FBI nominee says surveillance can be valuable tool

FBI Director nominee James Comey prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination. Comey spent 15 years as a federal prosecutor before serving in the George W. Bush administration, where he is best known for facing down the White House over a warrantless surveillance program. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration’s nominee to become the next FBI director has told senators that FBI surveillance programs are subject to strict oversight designed to ensure that individual privacy rights are not violated.

James Comey said he’s not familiar with details of the government’s phone and Internet surveillance program. But he also said that collecting that type of information can be “a valuable tool” in counterterrorism.

Comey appeared Tuesday before a friendly Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering his nomination for FBI director. Both Democrats and Republicans spoke approvingly of Comey’s past record in government.

Comey says federal judges who oversee government intelligence programs are “anything but a rubber stamp.” But he agreed to work with committee chairman Patrick Leahy on what Leahy calls “common sense improvements” to surveillance laws.

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