FBI director wrongheaded, but had tools at disposal to do this right

As a former federal prosecutor, I was astonished to see how unprofessionally FBI director James Comey handled the discovery of additional e-mails (“New e-mails prompt FBI to revisit Clinton case,’’ Page A1, Oct. 29). He seems to have thought, based on his subsequent statements, that he had only two choices: Tell Congress there is more, wreaking havoc on a presidential election, or remain silent and run the risk of being accused later of a coverup.

The obvious third, and correct, choice would have been to do what the FBI is clearly capable of: without any public statement, immediately assign as many agents to this task as needed, and have an answer in 72 hours. Then, after you have an answer, report to Congress, or don’t report to Congress, as the circumstances warrant.

Consider the difference: Seven days before the election, you issue a statement clearly describing what you found, how it was analyzed, and what you have concluded — or you report nothing if there’s nothing meaningful in the e-mails. This, as opposed to: Eleven days before the election, you announce to the world that you have found something but have no idea what it is or whether it may be relevant to anything, knowing that this will throw a critical election into chaos.

Comey should just do his job as a professional investigator. He had enough resources and technical capacity to get an answer to this additional discovery well before the election if he showed some leadership. For him not to have seen this avenue suggests that he is in over his head.

Robert M. Thomas Jr.


The writer is an attorney in Boston and a former assistant US attorney in Maryland.