The Coronation of the One-Eyed Men: Two Former Bush Officials Are Reportedly Leading Contenders For Next FBI Director

Civil libertarians have long objected to the continuation (and in some cases the expansion) of Bush policies in the national security areas by President Barack Obama. Obama has blocked the investigation and prosecution of Bush officials for torture, renewed the military tribunal system, extinguished dozens of public interest lawsuits against telecommunication companies and agencies as well as other controversial moves. Now, two former Bush officials are considered leading contenders to take over the FBI despite their involvement in some of the worst abuses during the Bush Administration. They are James Comey and Kenneth Wainstein. As discussed below, they are a case of the coronation of the one-eyed man as King of the land of the blind.

FBI Director Robert Mueller’s 10-year term expires on September 4th.

What is disturbing is how Comey has been embraced as a hero of civil liberties because he opposed Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program and threatened to resign. It is part of the relativism that set in during the Bush Administration. Before the Bush Administration, it would have been obvious and expected for all Justice Department attorneys to oppose a clearly unconstitutional program. However, in the Bush Administration, even the objection to unconstitutional acts suddenly transformed officials into instant civil libertarians despite their involvement in other abuses. This is an example of how, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King. Comey was the one-eyed man.

Of course, Comey did not object to other aspects of the surveillance program deemed unconstitutional by civil libertarians. Moreover, while objecting to the surveillance program, Comey was the deputy attorney general involved in other abuses without a peep of protest. The most obvious was the case of Jose Padilla. Comey was personally involved in that case that shocked the world. Padilla was subjected to cruel treatment and was moved around the country to avoid judicial review. Comey and his staff adopted a series of conflicting arguments in court designed to avoid judicial review. Then, on the eve of a review by the Supreme Court, Comey dropped the prior charges and moved Padilla into the federal system on different claims. If you recall, Padilla was originally arrested under a claim by former Attorney General John Ashcroft that the Justice Department had stopped a nuclear attack on a major city. That claim was later denied by the White House. Yet, the Justice Department continued to hold and abuse Padilla.

In prior testimony, Comey made clear that he supported Padilla being denied access to the federal courts because he might win his release and take advantage of his constitutional rights:

Had we tried to make a case against Jose Padilla through our criminal justice system, something that I as the United States attorney in New York could not do at that time without jeopardizing intelligence sources, he would very likely have followed his lawyer’s advice and said nothing, which would have been his constitutional right. He would likely have ended up a free man, with our only hope being to try to follow him 24 hours a day, seven days a week and hope — pray, really — that we didn’t lose him.

Of course, he was ultimately charged with a federal crime and convicted. This occurred only after the Justice Department succeeded (under Comey’s direction) in evading review of his mistreatment and long confinement without access to counsel or the courts. Is this the model that we want for FBI Director?

For his part, Kenneth Wainstein was Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and held various national security positions with President Bush during the periods of greatest abuse of detainees and civil liberties. Wainstein did not resign in the face of those abuses but continued to advance the policies. Since leaving, he has shown the same casual view of constitutional claims, such as his view that Wikileaks can and should be prosecuted: ““By clearly showing how WikiLeaks is fundamentally different, the government should be able to demonstrate that any prosecution here is the exception and is not the sign of a more aggressive prosecution effort against the press.” Most scholars and civil libertarians see a far more difficult case over Wikileaks that threaten first amendment rights. In his testimony, Wainstein continued the Bush-era approach of avoiding the constitutional question by attacking the defendant. Wainstein cited public statements by Julian Assange and assured Congress that this is not a concern over free speech or free press because the disclosures were “more personal rather than simply a public-minded agenda.” It is a dangerous argument since you could take the same tact for any reporter and seeks to avoid the constitutional analysis by engaging in an ad hominem attack.

Wainstein and Comey did raise concerns over the torture of detainees but notably did not threaten to resign over such abuses. They continued to advance policies that were condemned by civil libertarians around the world.

I cannot say that I am optimistic given Obama’s record. He continues to court the conservative base on the theory that liberals have to vote for him in the next election. Indeed, objections from civil libertarians are most likely to increase the attraction to these nominees.

Jonathan Turley

132 thoughts on “The Coronation of the One-Eyed Men: Two Former Bush Officials Are Reportedly Leading Contenders For Next FBI Director”

  1. How do I get into this blogsite? Am not so concerned about the FBI appointments. More so, about abusive behavior by the NCIS here in Norfolk, over the Ariel Weinmann case. They damned near killed me, and I’m a civilian. I lived near the naval base, ran into Weinmann during an exercise walk on Hampton Blvd., and therefore knew they had lied about when he was arrested.
    Am here from looking up NCIS abuses, and this was the only site around.
    I have ZERO problem with giving testimony or explaining. My name is Francis Eller, and my phone # is (757) 423-4430.
    Their criminal incompetence is scary. I haven’t been bothered in over 2 years, but their methods cost me my health and my home.
    I had a prolonged talk with the FBI agent on that case, and she said she was aware of “a problem” but not with her agency, and they had cleared me, but she refused to say anything about NCIS and failed to admit that agency runs the Master-at-Arms program, where sailors are used as super-dooper secret agents (which must be SO self-inflating to their egos). Nor did she mention the CIFA-Talon program, where NCIS suborns local police into their lawlessness.
    Seriously, this is so much incompetence, they constitute a national security threat.

  2. Seriously, although I never suspected when I first joined the fray, a blog becomes something like a family.

    We are concerned for each other’s health and well-being. We agonize over a child in Afghanistan, a grandchild undergoing medical problems or facing death, a spouse dealing with trauma, or the pain of helping an aged parent.

    We celebrate each others joys and victories and picture ourselves marching with demonstrators, or drinking some ungodly concoction in an Irish pub, or standing with awe in a French cathedral. We even chuckle at the antics of each blogger’s pets.

    We have adopted each other to the extent that our life partners will sometimes post on our behalf or offer us comments on the comments of other bloggers. (Some of us even have to put up with grandchildren who read this blog simply to find out what Grandma is up to.)

    Thus when one of us chooses to go … well … we all hope they will return to tell us of their adventures.

  3. Mike,

    “The Dude Abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”

    Not sure if this is up your alley, but there’s a great “Barderized” version of The Big Lebowski called Two Gentlemen of Lebowski.

  4. Mike S,

    “The times were tough and sacrifices needed to be made, but through my sense of duty to humanity, I made them.”

    I bow to your sense of duty, sir 😀

  5. “Maury/Tootie where we could at this point write their rote critiques ourselves and do a better job of it.” (Mike Spindell)


    What fun that would be … one thread devoted to writing as a troll … who could out-Tootie Tootie … (I can just see the Prof shaking his head and thinking to himself, “that Blouise is a sophomoric twit”)

  6. What ever the reasons it makes me feel good. Thanks and give my regards to the Mrs’s.

  7. “Damn! I knew I was born in the wrong era!!”

    Yes SL,

    The times were tough and sacrifices needed to be made, but through my sense of duty to humanity, I made them.

  8. Mike S,

    “Have you no appreciation of what I had to go through taking those thirteen hour, neverending acid trips? After one of those, or its’ little sister mescaline, I would need a thorough shower, at least a joint, two Vodka Sours and a large steak with french fries. Remember I did it all to make the world a better place and oooh those colors.”

    Damn! I knew I was born in the wrong era!!

  9. “Tea Partiers want limited government and free markets, not some ancient hippie’s wet dream of anarchy and free love.”

    The Tea Bag Movement (metaphorically a sexual act performed on Plutocratic White Males)was the bought and paid for creation of Dick Armey. Surveys have shown they have above average income and little constuctive positive ideas. They have not shown me anything to evince
    even grudging respect, they are merely tools of the US Plutocracy/Corporatocracy.

  10. “How is it that after all the hatefulness you and I have xperienced towards one another we can now exchange those.”

    Bdaman, to me there are two reasons:

    1. As my health was declining rapidly almost two years ago, one of the effects I didn’t understand and Physicians never talked about was that as your heart begins to pump less blood to your system, your brain becomes somewhat starved for oxygen. This made me quicker to anger and to attack. When a person deteriorates somewhat psychologically, even from physical causes, it is not readily apparent to them (me)
    that there is deterioration. After all I could still solve my beloved NY Times Sunday Crosswords and I was able to write coherently, so the personality shift escaped me, though it was familiar to those around me. I remain angry at what is going on in our country and the world, but my anger is focussed on systems, rather than individuals.

    2. As for you, there has been a decided growth in your comments here that have shown you are a thinking person
    (though we disagree on much)whose views evolve. At first you seemed merely another troll, used to the sharp jab of vitriol, but you don’t seem that way to me anymore and you have definitely become a part of the Turley “Meshpucha” (family), to use another Yiddishim.

    Besides you were extremely kind to my wife and for that I am grateful.

  11. Gyges,

    Just because I’m an aged hippie doesn’t mean you have to make fun of me. Have you no appreciation of what I had to go through taking those thirteen hour, neverending acid trips? After one of those, or its’ little sister mescaline, I would need a thorough shower, at least a joint, two Vodka Sours and a large steak with french fries. Remember I did it all to make the world a better place and oooh those colors.

  12. Buddha,

    I just want to go up to them and say “you are the establishment you’re rebelling against, and so are the people who sold you the line that you’re rebelling.”

    Personally, I think much of the problem is that people like to think of themselves as individuals. Which is great, except you also need to realize that being individual doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the programed stimulus\reaction set up that the rest of us are. Ad agencies count on us thinking that we personally are immune to their tricks.

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