Siun tells us that Pete Williams was on MSNBC today spinning the yarn that James Comey's objections to the NSA wiretapping scheme were only momentary and technical, and that he eventually was part of the effort to get the NYT to sit on the story.
While this tale is I suppose possible it sounds quite unlikely, and its successful perpetuation depends on two things:
1) That Comey himself will not come out and challenge it. Probably true.
2) That nobody in the blogosphere will ferret around in the news vaults and set Comey's relationship to the Administration during his brief stint at the DoJ in its proper context.
In this particular instance the context is set by Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy, who unearths this superb bit from the Legal Times in October 2004:
There are a number of candidates who could be tapped to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general if President George W. Bush wins re-election. But perhaps the most obvious choice, Deputy AG James Comey, almost certainly will not be.And:
Since his confirmation as the No. 2 Justice Department official in December 2003, sources close to the department say Comey has had a strained relationship with some of the president's top advisers . . . .
Earlier this year, after the disclosure of internal administration memos that seemed to condone the torture of suspected terrorists overseas, Comey pushed aggressively for the Justice Department's memos to be released to the media and for controversial legal analyses regarding the use of torture to be rewritten.
In a deeply partisan administration that places a high premium on political loyalty, sources say Comey — a career prosecutor and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — is not viewed as a team player.
"[Comey] has shown insufficient political savvy," says the former official. "The perception is that he has erred too much on the side of neutrality and independence."
"The appointment of Pat Fitzgerald is the kind of decision that the White House isn't thrilled with," says one former DOJ official. "Comey knew what he was doing when he appointed Pat."In a different era Pete Williams' story would sit unchallenged like so many other great stinking piles of pushback spin, at best only part of a larger story designed to paint the Administration's despotic actions in a positive light. By the time the truth came out Williams' credulous repetition of a tale that certainly looks, sounds and smells like bullshit would be long forgotten. In the post-Whitewater world, however, Williams will now be made to wear this particular story like an anvil for the rest of his career if it turns out not to be true.
Volokh is no liberal choir boy and as his role in the Padilla case shows, neither is Comey. Partisan privilege will not protect journalists willing to sacrifice the truth and their integrity for a quick ride on the lap of the steely-eyed rocketman.