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Obama’s FBI Pick Scrutinized for Past Approval of Spy Program, Torture

HeadlineMay 31, 2013

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for what it calls “careful scrutiny” of James Comey, the former Bush administration official reportedly tapped to head the FBI. In a statement, the ACLU says Comey approved some of the Bush administration’s “worst abuses” while he served in the Justice Department under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Comey has received praise for refusing to reauthorize the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program while serving as acting attorney general in Ashcroft’s place. But Comey had previously signed off on the spy program when it began, allowing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens without court warrants. Comey’s objection to reauthorization focused on an unspecified element of the spy program, and he ultimately gave his backing after the Bush administration agreed to make changes. In its statement, the ACLU also criticized Comey for approving U.S. torture techniques including waterboarding, as well as for helping oversee the prolonged indefinite detention of U.S. citizen José Padilla without charge or trial. The ACLU concludes: “Although Comey … deserves credit for courageously stopping the reauthorization of a secret National Security Agency program, he reportedly approved programs that struck at the very core of who we all are as Americans.”

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