James Comey, Obama’s candidate to head the FBI, approved illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture. Forward!

Then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama disappointed some of his liberal supporters when he voted in 2008 to immunize our country’s giant telecommunications firms from any consequences of cooperating with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping scheme. Now, he’s nominating a champion of that scheme to head the FBI.

James Comey, who served as John Ashcroft’s deputy in the Bush II justice department, is getting a lot of love from liberals for a 2004 episode in which he faced down senior Bush administration officials who attempted to bulldoze his hospitalized boss into extending his approval of an as-yet undisclosed National Security Agency assault on the Constitution. The administration scaled the program back from whatever so appalled the bed-ridden Ashcroft to the apparently less ambitious but still unconstitutional effort revealed by the New York Times in 2005 — after they politely sat on the story for a year at the administration’s behest — and approved by Ashcroft and Comey.

It was the telcoms’ cooperation with the scaled-down, Comey-approved program that gave Barack Obama the opportunity to earn their gratitude with his vote to immunize them from the criminal and financial liability for their actions. Despite some serious misgivings, Comey also signed on to the Bush administration’s authorization of torture. So the guy that the Democratic president wants to run the FBI, the guy that Charlie Pierce calls “a legitimate choice to head the FBI,” the guy Josh Marshall says “came down on the side of the rule of law,” is a guy who has a history of approving illegal government activities up to and including crimes against humanity.

More and more, the Obama administration brings to mind a political version of the famous Aristocrats joke.

“What do you call them?”

“The Liberals.”

11 thoughts on “James Comey, Obama’s candidate to head the FBI, approved illegal warrantless wiretapping and torture. Forward!”

    1. I’m not disappointed by the administration, only by the liberal pundits swooning over a guy who signed off on torture and illegal wiretapping. As for the Obamans, we should probably be relieved they didn’t bring back Alberto Gonzales.

  1. Maybe the liberal pundits are swooning out of relief. Frankly, I’m not overly disappointed in the guy. With the history of the past decade (or so) you’d be hard-pressed to find someone without baggage.

    1. I’m confident that a lot of qualified people actually did not sign off on torture or on wiretapping programs later found to be illegal, and I think that signing off on torture and wiretapping programs later found to be illegal are disqualifying factors.

  2. If you want to retain the ability to wiretap and torture, why would you appoint someone who hadn’t already signed off on wiretapping and torture? No brainer.

  3. The TPM link provides a mixed fan base:

    “When the full story of that period is ultimately declassified, I suspect I’ll be deeply troubled by some of the things Comey et. al did approve and sanction. I’m not under any illusion about that. And if you’re unhappy with the legal framework for counterterrorism under Obama in all its permutations — Gitmo, surveillance, drone strikes, etc. — then Comey doesn’t mark a departure from the status quo.”

    1. “When the full story of that period is ultimately declassified,” Marshall will likely be dead of old age and in no position to act on his conscience.

  4. Cute. Take out the throat clearing, he is saying that he will be deeply troubled. He isn’t under any illusion. And, the last point as to legal framework, and I don’t think TPM likes Gitmo so is a critic, doesn’t suggest a big “yay.”

    The idea is that that he’s a great guy. It is given the Overton Window, he has something going for him.

    1. I don’t see this as having anything to do with the Overton window. If a Republican president were to make the same appointment — someone who concurred with the legitimation of torture and the warrantless wiretaps — I have no doubt whatever that Marshall would declare it absurd. It’s homerism, pure and simple.

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