James Comey’s forthcoming book, “A Higher Loyalty,” is being rushed to bookstores two weeks earlier than previously planned. The publisher wants to take advantage of what the Associated Press describes as the “intense scrutiny” currently directed at the former FBI chief.
The book will examine “what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader,” according to publisher Flatiron Books.
Scrutiny is particularly intense concerning Comey’s actions as head of the nation’s best-known law enforcement agency in the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and address. She used those to conduct official business as the country’s chief diplomat between 2009 and 2013.
Comey’s actions in that regard prompted what has since become a tidal wave of revelations that cast fundamental doubt in the minds of many congressional officials, along with national security and law enforcement experts, about whether the former FBI chief displayed the “good, ethical leadership” his book is said to describe.
To choose but two of many reasons, here’s why:
The FBI found hundreds of emails to and from Clinton and her key aides containing some of the nation’s most sensitive classified information after The New York Times exposed the server’s presence in March 2015. The server was located in the Chappaqua, New York, mansion owned by Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Comey threw the 2016 presidential race between Democratic nominee Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump into chaos with a nationally televised July 5 statement, in which he reported the results of the FBI investigation into the email scandal.
Clinton had claimed repeatedly after her private server became publicly known that none of the estimated 50,000 emails on it contained classified information and that she thus had not jeopardized national security.
But Comey told the nation in his statement that at least 52 email chains contained top-secret, secret, or classified information at the time they were sent, including “seven email chains [concerning] matters that were classified at the top secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received.
“These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
Despite such findings, Comey declined to recommend prosecution of Clinton because, he said, she didn’t intend to give the classified information to a foreign power. The problem is that federal law doesn’t care about the violator’s intent; it only cares that the violator was grossly negligent.
Comey got around the gross negligence stipulation, however, by describing Clinton’s actions as merely “extremely careless.” That description, it has since been learned, was the result of highly questionable editing by Comey and colleagues before the FBI’s sole interview of Clinton on the matter.
Comey’s decisions on Clinton and the email scandal are just one area in which his actions appear contrary to “good, ethical leadership.” Critics also point to his role in the FBI’s misleading application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for a warrant to spy on private U.S. citizens supporting Trump against Clinton.
Classified information recently summarized by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes in a four-page memo said the application relied primarily on a dossier full of claims Comey described to Congress as “salacious and unverified,” about Trump’s relationships with Russian business and government interests.
The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy and longtime FBI asset, at a time that his work was being funded by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign committee, via a Washington, D.C., law firm with multiple Democratic Party connections.
The FBI did not disclose those materially relevant facts about the dossier’s sourcing credibility to the FISA court in either its original application or in multiple subsequent requests to maintain the surveillance. Comey signed three of those submissions to the FISA court.
The dossier was so important to the FBI’s application that the bureau would not have submitted it without the Steele document. Rules known as the FISA court’s “Woods Procedures” require that applications fully disclose all facts that may help determine the credibility of materials used in them.
Violating the Woods Procedures is a very serious matter. As former CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson noted in a recent post on The Hill: “In the past, when the FBI has presented inaccuracies to the FISA court, it’s been viewed so seriously that it’s drawn the attention of the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates Justice Department attorneys accused of misconduct or crimes in their professional functions.”