James Comey famously threatened to resign from the Justice Department in 2004 over the warrantless surveillance of Americans' internet records. But once Justice Department and National Security Agency lawyers found a novel legal theory to cover the surveillance, the man Barack Obama tapped last week to lead the FBI stayed on as deputy attorney general for another year as the monitoring continued.
Comey was the acting attorney general in March 2004, when long-simmering legal tensions over the online "metadata" surveillance pitted the Justice Department and FBI against the Bush White House and NSA. That incident, dramatically recounted by Comey to the Senate in May 2007, earned the 6ft 8in former federal prosecutor a reputation for integrity that has become central to his persona.
President Obama directly referred to that reputation when he nominated Comey to take over the FBI on June 21. Hovering over the announcement were the Guardian and Washington Post's revelations of wide-ranging surveillance efforts.