Tags: fbi | comey | waterboarding

Obama FBI Nominee: Waterboarding Is 'Torture'

Image: Obama FBI Nominee: Waterboarding Is 'Torture'

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 03:14 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Waterboarding is an illegal form of torture, said James Comey, President Barack Obama's nominee for FBI director, emphasizing at his confirmation hearing that he fought the practice while serving in the Bush administration.

Comey, a former deputy attorney general with the Justice Department while President George W. Bush was in office, told lawmakers questioning him in Tuesday's hearing that he has always thought the controversial interrogation tactic was wrong, The Hill reports.

"When I first learned about waterboarding, when I became deputy attorney general, my reaction as a citizen and a leader was: 'This is torture.' It's still what I think," Comey told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

If he's confirmed to lead the FBI, Comey said the department "would never have anything to do with that."

If Comey is confirmed, his tenure will last 10 years, and he promised to continue to hold that view on interrogations no matter which party comes to control the White House.

Comey testified Tuesday that while working for the Bush administration, he conducted an analysis of existing statutes that the government was using to justify waterboarding, and then took his objections to then-Attorney General Gonzales.

Comey said his suggestions were rejected, even though he told Gonzales "we should not be involved in this kind of stuff."

Last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee completed a 6,000-page report on waterboarding and other techniques, and while the report has not yet been declassified, insiders said it found little evidence to show the techniques are effective.

Tuesday was lawmakers' first day to publicly grill Comey, reports Bloomberg News, since Obama nominated him on June 21.

Overall, the Bush administration's anti-terrorism efforts, including controversial interrogation techniques and intelligence-gathering methods were the main topics of the hearing, since he was involved in those matters while at the Justice Department.

While Comey thinks waterboarding is a form of torture, he said that intelligence-gathering computers used by the government are a "valuable tool" for anti-terrorism efforts.

Leahy pointed out that the next FBI director must "face the challenge of how to sustain the FBI's increased focus on counterterrorism while upholding the FBI's commitment to its historic law-enforcement functions."

If confirmed, Comey would replace Robert Mueller, who is retiring in September after serving as FBI director since 2001.

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