President Obama is a civil rights advocate as well as a guardian for America’s safety and his choice of James Comey for FBI Director reflects that.
President Obama nominated James Comey in June 2013 to head the FBI because of his intergrity and fight for justice for all.
In 2004 James Comey threatened to resign as Acting Attorney General if the then White House under President George W. Bush (R) ignored the Department of Justice’s legal conclusions on the wiretapping under the Patriot Act which Preisdent George W. Bush signed into law on October 26, 2001.
Here is the Wikipedia section on James Comey’s NSA Domestic Wiretapping:
NSA domestic wiretapping
In early January 2006, The New York Times, as part of their investigation into alleged domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, reported that Comey, who was Acting Attorney General during the March 2004 surgical hospitalization of John Ashcroft, refused to “certify” the legality of central aspects of the NSA program at that time. The certification was required under existing White House procedures to continue the program.
After Comey’s refusal, the newspaper reported, Andrew H. Card Jr., White House Chief of Staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and future Attorney General, made an emergency visit to the George Washington University Hospital to attempt to win approval directly from Ashcroft for the program. According to the 2007 memoir of Jack Goldsmith, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, Comey went to the hospital to give Ashcroft support to withstand the pressure from the White House.
Comey confirmed these events took place (but declined to confirm the specific program) in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 16 May 2007.FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, like Comey, also supported Ashcroft’s decision; both men were prepared to resign if the White House ignored the Department of Justice’s legal conclusions on the wiretapping issue. FBI director Mueller’s notes on the March 10, 2004 incident, which were released to a House Judiciary committee, confirms that he “Saw [the] AG, John Ashcroft in the room. AG is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.” Comey withdrew his threat to resign after meeting directly with President Bush, who gave his support to making changes in the surveillance program.
New FBI pick condoned waterboarding, indefinite detention
7/07/13 11:00 PM Adam Serwer – msnbc
James B. Comey isn’t afraid to stand up to a president. So nominating him to replace Robert Mueller III as head of the FBI at a time when the Obama administration is facing hard questions over its civil liberties record is supposed to show that the president still prioritizes the rule of law and national security in equal measure.
“Jim understands that in time of crisis, we aren’t judged solely by how many plots we disrupt or how many criminals we bring to justice,” Obama said as he officially nominated Comey in June. “We’re also judged by our commitment to the Constitution that we’ve sworn to defend, and to the values and civil liberties that we’ve pledged to protect.”
Comey nearly resigned over domestic surveillance programs when he was deputy attorney general. But his reputation for defiance of Bush-era excesses in the fight against Al Qaeda may be overstated, and some civil liberties and human rights groups are considerably less impressed than the Obama administration.
“There are some very serious questions that need to be asked about the role that he’s played on various issues related to the detention, interrogation and surveillance of terrorism suspects during those years,” says Raha Wala, an attorney with Human Rights First, which hasn’t taken an official position on Comey’s nomination. “We’re certainly not attacking his character, but these are important questions that need to be asked.”
Comey was one of the few Bush-era officials willing to stand up to the Bush administration’s claim to near-unlimited power in the realm of national security. He considered resigning in 2004 over Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. But Comey’s service coincided with other Bush excesses in the war on terror, including torture and indefinite detention. An Inspector General’s report recently reviewed by The Guardian shows that even with warrantless surveillance, legal changes to the basis for secret bulk Internet metadata collection by the National Security Agency were enough to satisfy Comey, who stayed on as a Justice Department official for almost a year as the program continued as an exercise of unilateral power by the president.
“It seems to parallel the concerns with the torture memos, where it’s not so much that they’re offended by the conduct, or the legality of the conduct, but rather the sloppy legal opinions justifying the conduct,” says Mike German, a former FBI agent now with the ACLU, of the internal Bush administration arguments over warrantless surveillance. “In fact the illegal conduct was authorized to continue.” The ACLU does not take positions on nominations, but it is challenging the NSA’s current surveillance practices as unconstitutional.
October 28, 2013
Remarks by the President and FBI Director James Comey
12:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, FBI. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Please, everybody, be seated — those of you who have seats. (Laughter.)
Well, good afternoon, everybody. I am so proud to be here and to stand once again with so many dedicated men and women of the FBI. You are the best of the best. Day in and day out, you work tirelessly to confront the most dangerous threats our nation faces. You serve with courage; you serve with integrity. You protect Americans at home and abroad. You lock up criminals. You secure the homeland against the threat of terrorism. Without a lot of fanfare, without seeking the spotlight, you do your jobs, all the while upholding our most cherished values and the rule of law.
Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity: That’s your motto. And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day: Mr. Jim Comey.
Before I get to Jim, I want to thank all the predecessors who are here today. We are grateful for your service. I have to give a special shout-out to Bob Mueller, who served longer than he was supposed to, but he was such an extraordinary leader through some of the most difficult times that we’ve had in national security. And I consider him a friend and I’m so grateful for him and Ann being here today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Now, Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws — to making sure that all Americans can trust our justice system to protect their rights and their well-being. He’s the grandson of a beat cop. He’s the prosecutor who helped bring down the Gambinos. He’s the relentless attorney who fought to stem the bloody tide of gun violence, rub out white-collar crime, deliver justice to terrorists. It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security. So he’s got the resume.
But, of course, Jim is also a famously cool character — the calmest in the room during a crisis. Here’s what a fellow former prosecutor said about him. He said, “You know that Rudyard Kipling line — ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’– that’s Jim.”
Obama Announces Steps to Advance Surveillance Debate
Aug. 9, 2013 By Cheryl Pellerin – American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON– President Barack Obama today announced four steps that he said would move the public debate forward about classified government surveillance programs that gather data about the telephone records of Americans and others.
During an hour-long press conference at the White House, Obama said it is right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology reshapes every aspect of people’s lives.
“I’m also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas …,” he said. “In other words, it’s not enough for me as president to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well.”
Over the past few weeks the president said he has consulted with members of Congress, asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review tensions between counterterrorism efforts and American values, and directed the national security team to be more transparent and pursue reforms of laws and practices.
“Today,” Obama said, “I’d like to discuss four specific steps — not all inclusive, but some specific steps that we’re going to be taking very shortly to move the debate forward.”
These include the following –
1. The president will work with Congress to pursue reforms to Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, the program that authorizes collects the collection telephone records.
Obama called the program an important tool in the effort to disrupt terrorist plots that does not allow the government to listen to phone calls without a warrant.
“But given the scale of this program,” he said, “I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse.”
After speaking with members of Congress and civil libertarians, Obama said he thinks there are steps that can be taken to give Americans more confidence that there are safeguards against abuse.
“For instance,” he said, “we can take steps to put in place greater oversight, greater transparency and constraints on the use of this authority.”
2. The president will work with Congress to improve public confidence in oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.
Congress created this court to provide judicial review of certain intelligence activities so a federal judge must find that federal actions are consistent with the Constitution.
But to build greater confidence, Obama said, “I think we should consider some additional changes to the FISC. One of the concerns that people raise is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct programmatic surveillance only hears one side of the story — may tilt it too far in favor of security, may not pay enough attention to liberty.”
The president said looking at such issues from the perspectives of security and privacy might provide greater assurances to the public.
Specifically, he said, “we can take steps to make sure civil liberties, concerns, have an independent voice in appropriate cases by ensuring the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.”
3. The president said the government can and must be more transparent.
The president said he’s directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible.
“We’ve already declassified unprecedented information about the [National Security Agency] but we can go further,” he said. “So at my direction the Department of Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.”
The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer, Obama said, and release information that details its mission, authorities and oversight.
The intelligence community is also creating a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency, the president said.
“This will give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does and what it doesn’t do, how it carries out its mission and why it does so,” Obama said.
4. The president is forming a high-level group of outside experts to review all intelligence and communications technologies.
“We need new thinking for a new era,” Obama said. “We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in a haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments, including our own, unprecedented capability to monitor communications.”
The president is tasking the independent group to review U.S. capabilities, particularly surveillance technologies.
“They’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public,” Obama said.
The group will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by year’s end, he said, “so we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy and our foreign policy.”
To others around the world, Obama said he wants to make clear that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.
“Our intelligence is focused above all on finding the information that’s necessary to protect our people — and in many cases, protect our allies,” he said.
“It’s true, we have significant capabilities,” he added. “What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do …. That includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics.”
This is how the United States will resolve its differences, the president said. “Through vigorous public debate guided by our constitution, with reverence for our history as a nation of laws, and with respect for the facts.”
President Obama and various members of Congress are currently working to change laws on survelliance that were introduced by the 2001 Patriot Act:
Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Feinstein (D)
ANNA ESHOO (D) INTRODUCES BILL TO END SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS BY U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Bill to Reform NSA Spying Policies
Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers (R)
USA Freedom Act – Rep. Sesenbrenner (R)