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Obama picks former Bush official James Comey as new FBI director

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Barack Obama is preparing to name a former Bush administration who was heavily involved in some of the most controversial issues of that era, including illegal wiretapping and torture, as the new director of the FBI.

But the Obama administration will emphasise that James Comey, who was deputy attorney-general under Bush, was among a small group inside the administration who opposed wiretapping and the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

Since leaving the Justice Department, Comey has been working as a hedge fund manager and lecturer.

Comey, 52, is set to replace Robert Mueller, who has headed the agency since the week before the 9/11 attack and is due to step down in September.

The expected nomination comes at a time when the agency is under siege on a series of issues ranging from seizure of the phone records of journalists to failure to follow-up on Russian warnings about the alleged Boston bomb attackers.

The White House has not officially announced Comey will get the nomination but it was first reported by NPR and confirmed by other media organisations.

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Comey, a registered Republican, may find it easier to get through the Senate nominating process than if Obama had opted for a Democratic-leaning appointee.

Earlier this year, Lisa Monaco had been touted in the media as a possible first female head of the FBI but she is instead staying as a White House counter-terrorism adviser. Her nomination would have risked becoming bogged down in Senate questions over the Benghazi killings.

The ranking Republican on the Senate judiciary committee in charge of the nominating process, Chuck Grassley, welcomed the prospect of having Comey in charge of the FBI, but warned that he would face questioning over his links with Wall Street.

In a statement, Grassley said Comey had a lot of experience of national security issues. “But, if he’s nominated, he would have to answer questions about his recent work in the hedge fund industry. The administration’s efforts to criminally prosecute Wall Street for its part in the economic downturn have been abysmal, and his agency would have to help build the case against some of his colleagues,” Grassley said.

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Comey, who was deputy attorney-general from 2002 to 2005 at a time of panic over terrorism in the wake of 9/11, became a hero for many liberals for standing up to senior Bush administration officials over wiretapping. At one point, he was involved in a dramatic encounter in a hospital ward in 2004, visiting the then ailing attorney general John Ashcroft, to ensure that Bush administration officials would not take advantage of his condition to get him to sign off on an extension of the wiretaps.

Testifying before the Senate judiciary committee in 2007, Comey said he had refused to the extension on constitutional grounds, and that Ashcroft, too, had reservations. Comey threatened to resign.

“This was a very memorable period in my life; probably the most difficult time in my entire professional life. And that night was probably the most difficult night of my professional life,” he told the committee.

The day after the hospital encounter, George W Bush modified the wiretapping program to take account of Comey’s concerns.

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During his time at the justice department, he also fought to stop waterboarding and other interrogation techniques being used at Guantánamo. His concerns are recorded in emails that were later published.

His emails to Chuck Rosenberg, his chief of staff, in April and May 2005 show his opposition to the brutal interrogations being used.

After his stint at the Justice Department, he worked for Lockheed Martin and Bridgewater Associates, and then took up a teaching position at Columbia Law School. Before joining the Justice Department he held a prominent position as US attorney for the southern district of New York.

He was involved in a series of high-profile cases of white-collar crime, including the prosecution of Martha Stewart.

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As an assistant US attorney in Virginia, he was involved in the investigation of the 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia in which 19 US military staff were killed.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

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2020 Election

Biden tells billionaires that things wouldn’t change under his administration

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Don't worry, billionaires: your standard of living won't change under a Joe Biden administration.

That's the message the Democratic frontrunner delivered to donors Tuesday as he continued a fundraising trip in New York that saw him on Monday tell a room of wealthy Wall Streeters "you guys are great" and ask a Trump-loving supermarket magnate for support.

In Biden's comments Tuesday, the former vice president told a room of 100 of the New York financial elite, including bankers Robert Rubin and Roger Altman, both of whom worked in the Treasury Department under Democratic administrations, that he wasn't their enemy. According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Epstein, Biden took pains to separate himself from the rest of the field in his comments.

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Video of bear cub being stoned to death in Iran sparks outcry

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A video of a bear cub being stoned to death by villagers in Iran has sparked horror and prompted police action after it was posted online on June 16

In the video, taken in a forest in Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, around a dozen men are seen throwing stones at the cub, which appears to be in a state of shock. A woman can be heard calling for the group to stop. Later, some of the men are seen tying a cord around the unconscious bear and dragging it to the side of a road.

The video quickly went viral, and many online users began searching for the perpetrators.

A screenshot from the video.

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New details revealed in the bizarre story of Jerry Falwell Jr, a pool boy and ‘compromising photographs’

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The New York Times has put together a lengthy report about the utterly bizarre circumstances surrounding Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen, a former pool boy, and purportedly "compromising photographs."

The story begins in 2012 when Falwell and his wife enjoyed a stay at the Fontainebleau, a Florida luxury resort known for topless sunbathing and a massive underground nightclub described by one travel guide as "30,000 square feet of unadulterated fun."

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