James B. Comey Jr., a former George W. Bush administration official and now President Obamaâ€™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 â€œrubber stamp.â€
â€œAnyone who knows federal judges and has appeared before federal judges knows that calling them a rubber stamp shows you donâ€™t have experience,â€ 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.
â€œThat combination of judicial involvement, congressional oversight, [inspector general] oversight, results in a very effective regime,â€ he said, but promised to work with Congress to improve laws related to the governmentâ€™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 governmentâ€™s recently publicized telephone and Internet surveillance programs â€” having been out of government for the past eight years â€” but thought the collection of that type of information could be a â€œvaluable toolâ€ in combatting terrorist threats.
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