Obama's Pick for FBI Defied Bush Over Wiretaps

President set to name former Bush official James Comey to lead agency

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted May 29, 2013 7:18 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama is preparing to nominate former Bush administration official James Comey to head the FBI. Three people with knowledge of the selection said Obama planned to nominate Comey, who was the No. 2 in George W. Bush's Justice Department. Comey became a hero to Democratic opponents of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program when he refused for a time to reauthorize it. Bush revised the surveillance program when confronted with the threat of resignation by Comey and current FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is stepping down in September. Comey's selection was first reported by NPR and was not expected to be announced for several days at least.

In stunning testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007, Comey said he thought Bush's no-warrant wiretapping program was so questionable that Comey refused for a time to reauthorize it. The White House, he said, recertified the program without the Justice Department's signoff, allowing it to operate for about three weeks without concurrence on whether it was legal. That led to a standoff with White House officials at the bedside of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft. A day after the March 10, 2004, incident at Ashcroft's bedside, Bush ordered changes to the program to accommodate the department's concerns.

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in 2007.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in 2007.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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