News / USA

Obama Taps Bush-Era Official to Head FBI

President Barack Obama with James Comey, left, at White House June 21, 2013
President Barack Obama with James Comey, left, at White House June 21, 2013
Kent Klein
— President Barack Obama has nominated (Friday) a former deputy attorney general under Republican President George W. Bush as the new director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. James Comey would replace longtime FBI chief Robert Mueller.

Obama is hoping that Comey’s Republican ties and deep experience in law enforcement will help persuade the Senate to confirm his nomination to lead the FBI.

“As deputy attorney general, he helped lead the Justice Department with skill and wisdom, meeting the threats we know about and staying perpetually prepared for the ones that can emerge suddenly. So Jim is exceptionally qualified to handle the full range of challenges faced by today’s FBI,” said the president.

Since leaving the Justice Department, Comey has been an executive at a defense company and general counsel to a Wall Street hedge fund, among other roles.

Comey would replace Robert “Bob” Mueller, whose 10-year term as FBI director began the week before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Obama extended Mueller’s term by two years in 2011.

Comey is known for his confrontation with two Bush administration officials in 2004.  He rushed to the hospital bedside of his boss, John Ashcroft, to stop the aides from getting the attorney general’s approval to renew a program that allowed government wiretaps to be used without warrants.

Obama mentioned that incident in praising Comey and Mueller for their integrity. He said, “At key moments, when it has mattered most, he joined Bob in standing up for what he believed was right. He was prepared to give up a job he loved, rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”

The FBI handles domestic intelligence and law enforcement. The agency has come under scrutiny lately for its part in surveillance programs involving phone records and Internet communications.

Also Friday, Obama held his first meeting with a privacy and civil liberties board he established. Obama said the group will play a key role in addressing concerns about the government’s surveillance activities.

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