FBI director touches on Ferguson shooting, ex-attorneys general, terrorism in Salt Lake visit

By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Aug. 19, 2014, 5:35 p.m. MDT

 James Comey, director of the FBI, talks to the media at the FBI office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.

James Comey, director of the FBI, talks to the media at the FBI office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — FBI Director James Comey wouldn't say much Tuesday about the civil rights investigation his agency and the Department of Justice are conducting in Ferguson, Missouri.

"I have put a lot of people on it to make sure that we gather the facts in an impartial, careful and expeditious way. But because that work is ongoing, I don't want say more about it just yet," he told reporters.

Comey, who is 11 months into a 10-year term as head of the FBI, was in Salt Lake City as part of his effort to visit the agency's 56 field offices in the United States and 64 foreign offices. The Salt Lake office covers Utah, Idaho and Montana. He spent the day meeting with agents and local law enforcement officials.

In a news conference, Comey talked mostly about the FBI's counterterrorism efforts and took reporters' questions on other topics, including the investigation into former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow.

Comey said dozens of agents are on the ground in Ferguson, where police shot and killed an unarmed black teenager Aug. 9. The killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown has ignited violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

"We have flooded the area because it's a circumstance in which there might be lots of folks who saw something," he said.

Regarding Shurtleff and Swallow, Comey said he couldn't comment on why the DOJ dropped its investigation, while the FBI continued on. Local FBI agents worked with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county investigators to build a case against the two that resulted in criminal charges last month.

Comey, who served as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, said he didn't want to talk in detail about a pending prosecution. Generally, he said, the FBI stays involved when the facts warrant it.

Before taking questions, Comey said counterterrorism is the FBI's top priority.

"We're about that every single day, all day," he said.

Of particular concern, Comey said, are thousands of foreign terrorists in Syria from the U.S., Canada and Western Europe.

"There will come a terrorist diaspora out of Syria and Iraq, and we simply must be ready for it. Those people will come back having learned the worst possible skills, made the worst possible connections and flowed back to Western Europe and North America," he said.

"We are determined not to allow a future terrorist diaspora to be connected to a future 9/11."

Comey also said he also worries about homegrown violent extremists who affiliate with al-Qaida without ever meeting any of its members.

"There is so much of al-Qaida's poisonous propaganda and training material on the Internet that they don't need to get out of their basements, they don't need to get out of their pajamas before they can convince themselves that they got to go on jihad and they got to kill innocent people in the United States," he said.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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Blurring police, military

Deseret News editorial
Aug. 20, 2014
1. Marsha N.
Aug. 20, 2014

I believe that Mr. Comey is exactly right. Peaceful life in this country as we have always known it will soon disappear as thousands of middle east terrorist sympathizers flood into America from unsecured borders and their internet propaganda infects those who choose to listen to it. I believe the situation in Ferguson is symptomatic of things to come. This is obviously not peaceful, lawful protesting. It is deliberately violent confrontation with police, designed to provoke officers who are trying to return the town to a semblance of order. If the "protestors" really wanted to help the black citizens of the town they would organize to serve their people instead of inciting them to riot.
For those who cast the accusation that they are living under unfair police restraint, let them go to a city like Singapore where every move is regulated and even minor infractions are severely punished with caning and imprisonment. Civil liberties depend on personal commitment to living by the rule of law without which Anarchy will surely come.

2. The Universal Curmudgeon
Canada, 00,
Aug. 20, 2014

Marsha, you have several things right and several things wrong.

The most important thing you have right is "Civil liberties depend on personal commitment to living by the rule of law ..." and people living in a "Gun Culture" drift away from that faster than most. Unfortunate the "... without which Anarchy will surely come." bit isn't as true. "Repressive Government" is just as likely to be the result.

Your view of the situation might be somewhat different if you understand that its genesis was in the 1870s and not the 2000s. The people of the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Asia have been trying to find a way to remove those they consider "Colonialist Oppressors" since the 1870s - with varying degrees of success. It doesn't matter if YOU think that those people are "Colonial Oppressors" or not, what matters is what the people who are trying to remove them think they are. Although different in form, the United States of America is the inheritor of the legacy of a situation created by Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

3. John Locke
Ivins, , UT,
Aug. 20, 2014

Don't know why the Feds are in Missouri...this is a local issue. There is no evidence of a hate crime. and four autopsies have been performed. Four!

If the incident had been reversed and a black cop had shot a white youth in a low rent district; who had just committed a strong arm robbery and was walking down the middle of the street, and attacked the policeman in his car...no Eric Holder or President Obama. Nothing. No riots, nothing. Saul Alinksy "Rules for Radicals," and Rahm Emanuel's "...never let a good crisis go to waste," tactics being used here.

Sure, there needs to be a full investigation with witnesses and CSI work. And a grand jury should be asked to review the facts of the case for a possible indictment, without being pressured by Holder, Nixon or other democrat politicians out for some TV coverage.

The Media is responsible for stimulating the riots as they stick a camera into every youth's face and ask, "what do you think?" Tired of that. Won't look until it is over and we can get back to our daily dose of world and national crises.

4. brotherJonathan
Aug. 20, 2014

Why wasn't Director Comey's visit to SLC posted before the event? I would liked to have been there....I would have handed him some truths;
Proof of crimes against citizens and nobody opens their oath bound mouths.
Dear pres. Obama/citizens, this is our problem: we are breaking our own rules of law............Our drug laws have created a self-fulfilling, unfair, slavery -based monopoly group with special powers, within our protected citizenship under all laws, constitutional - democracy rule of law. Corporate bribery and elite citizenship powers/monopoly are serious violations of our highest law under constitutional rule. Equality under all laws between all citizen membership. No cheating allowed under law.

God's rule of law for mankind. .. Constitutional equality under all laws.

Corporate political contributions are not lawful and violate state/federal bribery statutes because of "corporate mission laws" that protect share holders funds (from fraud/embezzlement); funds must be spent on profit or humanitarian expenditures only.
--BRIBERY: The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties

5. kiddsport
Fairview, UT,
Aug. 20, 2014

You forgot to add union contributions in your description of bribery.