At a cybersecurity conference at Boston College last week, FBI Director James Comey made some news regarding the rest of his scheduled tenure, but that was overshadowed somewhat by a warning that all Americans might want to pay close attention to. And with the revelations found in the WikiLeaks publications, Comey’s comments regarding privacy could not be more timely.
Comey told the attendees that he would be completing his 10-year term as head of the FBI. “You’re stuck with me for another six-and-a-half years,” he said.
That announcement alone settles a matter of much speculation, especially around the time of the election. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had their share of things to say about how the agency handled the investigation into Clinton’s email server. When asked in December if he would keep Comey on as FBI director, Trump said he would have to wait and make that determination at a later date.
In his speech, Comey did not mention the controversial investigation and he did not address Russia, WikiLeaks, or Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped the phones at his New York City home. He did, however, give his thoughts on the nature of privacy in the modern world.
“All of us have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, and in our devices. But it also means with good reason, in court, government through law enforcement can invade our private spaces,” Comey said. “Even our memories aren’t private. Any of us can be compelled to say what we saw. In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any of us to testify in court on those private communications.”
To clear up any confusion, Comey laid it out straight. “There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America,” he said. “No place in America is outside of judicial reach.”
Comey’s remarks come as the FBI begins its investigation into a major leak inside the CIA, which in turn brought many questions of privacy and security to the forefront. The breach revealed many of the CIA’s cyber-spying capabilities, some of which involve complicity on the part of several leading tech companies. The CIA would not confirm or deny the veracity of the documents, but it has released a statement assuring the public that it is “legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and CIA does not do so.”