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Obama to officially nominate Comey for FBI

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President Obama on Friday will officially nominate James B. Comey to lead the FBI, a White House official said, tapping a former member of the Bush administration to oversee the country's top law enforcement agency at a time when it's facing new pressures over secrecy and snooping.

Mr. Comey was deputy attorney general when the Bush administration was enmeshed in how to handle thorny legal questions on the war on terrorism, and his expected nomination has already won praise from both sides of the aisle.

If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace departing Director Robert S. Mueller III, who is the second-longest serving chief, behind the legendary J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Comey's official nomination will now begin a three-month sprint as lawmakers try to have the new director in place before Mr. Mueller leaves in September.

Mr. Comey, 52, has earned a reputation for not allowing partisan politics to get in the way of his job.

He played a role in one of the more dramatic moments of the Bush administration's war on terrorism when he raced to the hospital to head off two White House officials who were trying to get then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, weak from surgery, to sign off on a domestic surveillance program.

"He's a very strong individual, devoted to the Constitution, focused on the rule of law, and with a backbone that would make steel jealous," Mr. Ashcroft said of his former deputy, speaking last month when Mr. Comey's nomination was first leaked.

The American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns over Mr. Comey, saying he supported some of the harsh interrogation techniques that were used to extract intelligence.

Mr. Mueller, with the blessing of all sides, has already served two years beyond the 10-year term, and has won bipartisan praise for how he handled the job he took over shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Comey was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York before coming to Washington to serve as deputy in the Justice Department. He was deputy from 2003 to 2005.

"Coupled with his career in public service, Jim's private sector experiences in the defense and financial industries have given him a unique skill set and a deep understanding of the threats that criminals and terrorists pose to both our physical and economic security," said the White House official who revealed details of Mr. Obama's Friday announcement.

Mr. Comey graduated from the College of William and Mary and earned his law degree from the University of Chicago.

Among his famous cases as U.S. attorney in New York was the insider-trading prosecution of Martha Stewart.

Before that he served in the U.S. attorney's office managing the Richmond division of the Eastern District of Virginia, where he pushed Project Exile, which aggressively targeted federal gun crimes and was credited with reducing the city's homicide rate.

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