Comey: I Urged Not To Waterboard

FBI director nominee James Comey testifies that waterboarding is torture at a Senate committee hearing.

In front of a Senate panel on Tuesday, Obama’s nominee for FBI director, James B. Comey, said that while he was deputy attorney general under Dubya—and while he said it was OK to waterboard—he believed the tactic was torture. Now Comey thinks waterboarding is illegal, too. At the time, he said, it was difficult to label the technique illegal because the law itself was vague. Still, he says he told the administration to stop waterboarding. While Comey is a pick that’s actually received some bipartisan support, some Democrats are concerned with his time serving in the Bush administration.


"Mr. Comey’s nomination has received strong bipartisan support, but some Democrats and civil liberty groups have raised questions about his role in the Bush administration. Last week, two of the Democratic senators, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, sent a letter to Mr. Comey, expressing their concern about how he approved the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that included waterboarding.

On Tuesday, many of the senators appeared satisfied with Mr. Comey’s answers about waterboarding, and it does not appear that the Republicans will try to block his confirmation.

Mr. Comey distinguished himself from many members of the Bush administration — and significantly raised his national profile — when he testified before the same Senate committee five years ago. His testimony was perceived as repudiating government surveillance programs.

At the hearing, about the Justice Department’s firings of several United States attorneys, Mr. Comey riveted the senators by testifying about a 2004 episode in which he thwarted Bush administration officials from persuading his ailing boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, to sign off on an illegal data-collection program. Although Mr. Comey’s objections halted the program, it was later resumed under a similar legal framework, and senior Bush administration officials have said he raised few objections to other programs.

Mr. Comey did not provide new details about the incident on Tuesday, but he addressed the issue of government surveillance, which has become a thorny issue given a series of disclosures of classified programs by Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor. Mr. Comey also defended the use of surveillance programs to identify terrorists."

“I do know as a general matter that the collection of metadata and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counterterrorism,” he said.


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