Criminal Justice

Reported nominee for FBI chief signed off on waterboarding, ACLU says

President Obama’s reported nominee to head the FBI, former Justice Department official James Comey, is being criticized by some civil liberties groups.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Obama planned to nominate Comey, formerly a deputy attorney general, U.S. attorney, hedge fund official and general counsel at Lockheed Corp. The Times said the planned nomination of Comey, a Republican, was “a strong statement about bipartisanship.”

Since then, two civil liberties groups have criticized Comey, report the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The American Civil Liberties Union said Comey had approved “enhanced interrogation techniques that constitute torture, including waterboarding.” The Center for Constitutional Rights said Comey had defended a secret order that sent a Canadian man to Syria, where he was tortured.

Previous coverage said Comey objected to some of the harsh interrogation methods for suspected terrorists, but agreed they were legal under a 1994 anti-torture law.

Others cite Comey’s independence in challenging two White House officials who went to the hospital in an attempt to persuade an ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize a warrantless wiretap program. Comey, who was serving as acting attorney general, rushed to the hospital to help his ill boss ward off the two officials.

Ashcroft praised Comey in an interview with the Post, saying he is “a rule-of-law guy. The Constitution really means something to him.” Another one-time colleague, former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, said Comey is “an innate manager. In a crisis, he’s almost like the baseball players who say they see the ball slow down and know when to hit it. He sees things more clearly and calmly than just about anyone I’ve ever met.’’

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