Coleen Rowley has some questions for James Comey


J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building

In a July 8 op-ed for the New York Times, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley questioned the appropriateness of President Obama’s nomination of James B. Comey to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  She pointed out that Comey, despite initial reluctance, eventually did sign off on “most of the worst of the Bush administration’s legal abuses and questionable interpretations of federal and international law.”

He ultimately approved the C.I.A.’s list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding, which experts on international law consider a form of torture. He defended holding an American citizen, Jose Padilla, without charges for more than three years as an “enemy combatant,” and subjecting him to interrogation without counsel to obtain information from him. (Mr. Padilla was ultimately convicted of terrorism charges in civilian court.)

Rowley presented eleven excellent questions for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask of Comey at his confirmation hearing. “Can you explain why the F.B.I. has submitted requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for phone call data, even though the data is to be directly furnished to the N.S.A.? she asked. In the final question, she thoughtfully suggested a solution to the Constitutional crisis revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Officials say that great national harm will result from the disclosure of secret activities that are legally questionable. What do you think of this proposed remedy: The government should abide by international law and refrain from infringing on the rights of American citizens in the first place?

Photo by Cliff @Flickr, Creative Commons license.