Recently installed FBI Director James Comey tells The New York Times that his plans to refocus the bureau’s attention back toward prosecuting criminals and away from terrorism were made before he realized just how serious the terrorist threat facing the US really is.
It was only after seeing the top-secret intelligence that was unavailable to him while he was publicly opposing things like the NSA’s surveillance program that, Comey says, he realized the tide of war is not “receding” as fast as President Obama has repeatedly claimed, if it is even receding at all.
Al-Qaeda, Comey says, is very much alive and growing in new and more dangerous places around the world. “I just didn’t have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job,” he tells the Times, “just how virulent those affiliates had become. There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are much stronger than I appreciated.”
Therefore, says Comey, the FBI’s traditional emphasis on criminal prosecutions will continue to take a back seat as the agency intensifies its focus on counter-terrorism.
There was no indication in the front-page piece by Michael S. Schmidt as to whether or not President Obama, who nominated Comey after delivering a high-profile speech in which he said the country needs to “move off” its wartime footing, had undergone a similar change in his assessment of the terror threat, or even was availing himself of the same intelligence reports.
Nor was there any discussion in the nearly 3000-word article about how Comey’s public statements about his beliefs now break from the President’s repeated assurances that America is more secure and terrorism less a threat than it was before he took office. Comey contradicts the President directly when he says that America’s enemies are more emboldened in their hatred towards the US and operate more freely in more parts of the world.