President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate James Comey, a former Justice Department official who helped oversee the legality of national surveillance programs under President George W. Bush, as the next head of the FBI, according to a White House official.
If confirmed by the Senate, Comey will replace Robert Mueller as the head of the agency. Mueller has held his post since the week before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Comey, 52, served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005, and made headlines when it was revealed he went to dramatic efforts to prevent the reauthorization of a controversial warrantless eavesdropping program. One night in March of 2004, Comey raced to the bedside Attorney General John Ashcroft as two senior Bush officials were en route in the hopes of getting the ailing Ashcroft to sign off on the continuation of the program.
Comey helped prevent the program's re-authorization and later told Congress he felt like the Bush administration officials attempted to "take advantage of a very sick man."
His actions drew praise from Democrats and Republicans alike, and enjoys widely bipartisan support because of it. The White House has made a concerted effort to highlight Comey’s past GOP ties, saying that the president has reached across the aisle to choose the leader of a key agency in his administration amid roiling controversies about national security and electronic surveillance.
Federal Election Commission reports show that Comey donated the maximum individual contribution, $5000, to Obama's opponent Mitt Romney last year.
Before joining the Justice Department, Comey was known as a successful prosecutor. He initial got on the radar of the Bush White House after taking over the case of a 1996 terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. troops. He successfully prosecuted 14 men after being put in charge of the stalled case.
Most recently, Comey has worked in the private sector, serving as general counsel of defense contractor Lockheed Martin and later at investment firm Bridgewater Associates. Earlier this year he joined Columbia University's law school as a senior research fellow and joined the board of international banking giant HSBC.