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Obama FBI Nominee Raises Muslim Concerns

Published: 23/06/2013 04:18:06 PM GMT
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CAIRO - American Muslims have raised concerns about President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying the candidate has a mixed record about civil liberties. The FBI, like the nation, is (more)

CAIRO - American Muslims have raised concerns about President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation, saying the candidate has a mixed record about civil liberties.

"The FBI, like the nation, is at a crossroads,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement obtained by

“Mr. (James) Comey's nomination to FBI director comes at a time when the president and Congress should be working together to ensure that our nation's law enforcement and counterterrorism programs uphold longstanding commitments to civil liberties.”

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Comey, a Republican was nominated by Obama earlier this week to head the FBI.

If confirmed by the Senate, Comey will replace FBI director Robert Mueller, who will step down this fall.

Comey, 52, served as deputy US attorney general for former President George W. Bush. He had previously been the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"Comey's mixed record on civil liberties as a former senior Justice Department official under the George W. Bush administration raises a number of serious concerns that will need to be addressed during the confirmation process by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” CAIR said.

Comey gained notoriety for refusing in 2004 to certify the legal aspects of National Security Agency domestic surveillance.

That refusal prompted senior White House officials, counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card, to try to persuade attorney general John Ashcroft to sign the certification at hospital.

Comey later told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a 2007 hearing that the situation was "probably the most difficult night of my professional life."

After leaving the Justice Department in 2005, Comey was general counsel to aerospace giant Lockheed Martin until 2010.

Comey most recently joined Columbia University's law school as a senior research scholar after working for Bridgewater Associates, an investment fund, from 2010 to 2013.

The Muslim group urged the Senate to quiz the FBI nominee to make sure about his commitment to protecting civil liberties.

"In light of revelations that the FBI and NSA are gathering data from some of the nation's top Internet technology and social network service providers and collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, CAIR urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Mr. Comey on whether or not he is able to provide new leadership within the FBI that respects constitutional protections of privacy and the prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure.”

Muslim Liberties

CAIR said that Comey, in his capacity as a deputy attorney general, approved some of Bush's most egregious and unconstitutional counterterrorism program abuses.

“He oversaw and defended the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla -- an American citizen who was arrested inside the United States -- who was initially denied access to lawyers and detained in a military brig without charge or trial for three and a half years,” it said.

"As the Obama administration revitalizes its own efforts to prosecute suspected terrorists, CAIR calls on the Senate to press Mr. Comey on whether or not he still defends the practice of indefinite detention.”

The Muslim group said under Bush, Comey has approved CIA interrogation methods of suspects as waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

“CAIR urges the Senate to clarify whether or not Mr. Comey believed such abusive interrogation practices are lawful and whether or not he would tolerate these cruelties under a future administration.”

Relations between US Muslims and FBI have strained in the past years over the agency's tactic of sending informants into mosques.

In 2009, Muslim groups threatened to suspend all contacts with the FBI over sending informants into mosques.

US Muslims are particularly wary of the FBI's history of targeting members of their community.

"President Obama pledged during his May 23 speech on national security policy to 'guard against any encroachments on [American Muslim] civil liberties' as it 'is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam',” CAIR said.

"For the past 12 years, the FBI's engagement strategy with the American Muslim community has been tarnished by frequent reports of community harassment, profiling, intimidation, warrantless surveillance, use of ex-convicts as community spies, informant driven plots of entrapment, coercion to speak without legal representation, purposeful misapplication of terrorist watch lists -- including the extrajudicial exile of American citizens traveling abroad - inappropriate religious questioning at the US border and ports of entry, acts of wrongful detention, and lethal use of force.

"Looking toward the future in considering Mr. Comey's nomination, CAIR calls on Congress and the FBI to adopt stronger programs to counter violent extremism that support direct community outreach and engagement, and to implement law enforcement investigation methods that emphasize pursuing and preventing criminal actions, not religious beliefs."Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to eight million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.

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