The director of the FBI James Comey appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss surveillance, liberty and privacy. Comey warned the American people that they should be “deeply skeptical of government power.”
Comey stated unequivocally that the FBI does not read American’s emails without getting a court order. He stated that it’s an extremely burdensome process, but he’s glad it’s there.
Comey related the story of when he was acting Attorney General in March of 2004, because former Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the hospital with a severe illness. Comey refused to certify the legality of certain aspects of the NSA’s surveillance programs which he deemed unlawful. The Bush White House sent the future Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, to the hospital in order to get the ailing Attorney General Ashcroft to authorize the policies.
Comey raced to the hospital to beat the White House to Ashcroft’s bedside and managed to make sure that the programs were not authorized in their current iteration. Ashcroft sat up in bed briefly and pointed at Comey saying “there’s the Attorney General.”
Comey was prepared to resign his job if the White House ignored the Justice Department’s legal conclusions regarding wiretapping. After a meeting with President Bush, the provisions were changed to comply with the law, and Comey maintained his position in government.