FBI director nominee Comey defends FISA court, surveillance in Senate hearing

by
July 10, 2013

James B. Comey Jr., a former George W. Bush administration official and now President Obama’s nominee for FBI director, defended the approval by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of surveillance programs and dismissed arguments that the court was a “rubber stamp.”

“Anyone who knows federal judges and has appeared before federal judges knows that calling them a rubber stamp shows you don’t have experience,” Mr. Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing. He said the court did not operate in a vacuum and was subject to checks and balances.

“That combination of judicial involvement, congressional oversight, [inspector general] oversight, results in a very effective regime,” he said, but promised to work with Congress to improve laws related to the government’s surveillance activities.

Mr. Comey, 52, who served as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, said he was not familiar with the specific details of the government’s recently publicized telephone and Internet surveillance programs — having been out of government for the past eight years — but thought the collection of that type of information could be a “valuable tool” in combatting terrorist threats.

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