Comey Decides To Maintain FBI’s Focus on Fighting Terrorism


When James Comey was nominated as FBI director last June, it seemed to herald the beginning of a new era at the bureau, says the New York Times. Predecessor, Robert Mueller began the job just days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and his years leading the FBI had an overwhelming focus: fighting terrorism. Comey was appointed a month after President Obama delivered a speech on the future of the fight against terrorism that said the U.S. was at a “crossroads” and needed to move off its wartime footing. Nine months into his tenure as director, Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the U.S. still faces from terrorism. “I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become,” Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East. “There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated.”

Comey is convinced that terrorism should remain the FBI’s main focus. The agency he inherited from Mueller had roughly half its 16,000 agents and analysts working on national security issues, and Comey made it clear that he would not be changing those priorities. Critics say Comey is continuing a strategy that is no longer appropriate for the way the terrorist threat has evolved. “The FBI's evolution since 9/11 into a domestic intelligence agency is troubling both from a civil liberties standpoint and its effectiveness,” said Mike German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, “and in the face of evidence that it is ineffective, it's troubling that Comey would embrace it.”

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