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CAIR Says FBI Nominee Comey Has ‘Mixed Record’ on Civil Liberties


(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/21/13) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said that former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who President Obama nominated this afternoon to be the next director of the FBI, has a “mixed record†on the protection of civil liberties.


In a statement issued in response to Comey's nomination, CAIR said:


“The FBI, like the nation, is at a crossroads. Mr. Comey's nomination to FBI director comes at a time when the president and Congress should be working together to ensure that our nation's law enforcement and counterterrorism programs uphold longstanding commitments to civil liberties.

“Comey's mixed record on civil liberties as a former senior Justice Department official under the George W. Bush administration raises a number of serious concerns that will need to be addressed during the confirmation process by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Mr. Comey certainly deserves credit for his threatened resignation over Bush administration attempts to recertify the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretap program Stellar Wind.  In March 2004, during a hospital room showdown, Mr. Comey stood at the bedside of a then incapacitated Attorney General Ashcroft, refusing attempts by Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. and then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to reauthorize the NSA's 'fundamentally wrong' domestic warrantless spying program.  Ashcroft himself said that he should have never authorized the program.   

“In light of revelations that the FBI and NSA are gathering data from some of the nation's top Internet technology and social network service providers and collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, CAIR urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Mr. Comey on whether or not he is able to provide new leadership within the FBI that respects constitutional protections of privacy and the prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure.

“As deputy attorney general, Mr. Comey approved some of the Bush administration's most egregious and unconstitutional counterterrorism program abuses. He oversaw and defended the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla — an American citizen who was arrested inside the United States — who was initially denied access to lawyers and detained in a military brig without charge or trial for three and a half years.

“As the Obama administration revitalizes its own efforts to prosecute suspected terrorists, CAIR calls on the Senate to press Mr. Comey on whether or not he still defends the practice of indefinite detention.

“Although Mr. Comey expressed 'grave reservations' within the Bush administration over CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding and sleep deprivation, declassified documents show that in 2005 he signed off on such practices. CAIR urges the Senate to clarify whether or not Mr. Comey believed such abusive interrogation practices are lawful and whether or not he would tolerate these cruelties under a future administration.

“President Obama pledged during his May 23 speech on national security policy to 'guard against any encroachments on civil liberties' as it 'is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.'

“For the past 12 years, the FBI's engagement strategy with the American Muslim community has been tarnished by frequent reports of community harassment, profiling, intimidation, warrantless surveillance, use of ex-convicts as community spies, informant driven plots of entrapment, coercion to speak without legal representation, purposeful misapplication of terrorist watch lists — including the extrajudicial exile of American citizens traveling abroad – inappropriate religious questioning at the U.S. border and ports of entry, acts of wrongful detention, and lethal use of force.

“Looking toward the future in considering Mr. Comey's nomination, CAIR calls on Congress and the FBI to adopt stronger programs to counter violent extremism that support direct community outreach and engagement, and to implement law enforcement investigation methods that emphasize pursuing and preventing criminal actions, not religious beliefs.”

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171,

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