Five Additional Questions for Jim Comey

Colleen Rowley has a great list of questions Jim Comey should be asked today in his confirmation hearing (I’ll be live-tweeting it, so follow the twitter feed over there. >>>>>>

Here are five questions I would add:

  1. The May 10, 2005 torture authorization you signed off (as well as the Combined of the same date one you objected to) on was retrospective. What were the circumstances of the treatment of this detainee? Was that detainee water-boarded, in spite of CIA claims only Abu Zubaydah, Ibn Rahim al-Nashiri, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were?
  2. Do you believe the High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) should be authorized to use “separation,” including modified sleep deprivation, to coerce confessions?
  3. Do you believe it legal or advisable to delay presentment for detainees interrogated by HIG so as to set up up to two weeks of unsupervised interrogation?
  4. FBI has used the Section 215 authorization — the same law used to collect every American’s phone data — to collect lists of common products that on very rare occasions have been used as precursors to explosives. They could and may well have used the same authority with pressure cookers. Is collecting such a broad sweep of innocent activity in pursuit of terrorists the best way to identify them? What do you believe the appropriate use of Section 215 authority is?
  5. Through the entire financial crisis, it appears the FBI did not use all the investigative tools available, including (with two or three notable exceptions) wiretaps and phone and Internet tracking, when investigating large financial institutions. This appears to be true even when, as with your former employer HSBC, the institution had clear ties to terrorists and Transnational Criminal Organizations. What tools do you believe appropriate to investigate large financial institutions and do you plan to change the approach to investigating financial crime?
Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

16 replies
  1. pdaly says:

    This is a Mary (RIP) posting from 2009 re: Comey and his failure as a leader to stop torture and to correct the record about govt malfeasance. from http://www.emptywheel.net/2009/06/06/the-may-10-2005-opinions-were-retrospective/

    Mary on June 6, 2009 at 12:52 pm said:

    “While you have to focus on the NYT sources spin, you also have to realize that the Comey emails are real clearly CYA papering of the file and have their own self serving (and friend serving) aspects. And realize that a big chunk of what he was saying about the combined memo is that he could make it ok in his view if they limited it to the one person VP’s office was so concerned about and let him make the factual adjustments to the memo (getting the facts in line was what would take the time) to narrow not what was done, but who to, and he’d be happily good to go with it.

    He was ok with using DOJ to paper over and grant de facto immunity for the torture that the WH and OVP and DOJ had been directly involved with – he just wanted the memos to be narrow to safe existing butt and not to allow for future depravity. Remember he was do ing all this a year after Abu Ghraib pictures – while DOJ was fighting the Arar case with his affidavit – after he had already come off of the Higazy “investi-up” (the seemingly now mandatory DOJ investigation solely for the purpose of cover up) and while he let Clement go to the Sup Ct and make the *we don’t do things like torture* representations to the court – etc.

    In any event, I think that one of the things that struck me as so horrible about the “combined” opinions was one of the issue he raised and was one that stuck with Ullyot, who tried to (apparently incorrectly per Comey) summarize Comey’s concerns as being “the prospective nature of the opinion and its focus on ‘prototypical’ interrogation”

    That is what the combined technique memo does – it throws out the “high value al-Qaeda” and necessity and ticking time bomb info underpinnings that even Yoo had tried to tack on, and said – hey, all these things can be done to anyone we detain, whether they are high valude al-Qaeda, or even an enemy combatant, or not – have detainee, can strip ‘em and head bang ‘em into walls and anally assault ‘em (oh yeah, that part of the interrogation program got kinda skipped in the memos didn’t it – along with the druggging parts)and use hypothermia and sleep deprivation etc – all for no ticking time bomb scenario at all, but just because we can.

    I understand you want to put the emails into perspective that the NYT doesn’t give them, but Comey was even in his cya approach going to go along with the combined memo, if they narrowed it to the guy they were trying to protect. That – with all those pictures from Abu Ghraib on his plate. I really want to have that ability that some have to say “God forgive him” but it’s not in me. And he went on from his CYA memos to the Padilla press conf (and again, no effort to correct the Sup Ct record with all he learned from all of that)

    Oh well – on the significant issues front, he is also warning Gonzales about the video(s) that he (Comey) had “heard about” in May of 2005 and they end up destroyed in Nov, but why was no court every put on notice? And Rosenberg – who is his emailpal – is after all the guy who went on to sit shotgun on the office that should have been producing that evidence long ago.

    If Comey knew about the videos and knew about the litigations and knew that this was all going to come out at some point – where’s his damn directive going to Rizzo to not destroy evidence? Where’s his inquiry into whether that info had been provided to the various courts with evidentiary orders outstanding?

    Oh well – I gotta go do something productive. I hope you can objectively pull out the interesting stuff – I just look at someone who was given all of Comey’s gifts and his ability to lead and look at what he did with it and can’t help but think that someone who knew better and could lead is more culpable than the weakminded and weakwilled. OTOH – he’s really good at PR.

    Buy the boy a smiley face pin.”

    Thanks, Mary and emptywheel.

  2. TomVet says:

    All the above, hers and yours, should be asked and answered without the usual ho-humming. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (I am a member) has their own list, which should be included also.

    My favorite is their #6:

    “The top secret order compelling Verizon to give the NSA all Americans’ calling information asks for calling information to be provided on an “ongoing, daily basis.” Yet, Section 215 only permits the production of “tangible things.” Can you explain how an order issued under Section 215 can compel the production of something that does not yet exist—indeed, the very definition of an intangible thing?”

    I don’t hold much hope for truthful answers on most of these.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    @TomVet:

    Reading EFF’s #2:

    2) Articles by both the Wall Street Journal (paywall) and New York Times revealed that the secret court overseeing the spying, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court), doesn’t believe that communications metadata is protected under the Fourth Amendment or First Amendment of the Constitution. Do you think the FISA Court is right?

    I think people should quit calling it the FISA Court and start calling it Fisa the Magic Kangaroo. Or something.

    See: https://twitter.com/FISA_Court/status/354045655662067712
    And: http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/07/06/fisc-already-invented-that-database-and-mining-precedent-in-secret/#comment-571020

  4. pdaly says:

    FYI: Tag for “Jim Comey” is misspelled “Coey”

    Have any of the great questions above been asked and answered?!

  5. C says:

    The guardian has an article on the hearings with this money quote:

    “I can only say with confidence that it’s very important for the next director to continue the transformation of the FBI into an intelligence agency,” Comey told the Senate panel.

    Police agencies protect people, Intelligence agencies spy on them. People trust and turn to the former counting on justice. They avoid the latter counting on paranoia, and this is what he wants.

  6. C says:

    And then, slightly off-topic there’s this article from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/jul/09/fisa-courts-judge-nsa-surveillance

    Robertson says he was generally impressed with how “careful, fastidious and scrupulous” the court process had been, but felt the so-called ex parte system (where only the government is able to make its case to the judge) needed urgent reform.

    “This process needs an adversary. If it’s not the ACLU or Amnesty, perhaps the PCLOB can be that adversary.”

    Members of the oversight board, which has previously been criticised by Congress as an ineffective watchdog, shook their heads and rolled their eyes when this suggestion was made.

    James Dempsey, a PCLOB member, criticised civil liberties campaigners for not doing more to suggest alternative ways for the government to gather intelligence. He also suggested the scale of intelligence that needed to be collected made it difficult to see how authorities could go back to granting individual warrants rather than blanket approvals.

    Rachel Brand, another seemingly unsympathetic board member, concluded: “There is nothing that is more harmful to civil liberties than terrorism. This discussion here has been quite sterile because we have not been talking about terrorism.”

    So the great Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board! openly rolls their eyes when offered suggestions about how to protect privacy and complain that people come to them to talk about privacy and civil liberties and not terrerism! which is what they really care about.

    Oh yes, thank you Mr. President for these hardcore civil libertarians.

  7. Strangely Enough says:

    @C:

    “I can only say with confidence that it’s very important for the next director to continue the transformation of the FBI into an intelligence agency,”

    Isn’t that why we had the Church Committee?

  8. C says:

    @Strangely Enough: Yeah, but that was back when we only faced the threat of a nuclear-armed global superpower with a substantial conventional and unconventional military force and a large well-funded state spying appartus that succeeded in penatrating our most sensitive national secrets. It was a simpler safer time then.

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: It was the PCLOB hearing that was going to make a transcript available, not the Comey hearing, sorry.

    You can make comments to PCLOB through August 1 here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=100;so=DESC;sb=docId;po=0;dct=PS;D=PCLOB-2013-0005 – and it says transcript is coming round the mountain when she comes (I don’t see it yet).

    Comey hearing info and webcast link here: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=e0e2c9056911827f327c217a698c1051 – nothing about a transcript.

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