FBI Director James Comey, in a visit Tuesday to Omaha's FBI headquarters, encouraged Americans to be suspicious of government power.
Comey said the intelligence community as a whole has suffered a lot of criticism after Edward Snowden leaked classified documents about the National Security Agency's surveillance tactics.
The FBI director doesn't view Snowden as a whistleblower and said the nation legally collected telephone call logs to prevent terrorism.
But Comey said Americans today should question government power just as the Founding Fathers did. They created three branches of government and wanted to prevent any single branch from becoming too powerful.
Comey said he thinks the government operates the way the founders intended.
“What you can't say is that this is rogue conduct or lawless conduct that the whistle was blown on — that's nonsense,” Comey said. “This was lawful conduct overseen by all three branches of government.”
He said people who take the time to see how the FBI uses its authority will conclude that government is working as designed.
“I assure you the FBI is doing nothing that I can't explain or defend,” said Comey, who became director in September. “I am very proud of our record.”
Comey stopped in Omaha to meet with local agents to discuss how the bureau can better work with local law enforcement agencies in Nebraska and Iowa.
Comey has been visiting FBI field offices across the nation to build better relationships with Washington and to figure out what resources local offices need. He declined to discuss his conversations with FBI agents here and with local law enforcement, including Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer.
“I'm here because I want to learn from my troops what they want me to focus on, what they're worried about, what they care about, so I can be a more effective director,” Comey said.
Under his direction, he said, the FBI's priority will remain counterterrorism overseas and stateside.