Senate confirms Comey as FBI director in 93-1 vote


The Senate on Monday confirmed James Comey as the seventh director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with a 93-1 vote.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted "no," becoming the first senator to vote against an FBI director since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972.

Two senators — Oregon Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden — voted "present."

All other confirmed FBI directors were approved by the Senate either by unanimous consent or with no dissenting votes. Two nominees were withdrawn by the presidents who picked them — L. Patrick Gray, nominated by President Richard Nixon, was implicated in the Watergate scandal, while Frank M. Johnson, selected by President Jimmy Carter, withdrew because of a health problem.

Paul opposed Comey's nomination because of concerns about the FBI's use of drone surveillance over U.S. soil. He received a letter from the FBI on Monday, a second round of correspondence that prompted him to drop his objections to Comey's nomination and allow the Senate to vote to confirm him.

The FBI responded to his initial query with details of the drone program, saying earlier this month that they had used drones over American soil a total of 10 times.

FBI Director nominee James Comey testifies 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) Evan Vucci / AP file

Paul wrote back asking about whether or not the FBI needed a warrant to conduct such surveillance.

On Monday, Paul received a second letter back from the FBI. In that letter, the FBI said that while the Supreme Court has never directly considered drone use in this context, there are cases that say there's no reasonable expectation of privacy because the areas observed were open to public view.

The FBI also argued that using drones does not represent physical trespass.

The law enforcement agency also said that long term surveillance of a person in public space could amount to a search as defined by the Fourth Amendment and indicated they do not use drones to surveil Americans in the long term. "We do not use UAVs to conduct such surveillance," they said.

Paul said he disagreed with this interpretation but lifted the hold because they responded.

In a statement after Comey's confirmation, President Obama said he "applaud[ed] the overwhelming, bipartisan majority of Senators who today confirmed Jim Comey to be the next director of the FBI," but he noted that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also not had a confirmed director for years.

"I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Todd Jones, my nominee to lead the ATF, so that he and his team can do their part to keep American families safe," Obama said.