This week, Senators Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse wrote to James Comey, President Obama’s nominee for FBI Director, asking for clarification of his role in authorizing torture during his time as Deputy Attorney General in the Bush administration and what his views on the subject are today.
The Senators’ letter comes just days after Human Rights First and six other human rights organizations wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to question Mr. Comey on these subjects during his confirmation hearing on July 9.
As Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Comey approved Justice Department memos declaring 13 “enhanced interrogation” methods, including waterboarding, to be lawful, though he later raised concerns about those methods being used in combination, and he opposed their use on policy grounds.
Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino issued a statement calling on Mr. Comey to denounce torture and indefinite detention, and to support the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA interrogation program:
During his confirmation process, Comey should clearly denounce torture as unlawful and wrong in all circumstances and unequivocally repudiate this memorandum that justified torture and served as the basis for much of the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program. That program is the subject of an inquiry and 6,000 page report written by the Senate intelligence committee, a document that remains classified. Comey should also support release of this study.
Massimino urged senators to question Mr. Comey about his role in authorizing waterboarding and other forms of torture, and about his current views.
And today, five former agents who have worked in or with the FBI also called on members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to fully vet Comey’s views on detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. “Senators should ask Mr. Comey to explain and clarify these aspects of his record, which appear to be contrary not only to established law, but also the policies put forth by the current administration,” the agents wrote.
On his second day in office, President Obama signed an executive order barring all intelligence agencies and military services from using torture and harsh interrogation. Mr. Comey will have the opportunity next Tuesday to demonstrate unequivocally that he opposes torture.