops Strategy for Restarting Student Loan Payments

Student debt cancellation "is good economic policy that will change the lives of millions of families," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

Julia Conley ·


Green Public Spending a 'Win-Win Opportunity' for Climate and Workers, Global Study Shows

"It's really a no-brainer for the federal government to prioritize green investments to put our economy back on track," said one advocate. "It's good politics and good policy."

Kenny Stancil ·


After CIA Plot Revealed, Press Freedom Coalition Says DOJ Must Drop Assange Case

"A precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be used against publishers and journalists alike, chilling their work and undermining freedom of the press," said the groups.

Julia Conley ·


'Needlessly Provocative': Austin Rebuked for Again Opening NATO Door to Ukraine and Georgia

"The Biden administration now faces a stark choice: commit to fight for Ukraine, creating a serious risk of war with Russia, or admit that NATO expansion has come to an overdue end."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo