"I thought most important of all was this question about regardless of whether the CIA says it's effective, and regardless of whether the Office of Legal Counsel says it doesn't violate this particular 1994 statute, there's a critical third question, which is, Should we be doing this, and is it appropriate as Americans?" Comey told Leahy. Comey said he pushed the Bush administration to have that discussion.
Multiple Democratic senators pressed Comey on another controversial Obama administration practice, the force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strike.
"Obviously, if I were FBI director, I don't think it's an area that would be within my job scope," Comey told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
"It's within all of our job scopes to care about how the United States of America acts," Feinstein interjected.
"What you're describing I, frankly, wouldn't want done to me, but I don't know the circumstances well enough to offer you an opinion," Comey told Feinstein, after she described the practice of binding detainees' feet and hands while inserting a feeding tube into their noses.
A frequent request heard today was that the FBI declassify, or share already declassified, FISA court opinions to lend greater transparency to U.S. surveillance practices.
Again citing his lack of familiarity with specifics, Comey did not commit to doing so but said he's open to the idea.
"I don't know what's in the opinions; I also don't know what's on the other side in terms of concerns about classified information. It's hard for me to say at this point. I think it is a worthy exercise to look closely at it, though," he told Schumer.
While most of the hearing saw grievances aired and questions asked about national security policies, renowned tea partier Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Comey on the investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing at the IRS in its targeting of tea party groups for extra scrutiny.
"It should be a very high priority," Comey said.