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Opinion: Comey Shows Fierce Independence But Supports Phone, Internet Sweeps

James Comey

Michael E. Schmidt
New York Times

President Obama’s nominee for F.B.I. director, James Comey, faced a mostly friendly Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and he is almost assured confirmation given strong bipartisan support. But his tenure as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration raises important questions about his commitment to civil liberties and his independence in an office that demands unstinting devotion to both principles. As has been made all too clear in recent weeks, the relationship between American citizens and the government’s law-enforcement and intelligence agencies remains deeply damaged.

A short version of Mr. Comey’s work in the Bush administration might run like this: He did several highly questionable things and one unquestionably good thing — his effort in 2004 to stop President Bush’s chief of staff and the White House counsel, who had skulked into the hospital room of the ailing attorney general, John Ashcroft, to wrest his signoff on the administration’s warrantless data collection program.


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