Senators Should Question Comey on Past Approval of Torture

Confirmation Hearing Also Provides Opportunity to Examine FBI's Record Since 9/11

July 8, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee should thoroughly examine the record of James Comey, President Obama's choice to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, during his first confirmation hearing tomorrow, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. As deputy attorney general during the Bush administration, Comey twice approved memos authorizing torture, including waterboarding, which President Obama outlawed when he took office in 2009.

"No one in law enforcement should be more committed to lawful interrogation tactics – and more opposed to waterboarding and other forms of torture and abuse – than the director of the FBI," said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "Waterboarding and other forms of torture are crimes. Senators must demand that Comey explain his role in the Bush torture program as well as his involvement in a scheme to protect torturers from prosecution."

The confirmation hearing will also provide an opportunity for senators to examine how the FBI has changed since September 11, 2001. Over the past 12 years, the ACLU has learned of persistent FBI abuses, including domestic spying, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, inappropriate investigations of political advocacy groups, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No Fly List to recruit informants.

"The confirmation hearing tomorrow is the perfect chance for senators to evaluate an FBI that has become a domestic intelligence agency with unprecedented power to peer into the lives of ordinary Americans and secretly amass data about them without any suspicion of wrongdoing," said Michael German, senior policy counsel at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office and a former FBI agent. "Senators should ask Comey what he would do to rein in a bureau that has abused its authority too often over the past 12 years. This is an important line of questioning considering Comey approved the warrantless wiretapping of Americans' international communications and other overbroad domestic spying during his time as deputy attorney general during the Bush administration."   

Click here for a more in-depth examination of James Comey's record.

Click here for the coalition letter to Senate Judiciary Committee raising concerns over James Comey's approval of waterboarding and other torture techniques.

Factsheet: The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11

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