No To Comey (And To Torture)

James Comey Hearing

His only claim to fame is that he prevented a completely lawless surveillance program – rooted entirely in the executive branch – from being imposed on a sick attorney-general. That’s not heroism. It’s part of his basic duties. And while he yesterday said he opposes waterboarding, he was an active member of a war criminal administration, with respect to interrogations of prisoners. How on earth does re-appointing him not legitimize those war crimes – and represent the latest sad repudiation of the Geneva Conventions by Obama?

Let us now acknowledge a steaming pile of bullshit:

Mr. Comey said that the government’s statute on the [waterboarding] issue at the time was vague, complicating the ability of government lawyers to determine its legality. He said that despite his authorization of the opinions in 2005, he had urged senior Bush administration officials to end the use of the practice. “Even though I as a person, as a father, as a leader thought, ‘That’s torture — we shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing,’ I discovered that it’s actually a much harder question to interpret this 1994 statute, which I found very vague,” Mr. Comey, 52, said at the hearing.

Give me a break. No court – domestic or foreign – had ever found waterboarding not to be torture in 2005 as surely as 1905. There is nothing vague whatsoever about it. Nor is there anything vague about the very broad anti-torture laws that the US enforced before the war criminals of the last administration got their hands on total power. And Comey has the gall to call himself a leader! He was not a leader; he was following orders. And he has not repudiated the many other torture techniques that were in place before his departure in 2005. Any government figure who has that amount of contempt for the law, that amount of confusion about clear legal rules, and that amount of tolerance for torture has no place in any public office, let alone the FBI.

What worries me most is that this is just the latest evidence of Obama’s weakness in the face of the torture-enforcers of the past. Bringing those complicit with past torture into the Obama administration helps legitimize war crimes. John Brennan, for example, has been promoted and is now doing all he can to prevent the Senate Intelligence Committee from telling the truth about his above-the-law organization’s dark recent past.

If this president refuses to enforce the Geneva Conventions as clearly as his predecessor, he might do better than what is, in this instance, giving the finger to international law and human decency.

(Photo: James Comey, nominee for FBI Director, is sworn in to his conformation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Dirksen Building. By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty.)