Senate Set to Confirm New FBI Head Who OK’d Waterboarding, Defends Mass Spying, Indefinite Detention
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NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what exactly did he mean by "incapacitate"?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Well, he made a reference to the way that we can hold mentally ill people through a different process rather than adjudicating criminal guilt. And he said if there’s a way to hold the mentally dangerous in—without—so that they’re not—so that we can maintain safety, there must be a way to do this with dangerous terrorist suspects.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: During Tuesday’s Senate confirmation hearing, FBI director nominee James Comey was also asked about domestic surveillance. He insisted that the secret Foreign Service Intelligence Act, or FISA, court provided effective congressional oversight.
JAMES COMEY: I think that folks don’t understand that the FBI operates under a wide variety of constraints, starting with the attorney general’s detailed guidelines on how it’s to conduct intelligence investigations, criminal investigations and counterintelligence investigations. I think sometimes folks also don’t understand what the FISA court is. They hear "secret court." Sometimes they hear "rubber stamp." In my experience, which is long, with the FISA court, folks don’t realize that it’s a group of independent federal judges who sit and operate under a statutory regime to review requests by the government to use certain authorities to gather information, and it is anything but a rubber stamp. Anyone who knows federal judges and has appeared before federal judges knows that calling them a rubber stamp is—shows you don’t have experience before them.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was FBI nominee James Comey. The FISA court issued almost 1,800 surveillance orders last year. Every single government request was approved. Coleen Rowley, your response to what Comey said?
COLEEN ROWLEY: Yes, and this number of FISA court orders is at over double what it was before 9/11. There’s a huge difference between when a criminal court carefully analyzes probable cause for purposes of monitoring and what the FISA court does.
I will go back to that hospital room standoff, because I think there’s a piece that the public does not understand about James Comey’s famous hospital standoff. He was not objecting to the massive data collection as much as he was just objecting to the legal footing of what had—what was probably John Yoo’s theory of unbridled executive power and the ability to override the FISA statute, to override Congress. It looks like there was a period of time before the FISA court got this blanket authority under the FISA Amendments Act to give—to rubber-stamp orders for—blanket orders for everyone’s telephone and email data. It looks like there was a period of time where James Comey authorized, went along with Bush’s massive data collection under a new theory. Goldsmith’s theory was that it was pegged to the Authorization to Use Military Force. And when they used that Authorization to Use Military Force, of course, to repeal parts of the FISA, none of the Congress would have understood that when they voted back in October 2001 to authorize the United States to go to war in Afghanistan, that they were also repealing a part of solid Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act law.
AMY GOODMAN: FBI nominee James Comey also discussed his position on whistleblowing.
JAMES COMEY: I think whistleblowers are also a critical element of a functioning democracy. Folks have to feel free to raise their concerns and, if they’re not addressed up their chain of command, to take them to an appropriate place.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s interesting, Coleen Rowley. Here we are talking about this as Edward Snowden is, we believe, still in the Russian airport applying for political asylum in many different countries. The Democratic senators congratulating Comey for his questioning of the wireless wiretapping—of warrantless wiretapping, and yet you don’t see anything like their same response when it comes to questioning what President Obama has been doing with the NSA.