Washington, D.C. – In response to reports that President Obama will nominate James Comey to be the next Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino said the following:
“If James Comey is confirmed to take the helm at the FBI, he will be responsible for making sure our nation’s federal law enforcement work is both effective and legal. Comey has been deservedly praised for objecting to some of the worst abuses of the Bush Administration, but his role in justifying unlawful practices relating to the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspect raises questions about his commitment to the FBI’s adherence to humane interrogation standards. At his confirmation hearing, Senators should ask him hard questions about his record.
“For example, the committee should further explore emails that have been released to the public and show Comey concurred in a May 10, 2005 Office of Legal Counsel memorandum that approved 13 CIA enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. 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.
“In addition, when he was Deputy Attorney General, Comey defended the unlawful detention of Jose Padilla, who was held for several years without charge or trial in a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. During his confirmation, Comey should make clear that it is not lawful or appropriate to hold individuals who are picked up in the United States and unconnected to an armed conflict in indefinite detention without charge or trial.”