James (Dick Tracy) Comey, What Did You Expect?
20 April 18
lot of people are still really sore about James Comey blowing up Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Imagine that. And with each day that we endure the very stable genius-king, who never should have had a prayer of being president to begin with, the ire of the subjects grows.
To be fair to Hillary Clinton and everyone else whose sanity is being tested, Comey flat-out blew it. It was a blunder he should have known never to make, and his first clue ought to have been all the other high-ranking officials at the FBI imploring him not to do it.
It would, however, be a mistake to allow current events to obscure the better angels of Comey's nature.
In the rush to honor the life of Grandma Barbara Bush, there is beckoning to forget or at least reinvent her son George W. Bush, the narcissistic, genocidal, anti-democratic enemy of the Constitution who rose to assume the presidency, likely without winning the presidential election.
George W. Bush's transgressions, while a bit less theatrical than the current headache in the Oval Office, were better targeted, more thoroughly premeditated, significantly more lethal, and did far greater damage to the Constitution (thus far).
Detailing the full scope of Bush's transgressions would, at the very least, be a novel-length undertaking. One incident, however, does give us valuable insight into the character of James Comey.
In 2004, James Comey was the Deputy Attorney General. His boss then, Attorney General John Ashcroft, had been hospitalized. A "severe case of pancreatitis" necessitated the removal of his gallbladder. A survivable operation, but nothing to be trifled with. During Ashcroft's recovery from what doctors described as a successful procedure, there was, however, a complication — but one political, not medical in nature.
Facing widespread and growing opposition to his legally dubious warrantless eavesdropping program instituted in the aftermath of the attack of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush was scrambling for legal validation to continue the surveillance.
Ashcroft, the Attorney General, Comey, his deputy, and then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III were on record as opposing any form of warrantless surveillance as legally unjustifiable. A pitched battle was underway, out of public view, between Ashcroft, Comey, Mueller and White House officials over allowing the program to continue.
The conflict over the warrantless eavesdropping program came to a boil on the night of March 10, 2004, in Ashcroft's hospital room. Bush, White House chief of staff Andrew Card and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales had devised a plan to go to Ashcroft's bedside in the hospital and attempt to persuade him to sign an authorization of the surveillance program on behalf of the Department of Justice as he lay recovering from surgery.
Comey caught wind of the plan and raced to the hospital to literally head-off Card and Gonzales, who were also en route, authorization documents in hand. Comey arrived first, but Card and Gonzales were undeterred. What ensued was a tense exchange that resulted in Card and Gonzales being rebuffed and retreating empty-handed.
In the days that followed, Ashcroft, Comey, Mueller and other DoJ officials threatened to resign if the warrantless eavesdropping program were allowed to continue. Bush reluctantly backed down and accepted court participation.
The contradiction obviously is that, as the documents Edward Snowden placed in the public record clearly illustrate, warrantless surveillance continued at a mind boggling pace.
Warrantless surveillance in the digital age has evolved into a bit of a hydra. There are a number of U.S. government entities capable of initiating such programs, often working in concert with a myriad of private companies. It's not clear, however, that Comey in his capacity first as Deputy Attorney General or later as FBI Director authorized such programs. He appeared more likely to have opposed unwarranted surveillance.
While Comey seems to lack the political savvy required for the FBI directorship, he clearly believes that the rule of law matters and that it is his duty to uphold it, to this day. He sees an independent role for Justice Department officials as indispensable and strives to meet these expectations in the manner in which he conducts his affairs.
He is a man of infinitely greater personal integrity than Donald Trump, and can well be expected to prove that in the coming months.
Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.