Speed Reads

National Security

FBI director says terror threat greater than he assumed


In a chilling New York Times article, James B. Comey, director of the FBI, is quoted saying the threat of terrorism is worse than he imagined before assuming his current position:

By Mr. Comey's own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished. But nine months into his tenure as director, Mr. Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the United States 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," Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview in his sprawling office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. "There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated." [The New York Times]

One might interpret this information differently, based on preconceived notions.

Neocons, for example, might see this as further evidence that skepticism of the surveillance state is rooted in nothing but ignorance and naiveté. Meanwhile, folks on the other side of the debate might view this as yet another example of someone being co-opted once they gain a position of authority.

But Comey's credibility on this issue is hard to impugn. As the No. 2 in the Bush Justice Department, he famously refused to approve reauthorization of the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.

I don't know about you, but I'd be more comfortable if his credibility on this issue weren't quite so solid.