A day before he was fired abruptly by President Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey gave his last speech in office - at the annual conference of the Anti-Defamation League, which was held this week in Washington, D.C.
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Comey's speech focused on the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech in 2017. Parts of Comey's speech, which deals with events of the past, now seem somewhat relevant in light of the news of his firing.
Comey talked in his remarks about the importance of treating hate speech, including the forms of it that are wide-spread on the interest, with urgency and seriousness. "You all know too well that in a heartbeat, hate speech can turn into violence," he said. He also stated that law enforcement agencies "must do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our country, so we can stop it."
One of the most important parts of the speech had to do with the FBI's requirement that its agents visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington in order to learn about the extermination of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Comey called the Holocaust "the most significant event in human history" and said that one of its main lessons what how normal people, who might even be thinking that they are doing good, can in fact carry out the most evil atrocities.
Comey also discussed in his speech problematic chapters from his own agency's past, such as the FBI's surveillance of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. According to Comey, reading about that surveillance taught him how important and vital it was that "power be overseen and constrained." Comey said he keeps in his office documents relating to that investigation, "to remind me of what we in the FBI are responsible for and what we as humans are capable of."