President Barack Obama on Friday afternoon will formally announce his nomination of James Comey, President George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general, to serve as the next director of the FBI, according to a White House official.
It had been known for weeks that Comey had been chosen to succeed outgoing Director Robert Mueller. But a formal announcement had yet to be made.
The official nomination now comes as members of Congress—before whom Comey's nomination will appear—are dealing with controversy surrounding National Security Agency surveillance. Comey is best known for refusing to approve an electronic warrantless eavesdropping program in 2004 while serving as acting attorney general.
Comey later testified before Congress that he witnessed White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card trying to take advantage of a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to get the eavesdropping program reauthorized.
While Comey enjoys bipartisan support partly for that incident, news last month of his selection immediately sparked criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“As the second-highest ranked Justice Department official under John Ashcroft, Comey approved some of the worst abuses committed by the Bush administration,” Anthony D. Romero, ACLU’s executive director, said in a statement on May 30. Romero said “publicly available evidence” shows Comey approved interrogation techniques “that constitute torture” including waterboarding. And Romero criticized Comey for overseeing the four-year detention of U.S. citizen and accused “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla without charge or trial.
Mueller, who was nominated by Bush in 2001, by law must vacate his position by September.