Mar 2, 2021
FBI Director Christopher Wray Testifies on Capitol Attack, Domestic Terrorism Full Hearing Transcript March 2
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate on March 2, 2021 on the January 6 riot at the US Capitol and domestic terrorism. Read the transcript of the full hearing below.
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Mr. Durbin: (01:46)
The hearing will come to order. Today the Senate is holding its first oversight hearing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first since July of 2019. This is also FBI director Wray’s, first appearance on Capitol Hill since the January 6th insurrection. Director Wray, welcome back. At the outset, I want to extend my condolences for the loss of FBI special agents, Daniel Alfin, and Laura Schwartzenberger, who were killed last month in the line of duty in South Florida. Tomorrow mark’s the eight weeks that have passed since an armed mob stormed the US capital. Incited, I’m sorry to say, by the president Trump administration and determined to subvert our democracy by disrupting the Electoral College count. As Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell said, quote, “there is no question, none, that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the event of that day.”
Mr. Durbin: (02:49)
While these efforts to overturn a free and fair election were ultimately unsuccessful, the trauma of that tragic harrowing day lingers on. This timeless symbol of our democracy still bears the scars of that attack. The attack caused the senseless deaths of Capitol police officers, Brian Sicknick, and Howard Liebengood, and DC police officer, Jeffrey Smith. Countless police officers, staff, journalists, and members of Congress, remain haunted by the sights and sounds of that day. The neo-Nazis symbols and Confederate flags paraded through the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol, a noose and gallows constructed on the grounds outside the Capitol, the sinister shouts of, “Hang Mike Pence and where’s Nancy,” the extremists carrying zip ties and clad in tactical gear.
Mr. Durbin: (03:38)
Worst of all, the violent assaults on the US Capitol police and DC metropolitan police department officers, who bravely sought to protect us from the siege. And the FBI has warned us that the insurrection could be a quote, “significant driver of violence,” end quote, in the future, along with quote, “the shared false narrative of a stolen election,” close quote. So we must not forget the horrors of January 6th, or allow revisionists to rewrite what happened that day. I’d like to turn to a video to demonstrate the scale of the violence and the hate that we witnessed.
Speaker 1: (04:12)
USA, USA, USA.
Harry Dunn: (04:34)
It’s this cloud of smoke, broken flag poles, everything in the rotunda, just laying there on the floor. We’re told to get helmets, riot helmets. You just see a sea of people. And then you look down and you see officers fighting with these people, pepper spray, smoke grenades, gas grenades.
Speaker 2: (04:57)
I see speaker Pelosi being evacuated. And I hear them tell her the Capitol’s been breached.
Speaker 3: (05:03)
The staff went under the table, barricaded the door, turned out the lights and were silent in the dark for two and a half hours.
Speaker 4: (05:12)
Not knowing how long you were going to have to be there. Not knowing when you could come out. Not knowing if you were going to come out.
Harry Dunn: (05:18)
We fought with these people who were prepared for a fight. They had on gas masks. They had on body armor. They had on tactical gear. Bulletproof vests. They were ready to go. There were so many calls on the radio, “Priority. Help, help. Somebody’s trapped. We need help. Shots fired.”
Speaker 5: (05:42)
This is when officer Dunn encountered a couple in the crowd, who began hurling the most vile racial slurs at him, a black officer.
Speaker 6: (05:50)
He was called the N word more than a dozen times.
Harry Dunn: (05:53)
He say, “Hey, this (beep) voted for Joe Biden guys. Hey, everybody, this (beep) voted for Joe Biden.” They said, “You (beep).” I was scared. I was absolutely scared. At one point, I said, “How was this going to end?”
Speaker 7: (06:08)
It was just a double door with glass panes that was pushed out, I ended up getting pinned there by the crowd. There’s a guy ripping my mask off and he was able to rip away my baton and beat me with it. And he was practically foaming at the mouth.
Harry Dunn: (06:24)
We got dozens of officers down and you got the nerve to be holding the blue lives matter flag. Because one of the guys kept walking by, the other one pulled out his badge and said, “Trust me, I understand, we’re doing this for you buddy.” And he’s got a badge. He showed me his badge.
Speaker 5: (06:41)
Five people lost their lives that day, including Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick.
Harry Dunn: (06:47)
They beat police officers. They fought us. They had Confederate flags in the US Capitol. I got called a (beep) a couple dozen times today. It wasn’t just a mob or a bunch of thugs, they were terrorists. They tried to disrupt this country’s democracy. That was their goal. Is this America? Is this America? What the hell just happened?
Mr. Durbin: (07:21)
The hate on display that terrible day, is not a new phenomenon in our country. America’s first domestic terror organization, the Ku Klux Klan, was born in the aftermath of the civil war to terrorize formerly enslaved African-Americans. As Judge Merrick Garland noted at his nomination hearing, the Department of Justice was founded during reconstruction, to quote, “secure the civil rights promised by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.” He went on to note that the first Attorney General appointed by president Grant, led quote, “a concerted battle to protect black voting rights from the violence of white supremacists, successfully prosecuting hundreds of cases against members of the Ku Klux Klan.” The insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, did not wear white robes and hoods. They might as well have. They are the latest incarnation of violent white supremacist movements that has terrorized fellow Americans on the basis of their race, religion, and national origin, for more than 150 years.
Mr. Durbin: (08:24)
Let me be clear at the outset. I’ve said this on many occasions and it bears repeating. I condemn all violence, regardless of ideology. I hope my Republican colleagues will join me today in acknowledging as the Department of Homeland Security found last October, that violent white supremacy is quote “the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland.” I hope they’ll also join me in unequivocally, unequivocally condemning the big lie that the November 3rd election was stolen, a falsehood which the former president continues to spread, which helped provoke the January 6th insurrection and threatens to incite future attacks. As the January 6th attack on the Capitol demonstrated, for too long our federal government has failed to address the growing terrorist menace in our own backyard. I have been sounding this alarm for some time. In 2012, I held a hearing in this committee on hate crimes and domestic extremism, following the horrific massacre of six worshipers at Sihk Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, perpetrated by white supremacists. In early 2017, I introduced the domestic terrorism prevention act with Congressman Brad Schneider, a bill that would enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism.
Mr. Durbin: (09:41)
During the Trump administration, I led multiple letters to Attorney General Barr, and to you, asking the steps that were taken by the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat the growing threat of white supremacist violence. I asked why the Bureau made the inexplicable decision to stop tracking white supremacists incidents as a separate category of domestic terrorism, and still are waiting the response. Meanwhile, the threat posed by domestic terrorists, in particular white supremacists and other far right extremists, has only continued to grow.
Mr. Durbin: (10:16)
The 2015 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist killed nine members of the church. The 2018 mass shooting at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where white supremacists killed 11 members of that Jewish congregation. The 2019 mass shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where a white supremacist targeted Latinos, killing 23 people and many, many more. Far too many Americans, particularly people of color and religious minorities, worry whether their community will be next to be devastated by tragedy. Despite the scope of the violent white supremacist threat, former president Trump and his administration, unfortunately downplayed the threat posed by white supremacists.
Mr. Durbin: (11:04)
The Trump administration never set up a task force to combat the numerous incidents of deadly terrorist violence by white supremacists and other extremists. It was only after the black lives matter activists protested last summer against police misconduct, that the administration found the need to establish a task force to address, and I quote, “antigovernment extremists.” In a recent report in the New York Times details how the Trump administration’s baseless efforts to paint the far left as the real domestic terrorism threat quote, “diverted key portions of the federal law enforcement and domestic security agencies at a time when the threat from the far right was building ominously.” To put this challenge in context, even conservative writers believe we are now facing a constitutional crisis. For the first time ever, we have failed to have a peaceful transfer of power and many are questioning the legitimacy of the current administration.
Mr. Durbin: (12:03)
The fact that this divisive political force is hateful and violent, challenges all of us to redouble our efforts. I join my Republican colleagues unequivocally in condemning left wing violence, but let’s stop pretending that the threat of Antifa is equivalent to the white supremacist threat. Vandalizing a federal courthouse in Portland is a crime. It should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but it is not equivalent to a violent attempt to overturn the results of elections, nor is it equivalent to mass shootings targeting minority communities. This false equivalency is an insult to the brave police officers who were injured or lost their lives on January 6th, as well dozens of others who’ve been murdered in white supremacist attacks. We need to be abundantly clear that the white supremacists and other extremists, are the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing the United States today. I hope everyone in this room can look at the facts and acknowledge this, and we can come together on a bipartisan basis to defeat this threat. Now I’d like to turn to ranking member Grassley.
Mr. Grassley: (13:11)
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you director Wray for being here, as opposed to being virtual, like we have some people testifying. We all agree that what happened at the Capitol January 6th, was a desecration of our shared values. It was an attack on the seat of democracy. Those who engaged in violence, disgraced our country. And we know the statistics, at least seven people, including one US Capitol police officer, died as a result of that day. Also know that two officers committed suicide, and we know that hundreds were injured. And of course, we expected God watches over them and their families. Those who broke the law must be prosecuted, and Congress needs answers, especially about one officer, Brian Sicknick, what happened to him.
Mr. Grassley: (14:23)
In pursuit of the facts related to January 6th, Senator Durbin and I have sent oversight letters to the FBI and other agencies. To date, we haven’t received any productions. It’s difficult to hold a hearing today without records, so the FBI must fully respond to Congress. However, I’m pleased to see that many investigative cases are progressing around the country. As I noted before, the ultimate responsibility for this attack rests on the shoulders of those who unlawfully entered the Capitol. I’ve also made very clear that everyone involved must take responsibility for their actions that day, including our former president. Now in the wake of January 6th, we must seriously examine the threats of domestic extremism, but unfortunately this threat isn’t limited to the events of that terrible day. To fully address it, we must examine the forms of domestic extremism that span the ideological spectrum. And I hope this doesn’t put me opposite Senator Durbin on this issues, because I just heard him, and I don’t think I disagree with anything that he has said, but a narrow view of these matters would be intellectually dishonest.
Mr. Grassley: (16:04)
We’re not serious about tackling domestic extremism if we tolerate mobs that attack some police officers, but not all police officers. We’re not serious about tackling domestic extremism if we care about some government buildings being attacked, but not others. We’re not serious about tackling domestic extremism if we only focus on white supremacy movements, which isn’t the only idea ideology that’s responsible for murders and violence. Yes, white supremacy movements may be considered the most dangerous at a given time, but somehow it wasn’t last summer or won’t be when the next foreign attack is attempted. We must call extremism, wherever it happens, across the board, left or right, every time. We must focus our resources to try to see as much of it coming as we possibly can, wherever it comes from. It hardly registered in the media when marshals and Secret Service officers defended courthouses and the White House, that’s not Senator Durbin’s fault, that’s the media’s fault.
Mr. Grassley: (17:37)
They were called stormtroopers by the Speaker of the House, like they aren’t even human beings. Vice president Harris, when she was a Senator, supported the Minnesota Freedom Fund, an organization that helped bail out violent rioters in Minnesota. 13 staffers of a candidate for president at that time, boasted on Twitter that they donated to the group. According to one news report, the group paid $75,000 to get one man out of jail when he was charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting at a police officer during the May protests. One of the most upsetting aspects of violence this summer, has been the targeting of innocent law enforcement officers, just like innocent law enforcement officers were targeted during January 6th. We had more than 700 officers being injured between May 27th last year and June 8th last year. Officers have been assaulted, slashed, struck with hammers, baseball bats and blinded by lasers. 67 Secret Service officers were injured during a three-day siege on the White House, which caused then president Trump, to be brought into a secure bunker.
Mr. Grassley: (19:10)
We also remember on television seeing our colleague from Kentucky, having a hard time getting to the White House when he wanted to go there sometime last summer. We also had the church across the street was lit on fire, across the street from the White House, as part of that continued left wing assault. More than 300 people were charged federally for their roles in those months of violence. 80 of those charges related to the use of arson and explosives. At least 14,000 people were arrested in 49 cities. At least 25 people died in violence related to the riots. There has been 280 arrests as a result of the January 6th attack, compared to more than 1000 arrests as a result of riots, just in Portland last year. It’s been estimated that insurance losses of summer’s civil unrest, possibly exceeded $2 billion.
Mr. Grassley: (20:22)
It’s been a relatively frequent site at summer’s violence events, to see individuals acting in coordination, holding the A symbol for Antifa. And as I said before, I don’t disagree with anything I heard Senator Durbin say this morning, but we did have an admitted Antifa adherent in Portland, murder a conservative protester. Supporters of that group have been charged federally for promoting riots and using Molotov cocktails. Even after president Biden’s electoral victory, can you believe this, Antifa rioters attacked the Oregon Democratic party headquarters and they did that on inauguration day. You’d think the results of the election ought to satisfy them, if that’s what they wanted to do accomplish in an anti-Trump manner of getting rid of Trump as president.
Mr. Grassley: (21:29)
Let’s not forget about left wing activists who opened fire on 24 Republican congressmen and hit a Capitol police officer, a congressional aide, a lobbyist and Representative Steve Scalise at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. And of course our colleague on the other side of the aisle, had a life-threatening injury at that time. In light of these ever-present left wing threats, I’m concerned about resource shifting talk among our colleagues across the aisle. Let me say this clearly, we aren’t going to defund the anarchist extremism program or any other domestic terrorism program. It can’t be that the FBI needs a fully funded art theft program, but can’t afford to fight both right wing and left wing extremism. We must examine the issue of domestic terrorism broadly, very broadly, to include all forms of political extremism, domestic terrorism, wherever it falls on the political spectrum. No serious oversight activity and no other policy decisions can be made without doing both.
Mr. Grassley: (22:56)
As we move forward, I encourage both houses of Congress to review not just the events of January 6th, but also domestic violent extremism across the board and the threat it brings to our families and communities. And let me emphasize three times now, nothing I heard Senator Durbin say do I disagree with, but we need real answers on extreme involvement, on pre-planning and coordination. And we also need to know what happened to officer Sicknick. In closing, I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for law enforcement and in particular, the Capitol police for their efforts on the job and during the terrible events of January 6th, they’re truly heroes. I yield. Thank you.
Mr. Durbin: (23:57)
Thank you Senator Grassley. Director Wray, would you please stand to be sworn? Do you affirm the testimony you’re about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Thank you. Let the record reflect that the director answered in the affirmative and now director, you may proceed with your testimony.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (24:24)
Oh, there we go. So good morning, Chairman Durbin, ranking member, Grassley and members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to talk about the great work of the men and women of the FBI. Let me start with a quick update on the investigation into the January 6th attack here at the Capitol. I was appalled, like you, at the violence and destruction that we saw that day. I was appalled that you, our country’s elected leaders, were victimized right here in these very halls. That attack, that siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple, and it’s behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism. It’s got no place in our democracy and tolerating it would make a mockery of our nation’s rule of law. The rule of law, of course, is our country’s bedrock and it’s our guiding principle at the FBI. That’s why the FBI has been working day and night across the country, to track down those responsible for the events of January 6th and to hold them accountable.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (25:34)
We’re chasing down leads, we’re reviewing evidence, combing through digital media to identify, investigate, and arrest anyone who broke the law that day. And our greatest partner in this investigation, has been the American people themselves, your constituents. Citizens from around the country have sent us more than 270,000 digital media tips. Some have even taken the painful step of turning in their friends or their family members. But with their help, we’ve identified hundreds of suspects and opened hundreds of investigations in all but one of our 56 field offices. And of those identified, we’ve arrested already more than 270 individuals to date, over 300 when you include the ones of our partners, with more subjects being identified and charged just about every single day. The FBI is committed to seeing this through no matter how many people it takes or how long or the resources we need to get it done, because as citizens, in a sense, we’re all victims of the January 6th assault and the American people deserve nothing less.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (26:46)
Unfortunately, as you noted Mr. Chairman, January 6th was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon. At the FBI, we’ve been sounding the alarm on it for a number of years now. I’ve been sounding the alarm about domestic terrorism since, I think, just about my first month on the job, when I first started appearing up on the Hill and I’ve spoken about it in maybe a dozen different congressional hearings. So whenever we’ve had the chance, we’ve tried to emphasize that this is a top concern and remains so for the FBI. In fact, in fact, we viewed it as such a critical threat, that back in June of 2019, under my leadership, we elevated racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism to our highest threat priority, on the same level with ISIS and homegrown violent extremists, where it remains to this day.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (27:47)
Now I’m sure we’re going to cover a lot of ground today, but let me make one thing clear, the FBI will not tolerate agitators and extremists who plan or commit violence, period. And that goes for violent extremists of any stripe. As I’ve said many times, we do not investigate ideology, but we focus on acts of violence and violations of federal law. And when we see those, when we see those, we will bring to bear the full weight of our resources, our experience, and our partnerships. And when domestic violent extremists use explosive devices, when they attack government facilities and businesses, when they assault law enforcement officers, when they use violence to interfere with the lawful operation of our government, they should expect the FBI to come knocking on their door, no matter where they try to run.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (28:42)
Now of course, these are not the only issues the FBI is focused on every day, and as I hope we’ll discuss in more detail this morning, we confront a wide variety of threats in countless other forms, like the SolarWinds intrusions which we’re working to investigate and counter with our intelligence, law enforcement and private sector partners, both here and abroad. Not to mention a huge range of other cyber threats, from nation states, criminals and toxic combinations of the two, like the vast unrelenting counter-intelligence threat from China, and of course the alarming threat of violence towards law enforcement officers. A threat that’s especially close to home here in the Capitol, the attack on January 6th, not only resulted in the injuries of over 100 law enforcement officers, but also the tragic death of US Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick in the line of duty.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (29:37)
The threat of violence to law enforcement is also deeply personal for us at the FBI. Just one month ago today, two of our special agents, Laura Schwartzenberger and Dan Alfin, were tragically killed in the line of duty and four more of our agents, shot or wounded all while serving a search warrant. And I can tell you that there is nothing, nothing, more devastating, more heartbreaking than the loss of our own. The loss of two special agents who not only bravely did what I consider one of the hardest jobs in the FBI, investigating crimes against children, but who were also each parents of young children themselves, of their own, a wife, a husband, and cherished members of their communities. And I know a number of members of Congress, including a number on this committee, reached out and offered their condolences and offerings of support, and I want you to know how much that means to the FBI and how much it means to me personally.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (30:43)
Special agents, Laura Schwartzenberger and Dan Alfin sacrificed their lives that day, like far too many of our law enforcement brethren also killed in the line of duty. Their ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, it was to protect the American people, it was to protect each of us. And it’s why no matter what comes our way, our work to safeguard the rule of law, to protect the American people and to uphold the constitution, goes on and will never stop. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I look forward to answering your questions.
Mr. Durbin: (31:19)
Thanks director. We’ll have seven minute rounds for the members to ask questions. Let me start. And as you said at the outset, we could spend the better part of the day or beyond that, with all the topics of importance involving the FBI, but I really have to stay with the January 6th situation. There’s a lot of confusion about the planning and coordination by federal state and local law enforcement agencies in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol. I was surprised to learn the FBI did not issue a threat assessment before January 6th, especially because the FBI’s Norfolk, Virginia field office had uncovered specific threats against members of Congress, maps of the tunnel system under the Capitol complex and places to meet before-
Mr. Durbin: (32:03)
Of the tunnel system under the Capitol complex and places to meet before traveling together to Washington. I was also surprised to hear acting D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Conti say that his information was only conveyed to the MPD in an email at 7:00 PM the night before January 6th. Chief Conti acknowledged that the information was raw intelligence, but said he would think, “Something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something.” So it comes down to the basic question of what the FBI knew, when they knew it, whether they shared it, why this didn’t rise to the level of a threat assessment.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (32:43)
So, Mr. Chairman, I welcomed the question. You touched on a number of points there. So first, let me say that we were, in the period leading up to January 6th, tracking a large amount of information about large numbers of people coming to participate in protests and about the potential for violence. The one specific piece of information that you referred to, the information from our Norfolk field office has gotten a lot of attention.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (33:11)
So this was what’s called a situational information report. It was prepared by our Norfolk field office specifically for dissemination. It was, as you noted, raw, unverified, uncorroborated information that had been posted online. And my understanding was that that information was quickly, as in, within an hour, disseminated and communicated with our partners, including the US Capitol police, including Metro PD, in not one, not two, but three different.
Mr. Durbin: (33:44)
When? Can you be more specific on time?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (33:46)
Sure, yeah, three different ways. So first there was an email, as you said, to our joint terrorism task force, which includes, the joint terrorism task force includes task force officers specifically selected by their chiefs who participate on the joint terrorism task forces for the very reason to be that chief’s, that department’s eyes and ears so that they get the information real-time, their departments do. So that’s the first piece.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (34:12)
Second, in addition to the email, verbally through the command post briefing that we had, because we had stood up command posts, both in the Washington field office and at headquarters, and those command posts included, again, representatives of the relevant agencies, Capitol police, MPD, et cetera, verbally the same information was walked through again.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (34:36)
And third, in addition to the email, in addition to the verbal briefing at the command post, the information was posted on what we call LEAP, which is a law enforcement portal, which is made available to law enforcement, not just here in the national capital region, but all around the country.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (34:53)
Now, again, the information was raw. It was unverified. In a perfect world, we would have taken longer to be able to out whether it was reliable, but we made the judgment, our folks made the judgment to get that information to the relevant people as quickly as possible, like I said, three different ways in order to leave as little as possible to chance. Now, I didn’t see the report myself even until after the 6th, but the way in which it handled, at least as I understand, strikes me as consistent with our normal process.
Mr. Durbin: (35:24)
Director, I was surprised to see that reporting that dozens of individuals on the terrorist screening database, also known as the terrorist watchlist, traveled to D.C. in the days leading up to the attack, I would have expected the FBI’s terrorist screening center to be aware of air travel by watchlisted individuals to the Washington D.C. area. Did the TSC notice an uptick in travel by watchlisted individuals before January 6th? If yes, what steps did they take, or did the FBI take in more general terms to make sure other departments and agencies knew these dangerous individuals were on their way to the Capitol?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (36:02)
So when it comes to the watchlist, I think there’s a couple of things I could say here today. So one is I do know that in a number of instances, there were individuals on whom we had previously predicated investigations that we saw getting ready to potentially travel. And these are not large numbers, but a handful of people. And in those instances, in a number of instances, we had agents in their home states or home cities approach those individuals, interview them. Even if we didn’t have a basis to charge somebody, it dissuaded a number of those people from traveling.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (36:41)
I guess the second thing I would say is that sometimes there’s a little confusion on the whole watchlist in concept. There’s a true no fly list, which is what applies to individuals who, under the rules, provide a threat to aviation itself, and then there’s what we sometimes refer to as selectees, which are individuals that can’t necessarily be barred in the same way from traveling, but in which there’s notice given to the agents investigating those individuals, and that information is then passed on. So in a number of instances, that happened in the period leading up to the 6th. I don’t have numbers for you though.
Mr. Durbin: (37:20)
I just have a minute left, but I want to address what I consider the next big lie after the lie that the President really won to November 3rd, President Trump. The next big lie appears to be the argument that somehow or another, those were not Trump supporters who invaded the Capitol. It made the rounds on the internet right before they came into the building and has been gaining momentum ever since. I like to ask you, Director Wray, do you agree that the Capitol attack involved white supremacists and other violent extremists?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (37:52)
Certainly the Capitol attack involved violent extremists. As I said, we, the FBI, consider this a form of domestic terrorism. It included a variety of backgrounds. Certainly there were quite a number, we’re seeing quite a number as we’re building out the cases on the individuals we’ve arrested for the violence, quite a number of what we would call sort of militia violent extremists. So we’ve got a number who self-identify with the Proud Boys or the Oathkeepers, things like that. We also have a couple of instances where we’ve already identified individuals involved in the criminal behavior who we would put in the racially motivated violent extremists who advocate for, what you would call for white supremacy. So there’ve been some of those individuals as well.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (38:41)
One of the things that’s happening as part of this is that as we build out the cases on individuals when we arrest them for the violence, we’re getting a richer and richer understanding of different people’s motivations. But certainly, as I said, militia violent extremism, some instances of a racially motivated violent extremism specifically advocating for the superior of the white race.
Mr. Durbin: (39:03)
Based on your investigations so far, do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by, “Fake Trump protestors.”
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (39:11)
We have not seen evidence of that at this stage certainly.
Mr. Durbin: (39:14)
Thank you. Senator Grassley.
Mr. Grassley: (39:15)
Yeah. We all want to know what happened to Officer Brian Sicknick, the tragic death as a result of that January 6th assault. There’s been conflicting reports about his cause of death. Have you determined the exact cause of death and is there a homicide investigation?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (39:39)
So I’ll take the last part of your question first. There is an ongoing investigation into his death. I have to be careful at this stage because it’s ongoing not to get out in front of it, but I certainly understand and respect and appreciate the keen interest in what happened to him. After all, he was here protecting all of you. And as soon as our there are information that we can appropriately share, we want to be able to do that. But at the moment, the investigation is still ongoing.
Mr. Grassley: (40:07)
So does that mean since the investigation’s going on, you have not determined the exact cause of the death?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (40:14)
That means we can’t yet disclose a cause of death at this stage.
Mr. Grassley: (40:19)
But you have determined the cause of death?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (40:20)
I didn’t say that. We’re not at a point where we can disclose or confirm the cause of death.
Mr. Grassley: (40:26)
It’s important for the committee to fully understand the FBI’s caseload regarding domestic extremism cases. I have a series of data-driven and data-centered questions for you that I’ll give a list of these in sequence. I’d prefer the answers now, but if you don’t have them, I’ll accept those answers after the hearing, as long as you commit to do so.
Mr. Grassley: (40:57)
So this is a series of questions. What percentage of your investigation regarding January 6th are predicated as racially motivated violent extremists or white supremacist originated individuals?
Mr. Grassley: (41:15)
Secondly, what percentage are other extremist ideologies for domestic violence extremists, homegrown violent extremists, and international extremists? How many total FBI investigations are ongoing? And of that figure, one, how many are motivated by jihadist ideology and how many are motivated by white supremacy ideology, and how many are motivated by left wing anarchist ideologies? We need data and I hope you see our need for this data.
Mr. Grassley: (41:57)
So can you answer those now or do you want to get back in writing?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (42:02)
Well, I will certainly get back to them. I’m aware that we’ve gotten a letter that goes through in quite detail a number of specific data requests and we’re working on that response as we speak. There are probably some things I could say sitting here right now.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (42:18)
As I said to the Chairman, although I don’t have the percentage for you, the attackers on January 6th included a number, and the number keeps growing as we build out our investigations, of what we would call militia violent extremism. And we have had some already arrested who we would put in the category of racially motivated violent extremism, white as well. Those would be the categories so far that we’re seeing as far as January 6th.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (42:48)
Now, looking back bigger picture because I think the rest of your question goes more to our caseload overall, I can say a number of things on that. In terms of domestic violent extremism, domestic terrorism, that number has grown steadily on my watch. So we’ve increased the number of domestic terrorism investigations from around 1,000 or so when I got here, to up to about 1,400 at the end of last year, to about 2,000 now. That’s domestic terrorism overall.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (43:23)
When it comes to racially motivated violent extremism, that number, again, number of investigations and number of arrests has grown significantly on my watch, and the number of arrests, for example, of racially motivated violent extremists who are what you would categorize as white supremacists last year was almost triple the number it was in my first year as director. And when it comes to anarchist violent extremists, which is another category that you asked about, that number has also grown over the course of my tenure. Last year, I think we had more arrests of anarchist violent extremists than in the prior three years combined.
Mr. Grassley: (44:03)
Can I stop you there?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (44:04)
Mr. Grassley: (44:04)
Because you’ve done a good job of giving us an overall view, and I assume in writing, we can get specific answers. And the numbers are very important. Data is very important.
Mr. Grassley: (44:18)
Former acting DHS Secretary Wolf has stated quote, or not quote, that the lack of visibility into the anarchism extremist movement may have caused the federal government to be under-prepared for the riots this summer. Former Attorney General Barr stated that the FBI has robust programs for white supremacy and militia extremism, but a significantly weaker anarchic extremism program. So unless you disagree with Wolf or Barr, how do you plan to make your left wing anarchist extremism program as robust as your white supremacy and malicious extremism program?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (45:07)
Well, I think that’s a long and complicated question to answer in a sense, but I’ll give you a few things for right now. One is I think, as with any domestic terrorism threat, or frankly, any counter-terrorism threat more broadly, we’re always looking to develop more and better sources so we get more visibility and insight into the plans and intentions, tactics, procedures, et cetera, of any group of violent extremists, and the other is to get better at learning how to navigate around some of the operational tradecraft that they use.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (45:41)
So the more times, the more arrests we see, and this is relevant both for the anarchist violent extremists and for the racially motivated violent extremists, for example, the more of the arrests that you see, well, that’s obviously good news for everybody that we’re arresting people who need to be arrested. There’s a whole nother part of that that’s really important that I want to emphasize, which is the more arrests we make, the more from those cases we learn about who else their contacts are, what their tactics are, what their strategies are, et cetera. And that makes us smarter and better able to get in front of the threat going forward.
Mr. Grassley: (46:14)
Mr. Chairman, can I ask one very short question that I think will give a short answer? And then I’ll submit questions in writing if we don’t have a second round. Why hasn’t the FBI produced the January 5th, 2021 Norfolk memo to Congress?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (46:32)
So that information is law enforcement sensitive. I’m aware of the interest. And I think part of the reason it had been withheld in consultation with the department had been the ongoing investigations that we have, but I certainly understand the interest and I can commit to you that I will get with my staff and see if can make that available.
Mr. Grassley: (46:52)
Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Durbin: (46:53)
Senator Leahy by remote.
Senator Leahy: (47:01)
Am I un-muted now, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Durbin: (47:04)
Yes, you are.
Senator Leahy: (47:06)
Thank you. Director Wray, thank you for being here. I don’t envy your job at all. For those of us who’ve been here a long time, we’ve seen the changes, dramatic changes that go on in what you face. You’ve always spoken about the truth about the threat of domestic terrorism, and I know that sometimes it’s been politically difficult to do so. You have to deal with reality. You can’t deal with the politics. So I’ll ask you a few quick questions to begin with. Do you stand by your previous testimony that white supremist extremism is the dominant, most persistent source of domestic terrorism threat that we face today?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (47:59)
I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear the last part of the question, which I think may be the key part. So I just want to make sure-
Senator Leahy: (48:06)
[inaudible 00:48:06]. Do you stand by your previous testimony that white supremacist extremism is the dominant, most persistent source of domestic terrorism threats we faced today?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (48:21)
I would certainly say, as I think I’ve said consistently in the past, that racially motivated violent extremism, specifically of the sort that advocates for the superiority of the white race, is a persistent, evolving threat. It’s the biggest chunk of our racially motivated violent extremism cases for sure, and racially motivated violent extremism is the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio, if you will, overall. I will also say that same group of people we’re talking about have been responsible for the most lethal attacks over the last say decade.
Senator Leahy: (49:05)
And when I look at what happened on January 6th, it appears that right wing white supremacist groups played an instrumental role in the violent assault. Is that your conclusion also?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (49:19)
Well, let me answer that this way. I think we’re basically saying the same thing. We don’t tend to think, we at the FBI don’t tend to think of violent extremism in terms of right, left. That’s not a spectrum that we look at. What I would say is that it is clear as I think I said to Chairman Durban that a large and growing number of the people that we have arrested so far in connection with the 6th are what would call militia violent extremists. And then there have been some already that have emerged who I would have put in the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, again, advocating for the superior of the white race.
Senator Leahy: (50:03)
And I understand from your testimony previously that you did not see Antifa or left wing groups playing a significant role in the January 6th insurrection?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (50:18)
Certainly while we’re equal opportunity and looking for violent extremism of any ideology, we have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection with the 6th. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking, and we’ll continue to look, but at the moment, we have not seen that.
Senator Leahy: (50:41)
So what you do is you look as somebody in law enforcement should. You look at where the crime was and who committed it, and you go after that, not from some kind of political vendetta, but you committed the crime, we’ll go after you. Is that too simplistic a way of stating it?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (51:03)
No, no, not simplistic at all, and I think a very, very important point that you’re making there and something that’s very important to us at the FBI. We focus on the violence and the violations of federal law, and then the ideology comes into it as a further piece of the puzzle as we build out the case. But our focus is on the violence. We don’t care what ideology motivates somebody, as Judge Garland I think himself said just last week. We don’t care whether it’s left, right, up, down, diagonal or any other way. If the ideology is motivating violence and it violates federal law, we’re coming after it.
Senator Leahy: (51:41)
Well, I know you’re going to come before our Appropriations Committee, Senator Durbin and I are on that and others for a classified briefing, so I won’t go into some of the classified part. But we are going to talk to you, and I certainly, as Chair of that committee, very interested in resources. You’ve got a finite number of resources and you have an infinite number of problems. So you have to prioritize them.
Senator Leahy: (52:16)
I had heard reports that the previous administration diverted FBI resources away from countering white supremacist violence toward an objectively lesser threat of left wing violence. Were you directed at all to shift resources away from right wing extremists?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (52:39)
We did not receive direction to nor did we separate or divert resources away from tackling racially motivated violent extremism white, over to anarchist violent extremism or anything along those lines. In fact, as I’ve said, we, I, elevated racially motivated violent extremism, the vast majority of which is of what you would call white supremacist violence, to our highest threat priority, where it has stayed. And that drives resources, that drives the collection requirements for all of our field offices, and I think the results speak for themselves. We have significantly grown the number of investigations and arrests in the category that you’re asking about. It was up to about 1400 by the end of last year, and it’s up to about 2000 now, which has doubled where it was the pace when I started this job.
Senator Leahy: (53:34)
Well, and that’s why I would expect you to go where the crimes are and go after it, but we’ve seen a lot of hate crime, certainly concerns of the hate crimes against Asian Americans. I was the lead co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention. But now, when we see the increases, a recent FBI report indicates that 87% of law enforcement agencies participating in the FBI’s hate crime data collection have reported zero hate crime incidents within their jurisdictions. Do you think that’s accurate?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (54:21)
Well, certainly we are constantly trying to improve the quality and quantity of reporting on hate crimes. I think we know that historically, hate crimes are under-reported.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (54:32)
Having said that, it’s not necessarily the case that every department out there in the country is going to have had a hate crime in its jurisdiction in the course of any given year. So we’ve focused a little bit less on the percentage of departments that report it. We do want the percentage of departments who are cooperating and voluntarily responding to go up, and we focus more on whether or not the growth in the number of hate crimes reported overall seems to be building or not.
Senator Leahy: (55:05)
Well, certainly I have other questions for the record, but you’ve testified before about a fusion cell that developed and address both hate crimes and domestic terrorism. Has that been helpful?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (55:18)
It has. So what you’re referring to is something that I put in place I guess about 18 months, maybe two years ago. I created a domestic terrorism hate crimes fusion cell, which brought together… Because a lot of these crimes could fit either into a domestic terrorism bucket or a hate crimes bucket. And what I was worried about was making sure that within the FBI, we didn’t have a left hand, right hand problem. And so we brought together people focusing on both into a single fusion cell, with the goal of trying to be proactive against some of the threats that are coming.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (55:49)
And one example that I’ll cite that we’re particularly pleased with, which I think is an indication of the success the cell is having, is we were able to get in front of and prevent an attempted I think explosives attack on a synagogue in Colorado. And that, I think, is largely a credit to the fusion cell, which was able to kind of help us figure out how to get in front of those kinds of attacks.
Mr. Durbin: (56:16)
Thank you, Senator Leahy.
Senator Leahy: (56:17)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Durbin: (56:19)
Senator Graham: (56:20)
Thank you. Director Wray, I’m going to try to look forward, then we’ll talk a little bit about January the 6th. Do you think the National Guard presence at the Capitol at the level we have today should continue? If so, for how long?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (56:36)
Senator, I’m not sure that I’m really the best equipped to evaluate the National Guard presence.
Senator Graham: (56:41)
Okay. Fair enough. Fair enough. You are the best equipped to talk about the capability of the FBI. Do you have enough people and resources to deal with all the threats we’ve been talking about this morning?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (56:56)
Well, needless to say, Senator, I welcome and appreciate the question. Everywhere I go, someone has really good ideas about things they think the FBI should be doing more of, but I have not found very many people with great ideas, or at least responsible ideas of things the FBI could be doing less of. And so our folks are busting their you know whats-
Senator Graham: (57:17)
Yeah, I know [crosstalk 00:57:17]
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (57:17)
To try to deal with all these threats. We need more agents. We need more analysts. We need more data analytics, et cetera.
Senator Graham: (57:24)
Let’s just stop there because we need to learn as much as we can from January the 6th. This is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Are you concerned about international terrorists paying us a visit?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (57:36)
Senator Graham: (57:37)
Okay. Are you concerned about the interaction between international terrorists and domestic terrorists?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (57:42)
That’s a growing phenomenon, certainly something we’re watching with concern.
Senator Graham: (57:46)
One of my great concerns was that as people float into the Capitol with backpacks on, you had no idea who they were and what they were carrying. So it would’ve been very easy for some international terrorist group to infiltrate this crowd. Do you agree with that?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (58:00)
I do think it would have been easy for that to happen. I don’t know that we’ve seen evidence that it did happen, but that’s certainly one of the specific things we’re looking for.
Senator Graham: (58:08)
After the attack, don’t you think international groups are seeing this as a vulnerability in our system?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (58:14)
I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear the…
Senator Graham: (58:15)
International terrorist groups may have found a way to get closer to the Capitol by integrating themselves into domestic political movements.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (58:23)
Well, certainly we think the events on January 6th have been, at a minimum, and inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists out there, and may even have been worse than that.
Senator Graham: (58:35)
So here’s my challenge to you. Sit down and put pen to paper, and think big, not small. What do you need that you don’t have in terms of agents and resources and put it to paper. I’m on the Appropriations Committee with Senator Durbin. Many of us here are. I think we’ve gotten an opportunity to here to plus you up. Is it fair to say that since 9/11, domestic terrorism has exploded as a threat?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (59:05)
Well, it’s certainly grown dramatically.
Senator Graham: (59:08)
Okay, grown dramatically, which takes resources to combat. Is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (59:13)
Senator Graham: (59:14)
Has the FBI grown dramatically since 9/11?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (59:20)
Not as dramatically as the threat.
Senator Graham: (59:22)
Okay. So what I want you to do is take the number of agents and resources you had on 9/11 and tell us where you’re at today, and make sure that we understand that the threats you’re facing are much greater than they were 20 years ago, and challenge us to give you the resources to meet those threats.
Senator Graham: (59:42)
Back to January the 6th, is it fair to say as Director of the FBI, you were not informed of the raw intelligence coming from the Norfolk office, is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (59:53)
Not before January 6th.
Senator Graham: (59:55)
Okay. So this was an internet posting that somebody captured?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:00:01)
My understanding is that this was information posted online under a moniker or a pseudonym. It was unvetted, uncorroborated information, and it was somewhat aspirational in nature, but it was concerning. It was concerning and was specific enough that our folks in Norfolk thought the need to get it out, even if we hadn’t had a chance to corroborate or vet it.
Senator Graham: (01:00:27)
Okay. Looking back, what would you have done differently with this information? Because this is a hard one. You get something on the internet that’s concerning. You don’t know if it’s true or not. You capture it. What are the lessons learned in terms of how we could have acted better on that information?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:00:47)
The truthful answer is we’re still looking at that. I look at intelligence both collection, analysis, dissemination. We need to get better at collecting obviously, but the key part here was we often don’t have the luxury of time to analyze this information before it gets disseminated. And in this instance, our folks in Norfolk and Washington field made the judgment that, and I think it was a reasonable judgment, to get the information, like I said, in three different ways to their partners, even though they didn’t know whether it was going to turn out to be accurate.
Senator Graham: (01:01:21)
Let’s play that out a bit. Let’s say it made it up to the top levels of the Capitol police intelligence units, to the head of the Capitol police force, given that raw intelligence, what would you expect them to have done differently?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:01:38)
I really want to be careful not to be an armchair quarterback here.
Senator Graham: (01:01:41)
See, that’s the problem because I don’t know how to answer that question myself. Because you can capture stuff today that may foretell on an attack tomorrow, but how much… This is a problem. I just don’t want people to run down the road [inaudible 01:01:54] there’s an intel screenshot. I mean, there’s a screenshot on some computer somewhere. We need to turn the whole government upside down. It’s just a tough situation.
Senator Graham: (01:02:02)
Is the Proud Boys, are they a domestic terrorist group.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:02:09)
Well, I don’t think we have treated the Proud Boys itself as a domestic terrorism group, but we certainly have individuals-
Senator Graham: (01:02:14)
What does it take to make the list?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:02:17)
Well, there is, as you may know, Senator, under federal law, under US law, there is no list of domestic terrorism organizations the same way there is for foreign terrorist organization.
Senator Graham: (01:02:29)
Well, let’s think about that in the next 47 seconds. Oathkeepers, are they a domestic terrorist organization?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:02:39)
Again, as with Proud Boys, we have individuals who associate themselves with that group who are domestic terrorists.
Senator Graham: (01:02:44)
Was Antifa a domestic terrorist organization? Same thing, same answer?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:02:48)
Senator Graham: (01:02:48)
So why don’t we think about how to gather better information and expose some of these groups. If they were on a list, would it make it easier for you?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:03:01)
I think the issue of whether or not to designate or have a formal mechanism for designating domestic terror groups in the same way we do with say Al-Qaeda or ISIS, I think there’s reasonable debate about whether or not it would really advance the needle-
Senator Graham: (01:03:17)
Is the KKK a domestic terrorist group?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:03:19)
Well, that there is no legal designation of domestic terrorist group.
Senator Graham: (01:03:23)
My point is I don’t know if we should have one or not, but I think it’s time to think about it.
Mr. Durbin: (01:03:31)
Thank you, Senator Graham. Senator Feinstein.
Senator Feinstein: (01:03:34)
Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman, and welcome. Last November, the Associated Press reported that hate crimes rose to the highest level in more than a decade. The AP also reported that the United States recorded the most hate-related killings since the FBI began collecting data in the 1980s. Despite this finding, only about 14% of the-
Senator Feinstein: (01:04:03)
… despite this finding, only about 14% of the agencies in the FBI hate crimes report indicated that hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions. So here’s the questions. What actions are you taking to make it easier for local agencies to collect and report this data to the FBI?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:04:26)
I appreciate the question. As your question references, we do know that there is a phenomenon that I think is fairly widely accepted of under-reporting of hate crimes. And so, even though the number of hate crimes reported is continues to grow, we don’t know whether that means the number of hate crimes is growing, or whether the number of reports of it is now starting to grow. We are trying to do a lot, and we do hundreds of these outreach training, et cetera, of state and local law enforcement to help them understand better how to identify and report hate crimes. We also have a manual that we put out that helps explain better how to identify that. Of course, a lot of times, the offenses that they’re looking at under state and local laws don’t necessarily come with a neat label that says, “This is a hate crime,” on it, and so that’s part of the challenge, but we’re working with them to try to improve awareness so that we can get better reporting on the subject.
Senator Feinstein: (01:05:26)
Well, that’s certainly appreciated. I want to ask about the threat of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. It isn’t new, but it’s gained a lot of attention within intelligence circles in recent years, and it’s the biggest domestic terrorism threat, I understand. Last year, you testified before the House Armed… House Homeland Security Committee that, quote, “The most lethal of all domestic extremists since 2001 have been racially and ethnically motivated.” Similarly, the former acting DHS secretary testified before the Senate that, quote, “White supremacist extremists, from a lethality standpoint over the last two years, particularly when you look at 2018 and 19, are the most persistent and lethal threat.” When we talk about domestic extremists, why is the threat of white supremacist terrorism so prevalent in this country?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:06:41)
You know, I think that’s a… some of that is a sociological question that I’m not sure that I’m really the right person to address. Certainly, as you say, it has been the biggest chunk of our racially motivated, violent extremism cases, and itself, the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism caseload overall, and the most lethality over the last decade has been from these same extremists. The things that drive these people, I think, range. One of the things that we struggle with in particular is that more and more, the ideologies, if you will, that are motivating some of these violent extremists are less and less coherent, less and less linear, less and less easy to pin down. And in some cases, it seems like people coming up with their own sort of customized belief systems, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and they put it together, maybe combined with some personal grievance of something that’s happened in their lives, and that drives them. And so trying to get your arms around that is a real challenge.
Senator Feinstein: (01:07:50)
Let me move on. There’s been a spike in gun sales during the pandemic. The New York Times reports that approximately 2 million guns were purchased in March of 2020. That’s the second-highest month ever. According to a July Politico article, there were 823,273 NICS checks in March of 2019, versus 1.4 million in March of 2020. So, in March of 2020, NICS blocked more than double the amount of the year before, a whopping 23,692 gun sales in one year. Simply put, there’s been a dramatic rise in gun sales that’s likely going to require some further action. What have you seen, and what will the FBI be doing and/or recommending?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:08:59)
So in terms of what we’re seeing and because we all share the goal of trying to keep guns out of the hands of those who are legally prohibited from possessing them, which is of course the whole point of why NICS exists, last year, as you say, we’ve seen a significant increase. I think last time I checked, I think it was something like of the top 10 highest number of NICS checks per day or per week, ever, were all last year, maybe seven of the top 10 ever last year.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:09:36)
So the numbers have been really significant during the course of 2020 and the pandemic. We have been trying very hard, and I think we’ve done a good job of staying on top of the required pace that we have to keep up with to be able to get that done, which has been… had required being creative because of COVID, and teleworking and all the things that we’ve had to work around to keep up with that. But it is a challenge, and I think the budget requests that we’ve had recently have asked for more resources for NICS, because we need to try to keep up with that pace.
Senator Feinstein: (01:10:11)
Thank you. As early as December 29th, the FBI warned about the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures. The former chief of Capitol police, as well as the House and Senate Sergeants-of-Arms, have testified that they did not see the FBI’s warning on the eve of January 6th about potential violence in the Capitol. When did you first receive intelligence about the possibility of an attack on the Capitol on January 6th, and what happened to the process that people weren’t seeing the warnings?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:10:56)
Well, Senator, I think the intelligence or the information that you’re asking about is the much discussed Norfolk SIR, or situational information report. I didn’t see that report, which was raw unverified intelligence until some number of days after the sixth. But again, that raw unverified information was passed within, I think, 40 minutes to an hour, to our partners, including the Capitol police, including Metro PD, in not one, not two, but three different ways: one email, one verbal, and one through the law enforcement portal.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:11:35)
As to why the information didn’t flow to all the people within the various departments that they would prefer, I don’t have a good answer for that. I will tell you the Capitol police and Metro PD are terrific partners to the FBI, especially our Washington field office. I’m grateful for their partnership, and have nothing but admiration for the hard work and courage and professionalism of the men and women who work in both of those agencies.
Speaker 8: (01:12:04)
Thank you, Senator.
Senator Feinstein: (01:12:08)
Thank you. Thank you for your good work. It’s appreciated.
Speaker 8: (01:12:08)
Senator Cornyn: (01:12:10)
Director Ray, after the events of 9/11, I think it was Admiral Bobby Inman who coined the phrase “a failure of imagination,” that we just couldn’t conceive of the idea that something like what happened on 9/11 would occur, but that was a failure to imagine it. And it strikes me that the events of January the sixth share something in common with 9/11 in the sense that seemed like there was a failure of imagination. That’s not to point the finger at any one body to blame, but merely to try to describe what I think may have occurred. So I think you’ve told us that these extremists are not monolithic. Is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:12:57)
Senator Cornyn: (01:12:59)
Well, I’ve heard the expression that here in Washington, whoever has the best narrative wins. And so sometimes, I think the narrative is created and then try to search for facts that might bolster that narrative. But as you said, the fact is there, these extremist groups are not monolithic. So that’s, I think, an important part of understanding the threat. I’ve heard them described as, some of these folks described as, white supremacists, domestic terrorists, insurrectionists, rioters, seditious, anarchists, the list goes on and on. But I note that you said there is no federal crime described as domestic terrorism per se, correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:13:51)
Senator Cornyn: (01:13:53)
And as I look at the range of charges that the FBI and the department of justice have made against the people that have been investigated for the events of January the sixth, I read a list of assaulting federal officers, tampering with documents or proceedings, unlawful entry, disorderly conduct, conspiracy, theft of government property. Do you think the current laws are adequate to deal with this threat? It strikes me that these are a lot of different tools that are available, but don’t really get to the whole heart of domestic terrorism.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:14:37)
Well, I guess I’d say a couple of things in response to that. It’s of course, a very good question. I think number one, our folks, which is one of the things I love about the men and women of the FBI have proven time and again, that they will work with the tools they have and they are resourceful and entrepreneurial, and we’ve had remarkably good success at disrupting attacks using the tools that we have. Sometimes those tools, and some of the offenses that you listed off, have the virtue of being quite simple and straightforward to prove. And so sometimes that’s actually a blessing, but certainly I think you would be hard pressed to find any FBI director that wouldn’t welcome more tools in the toolbox.
Senator Cornyn: (01:15:24)
Fair enough. Well, getting back to this narrative about who was involved on January the sixth, there was a helpful report from the George Washington University program on extremism that looked at about 257 federal defendants as a result of the events of January the sixth, they noted that 142 of those 257 defendants, they referred to as “inspired believers.” They said they were… they concluded they were neither participants in any violent extremist group nor connected with any individual who stormed the capital. Again, I guess, bears out your conclusion, your statement that this is not a monolithic group again.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:16:17)
So, I think you’ve touched on two very important points there. One is both with domestic violent extremists, and frankly, with what we call the homegrown violent extremists worth, which are the jihadist-inspired. The difference between inspired terrorist attacks over here, and domestic… and sorry, directed or facilitated in a more structured formal way is something that I think a lot of Americans struggle with understanding, and more and more the threat that we face as a country is what I would call the inspired attacks. They don’t have formal membership in an organization. They don’t have clear command and controlled direction in the way that, say, an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell might have. And that’s that much more challenging to pursue, A, because there are fewer dots to connect, you know the old expression about dots to connect. B, less time in which to connect whatever dots there are.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:17:15)
And then, then you add into it C, the first amendment dimensions of people’s inspirations and ideology. And then the last point I would make is that we have these, as I said before, increasingly blended ideologies. So for example, in Senator Klobuchar’s state in Minnesota, we had two individuals who were… identified themselves as so-called Boogaloo Boys, which people tend to put in one bucket. And yet what they ultimately were charged with was trying to provide materiel support, as in weapons, to Hamas. And these are not things that neatly fit together in anybody’s worldview. So, it just illustrates… one example, but it illustrates the challenge that we’re dealing with.
Senator Cornyn: (01:18:02)
It’s FBI’s responsibility to deal with counterintelligence investigations, correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:18:08)
Senator Cornyn: (01:18:08)
And these include things like active measures that we saw used, for example, in 2016, for example, advertising on Facebook, two competing groups to show up at the same time and hoping that conflict and maybe even violence would break out. Is it true that our foreign adversaries use the events of January the sixth as a field day in terms of their attempt to establish false personas, fabricate stories on social media platforms, with an intent to discredit the United States and its institutions?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:18:51)
Certainly, we have seen, and I’ll keep it at an unclassified level in this setting, but foreign adversaries, a number of them leveraging the events of January 6th to amplify their own narratives, to try to push out propaganda misinformation, to try to, in their view, accelerate what they think of as the United States has declined.
Senator Cornyn: (01:19:16)
Speaker 8: (01:19:17)
Thanks Senator Cornyn, Senator Whitehouse.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:19:20)
Thank you. Director Ray, welcome. Before we get to the business of this hearing, we’ve got some, in fact, a lot of unfinished business. Do you know how many questions, for the record, the FBI failed to answer in the last four years?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:19:39)
I do not.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:19:40)
Well, I’ll tell you. There were nine hearings in this committee in which the FBI was a witness, and in seven of them, the committee got exactly zero questions for the record. Seven. Zero questions. Can you explain that?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:20:00)
I cannot, I will say-
Senator Whitehouse: (01:20:02)
Are you going to do any better with the questions that we’re getting right now? You’ve been asked questions for the record. Are they going to go into the same, whatever-it-was hole where questions for the record go to die at the FBI?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:20:13)
Well, Senator, first thing I would say about questions for the record is, that as you may know, there is an elaborate inter-agency process that requires that answers that we provide-
Senator Whitehouse: (01:20:26)
Yeah, which is immensely convenient for the executive branch. But our questions don’t direct that inter-agency process, do they? And that inter-agency process doesn’t respond to us in Congress, does it?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:20:41)
We’re required to comply with the inter-agency process to provide our responses to questions for the record.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:20:47)
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:20:47)
Now, having said that, having said that-
Senator Whitehouse: (01:20:49)
By what are you required to comply with that inter-agency process?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:20:52)
I can’t cite you the reg or the rule.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:20:55)
Because it seems to me that when the FBI wanted to get information to this committee, particularly when it wanted to get information to Republican members of this committee, so they could investigate your investigation of the Trump-Russia connection, that information got right through to our Republican colleagues.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:21:16)
It didn’t go… didn’t seem to go through any inter-agency process. It wasn’t delayed. What we seem to have is for most of us, but this was bipartisan, by the way, when I say we got zero questions for the record answered from those hearings, I mean zero questions of any member of this committee, not zero Democratic members answered, okay? So you’ve got this basic highway for responses to Congress. Let me ask you, just a little sidebar, do you think Congress deserves responses to questions from executive agencies as part of our oversight responsibility?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:21:54)
Senator Whitehouse: (01:21:55)
Okay, good. So we’re at least over that hurdle. So we’ve run this rigmarole with the inter-agency process in which we don’t get answers. Some of these go back to 2017, by the way, that’s years of not getting our questions answered. And then, when it’s a question that’s suddenly of interest to one party and to President Trump, there seems to be a little side road that gets built around the traffic jam and stuff just flies right through. So please don’t tell me about inter-agency process, when I’ve been sitting in this committee, watching FBI information get straight to this committee without inter-agency process. What are we going to do about this? Is this a problem?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:22:52)
So Senator, let me say first, as I said that I absolutely agree with you that Congress needs answers to its questions. I am frustrated as well at the process. I have added more staff, and my understanding is that when it comes to correspondence, for example, which doesn’t require the same inter-agency process, that we have significantly reduced the backlog and the turnaround time, but there’s no question in my mind-
Senator Whitehouse: (01:23:19)
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:23:19)
No question in my mind-
Senator Whitehouse: (01:23:20)
eight letters go unanswered, the oldest one dated March of 2017. So if you think your process is working, we’re not seeing it on our end.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:23:31)
Well, I will commit to you that I will do what I can to improve the process. I am frustrated as you are, and we have, obviously we need to get better.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:23:41)
Well, I will commit to you that I’m going to make sure that this gets done. And if it means stopping nominees, if it means doing whatever it takes to get through this problem, we’re going to get through this problem because it is just plain wrong for the executive branch of government, in a separation of powers country, to refuse to answer questions of the elected representatives of the legislative branch. It’s just wrong, and however many excuses and however much rigmarole the executive branch may set up to slow down those answers, I don’t care. That’s your executive branch rigmarole. That is not a legitimate answer to a legislator’s question. And I got stuff that’s now backed up for years. Now, the courts have said that they’re not… they don’t want to intervene in enforcing our subpoenas.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:24:37)
I’m not sure we can get subpoenas in a 50-50 committee, but assume we could, the courts have said they don’t want to enforce it. So you guys can put our subpoenas in the same file with our letters and our QFRs and not answer them. And then what happens is, the courts have said, the way we resolve this, is we got to hit you legislatively. The court said we should hold up appropriations for the FBI and for executive agencies that aren’t responsive. That’s our tool. Your people do good work, Director Ray. I don’t think you want that to be our tool, but you can’t be in a situation in which you don’t answer our questions, you create rigmarole log jams, and when there’s a political interest in getting information out to the committee, suddenly none of that rigmarole pertains. Suddenly everybody gets their hands on all the information that they need just as soon as they need it. And by the way, I believe on a partisan basis, not shared with both sides of the committee.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:25:47)
So before we get to clearing up whatever else we need to get cleared up, all the stuff that’s backed up behind our questions, we got to get through the problem of why you’re not answering our questions. And we’ve got to clear that up. And I don’t know how we clear that up. I think we clear it up, Mr. Chairman, in a bipartisan fashion, because I think both sides should get this, but this business of years going by, of hearings in which zero QFRs get answered, and letters that get thrown off into the don’t-care-to-answer-that-one pile. Woodrow Wilson once said that the oversight function, the investigative function of Congress, is often to be preferred even to its legislative function. We got to get that back, and I’m going to find a way with this committee and with you to clear the backlog. I don’t think you think that I should give up on questions because I’ve been stonewalled for years. If I’ve asked them and they deserve answers, they should be answered. Is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:27:04)
Senator Whitehouse: (01:27:04)
Okay. My time is up. We’ll leave it at that.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:27:07)
Mr. Chairman, if I just may add with your indulgence, one point? Senator, I commit to working with you to try and see how we can improve our responsiveness and to getting you more of the information you need. The one thing I will say is that I can assure you that in terms of my responsiveness to this committee, to the members of this committee, or to Congress overall, it is absolutely not, speaking only for myself, now, on a partisan basis.
Senator Whitehouse: (01:27:36)
Well, you run an organization that seems to have operated under very different rules and it was you running that organization. So let’s not make these distinctions right now.
Speaker 8: (01:27:48)
Thank you, Senator, Senator Lee.
Senator Lee: (01:27:51)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks, Director Ray, for being here and for your service to our country. Like literally every other person in this room, like literally every member of the United States Senate, I’m anxious to see those who committed unlawful violent acts on January 6th brought to justice. I also believe that with this circumstance, like every other circumstance, we have to make sure that the civil liberties of the American people are protected, that we watch over them. I’ve heard a number of accounts of individuals who were present in Washington, DC, but never got anywhere near the Capitol or any violence on January 6th, who have inexplicably been contacted by the FBI, by agents who apparently were aware of their presence in Washington, DC, that day with no other explanation, perhaps other than the use of geolocation data. Were you geolocating people through the FBI based on where they were on January 6th?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:28:54)
I think there may be some instances in which geolocation has been an investigative tool, but I can’t speak to any specific situation.
Senator Lee: (01:29:00)
What are you using to do that? What’s your basis for authority? Are you using national security letters?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:29:07)
I don’t believe, in any instance, we’re using national security letters for-
Senator Lee: (01:29:11)
Are you going through FISA court?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:29:11)
investigation of the Capital.
Senator Lee: (01:29:12)
Are you going-
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:29:13)
I don’t believe FISA is remotely implicated in our investigation.
Senator Lee: (01:29:16)
Are you using warrants predicated on probable cause?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:29:21)
We certainly have executed a number of warrants in the course of the investigation of January 6th. All of our investigative work in response to the capital has been under the legal authorities that we have in consultation with the department and the prosecutors at that point.
Senator Lee: (01:29:36)
No, I understand that. I’m just trying to understand how you’re getting it. So is the FBI accessing a cell phone tower metadata from telecommunications companies? Is that where it’s coming from?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:29:49)
Again, without knowing the specifics, without being able to drill into the specifics, it’s hard for me to answer your question in a way that I think you would find satisfying.
Senator Lee: (01:29:55)
Are there instances in which you’re interviewing people based solely on information derived from a telecommunications provider, providing geolocation information, indicating that they were on or near the national monument mall on January 6th?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:30:09)
With respect, Senator, because this is a massive nationwide investigation involving thousands and thousands of interviews, it’s very hard for me to speak with any absolute confidence as to whether there’s any interview predicated on any one specific-
Senator Lee: (01:30:23)
Oh, I understand that. I understand that. And I certainly wouldn’t expect you to be aware of every circumstance. I would, though, like to know whether you’re doing that at all, whether that is ever a basis for it. I would appreciate if you could answer that, if you’re not aware of it right now, that’s great, but if you could let me know sometime today, tomorrow that’d be great. I’m sure there’s someone who can provide a yes or no answer to that question.
Senator Lee: (01:30:50)
Over the years I’ve raised a number of questions. And it’s one of the things that prompted my question here about FISA, and related questions, just about the collection of metadata from communications providers and so forth. Over the years, and by over the years, I mean, literally over the last 10 years, the entire 10 years I’ve served as a member of this committee and as a member of the United States Senate, I’ve been told fairly consistent answers under different FBI directors and different presidential administrations run by different parties. But the most consistent theme in those answers has been, “Just trust us. Don’t worry. We’ve got good people, smart people, law abiding people who were running this, and we’ve got procedural safeguards in place to prevent the type of abuse that you’re concerned about.”
Senator Lee: (01:31:42)
Now, Inspector General Horowitz issued a report in 2019 regarding crossfire hurricane and through a subsequent memorandum dealing with Woods file issues that really helped prove my point. At the time, in response to those concerns, you issued statements suggesting that you would take concrete actions to make sure that these things were changed. Could you tell me what some of those actions are? Have you taken the actions you referred to in response to Horowitz’s report and his subsequent memo on the Woods file issues?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:32:27)
Yes, Senator, I welcome the question. So first off, as you may know, we accepted all of the findings and recommendations in the Inspector General’s report. I ordered, at the time, over 40 corrective actions to go above and beyond the recommendations of the Inspector General’s report, and those have been implemented. Those include everything from strengthening our procedures to ensure accuracy and completeness, to make sure the court gets all the information it’s supposed to, changes in our protocols for CHS, confidential human sources, training changes. I created a new office of internal audit that specifically focused on FISA auditing. There’s a whole number of things I’d be happy to walk through, but I recognize that our time is limited, so you tell me how much [crosstalk 01:33:16]
Senator Lee: (01:33:15)
No, I appreciate that. And I appreciate anything that you’ve done within the agency to do that. I hope you can understand my concern, which is that we’ve been told over and over again, we already have strong procedures in place internally. Those strong procedures, apparently haven’t over the last 10 years proven enough. So my view is that, in addition to anything that you may be doing, that may well be helpful. And I appreciate that you’re doing that’s helpful. We probably ought to have some statutory restrictions as well, so that it’s not the FBI and the FBI alone acting solely upon the FBI’s internal guidance documents from which the FBI could, of course, choose to depart at any moment.
Senator Lee: (01:33:56)
I’d love to see reforms in this area and in particular, to protect the civil liberties of the American people. I think we need some reforms to our domestic surveillance tools, including things like FISA, that would apply to strengthening at the amicus provisions of the FISA court, requiring the FBI to disclose all material exculpatory evidence that’s presented to the FISA court, no less important here than in an Article III court sitting in its capacity of adjudicating criminal cases.
Senator Lee: (01:34:32)
In fact, if anything, it’s more important here because in the FISA context, it’s not public. Increasing the standard for warrants under Section 215 to require a probable cause and requiring a probable cause warrant to obtain internet search history, internet browsing, history, and geolocation information. Are those reforms that you’d be willing to support?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:34:57)
Well, Senator I’d be happy to work with you to provide operational assessment of the impact of different legislative ideas. Certainly we view our responsibility as not just to protect the American people, but also to uphold the Constitution, and we say that every day in the FBI. Certainly, I would want to make sure that any legislative changes to FISA didn’t have unintended, very damaging impact on everything from our sharing of information with our foreign partners, our intelligence community partners, that we didn’t elevate the standard in FISA above the level of what we could get, for example, in an ordinary criminal case, things like that, but we’d be happy to engage with you on the subject.
Senator Lee: (01:35:37)
Mr. Chairman, my time’s expired. Can I add one sentence to the end just to complete the thought? Thank you for your willingness there. We have been told over the last 10 years since I’ve been here, “We will work with you.” “We will work with you” has translated into opposition from inside the FBI every single time we’ve tried to bring about one of those reforms. Every time, as sure as the sun will come up-
Senator Lee: (01:36:03)
… Reforms. Every time, as sure as the sun will come up in the east tomorrow, we’ve been told by the FBI, “You can’t do that. Don’t worry. We’ve got it with our own internal controls.” I hope you’ll be sympathetic to me this time around, recognizing that I’ve been told that over and over and over again. And we’re not going to accept that answer anymore. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:36:24)
Thank you, Senator Lee. Senator Klobuchar.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:36:26)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Welcome, Director Way. You and I have talked many times and I appreciate the work of your agents in Minnesota, whether it’s investigating buildings that have been attacked and burned, or whether it is the work that your agents did in investigating the bombing of a mosque in Minnesota which resulted in indictments and conviction. So I thank you for that.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:36:50)
So last week I chaired a joint hearing of the rules and Homeland Security committees on what happened on January 6th. We’re having another joint hearing with Homeland Security tomorrow. Several members of this committee participated in that. And I want to start out with something that became an issue in the hearing really because of one member’s questions.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:37:12)
Our witnesses all agreed that there is no clear evidence that supports a conclusion that this insurrection was planned and a coordinated attack on the Capitol that white supremacists and extremists groups were involved. And that what happened would have been much more dangerous if not for the brave actions of law enforcement. Would you agree with that?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:37:35)
Certainly, there were aspects of it that were planned in coordinated, but yes.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:37:39)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, there was a… I just noted that just today, a reporting in the Washington Post, that on Monday, a complaint was filed against a member of the Proud Boys in Washington State, where federal prosecutors alleged that in fact there was plans made for many different entries into the Capitol. Is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:38:00)
Yes. There have been a growing number of charges as we continue to build out the investigation, either individuals who are now starting to get arrested, involving charges that involve more things like planning and coordination, or, in some instances, individuals who were charged with more simple offenses, but now we’re superseding as we build out more of an understanding of what people were involved in. And there were clearly some individuals involved, which I would consider the most dangerous, most serious cases among the group, who did have plans and intentions and some level of coordination.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:38:39)
And I think you’ve arrested now 20 members of that group or filed. Is that right [inaudible 01:38:46]?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:38:46)
I don’t know the number off the top of my head.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:38:47)
And so what I was thinking when Senator Graham was talking is that if, and they show up, we now know in this complaint with encrypted two-way Chinese radios in military gear, that there must be moments where you think, “If we would’ve known, if we could have infiltrated this group or found out what they were doing.” Do have those moments?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:39:11)
Absolutely. I will tell you Senator, and this is something I feel passionately about, that anytime there’s an attack, our standard at the FBI is we aim to bat a thousand, right? And we aim to with sword every attack that’s out there. So anytime there’s an attack, especially one that’s this horrific, that strikes right at the heart of our system of government, right at the time of transfer of power is being discussed, you can be darn tooting that we are focused very, very hard on how can we get better sources, better information, better analysis, so that we can make sure that something like what happened on January 6th never happens again.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:39:52)
Okay. There’ve been a lot of discussion about this Norfolk memo that arrived, as you noted, with key people in the Capitol police and others the night before they testified last week, the chief that he didn’t even know about it until the few days before our hearing. And in fact, while there may be some that downplays that intelligence, I will know while we don’t have the memo publicly that in that memo, there were statements that Congress needs to hear the glass breaking doors being kicked up, blood being spilled, “We get our president or we die.” “Go there ready for war.”
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:40:33)
Some of the specific calls for violence that we know were posted at that time. We know that President Trump had called on people to go there on January 6th. We know that he told them to go wild. We know that in that memo, there was discussions of, as reported in the news, perimeter maps, bringing back the wounded.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:40:52)
And to me, it just seems like it’s beyond aspirational in nature, that it seems like some of these reports that we now know exist out there were specific in terms of these plans that were going on. One of my questions that we will continue to be asking as part of this investigation we’re doing with the Rules Committee and Homeland security is how can we change this so this never happens again so these types of threats and this type of information gets to the right people? Do you have any response on that?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:41:28)
Well, as I said, in connection with the particular report that you’re referring to the Norfolk, SIR, as they call it, we did communicate that information in a timely fashion to the Capitol police and MPD in not one, not two, but three different ways.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:41:48)
If you think it’s enough just to send an email.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:41:50)
But it’s more than just an email, right? So first off, the email itself went to, I think there are maybe as five Capitol police task force officers on the joint terrorism task force. And the whole point of the joint terrorism task force is for the chosen representatives of the partner agency to be there in the loop, real-time so that everybody’s got the same information so that each agency can use that information to do what it needs to do.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:42:18)
But in addition to the email, so belt and suspenders, it was verbally briefed. And I don’t know… It’s hard sometimes for members of Congress to picture what these command post briefings are like, but picture the command post that we had stood up at the Washington Field Office, representatives for all these agencies in the room, people coming up to the microphone, one at a time saying, okay, now we’re tracking this, we’re seeing this. We don’t know if it’s real or not, but here’s what we’re seeing. And everybody’s taking notes. And the whole idea is they’re supposed to go back and pass it up, their chain of command. And then third, in addition to that, it was put into the LEAP, the Law Enforcement Portal, to make sure everybody got this
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:42:54)
I know that. Yes, please explain that.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:42:56)
Having said that, I do not consider what happened on January 6th to be an acceptable result. And that’s why we were looking so hard at figuring out how can the process be improved.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:43:05)
Right. And some of this of course is the whole structure we have with this capital Police Board that somehow the chief was still calling, while the insurrection was going on, these two sergeant of arms to try to get permission to get the National Guard. And this clearly there has to be some major changes to what’s going on here. I acknowledged that and I’m going to push for them, but they’re still, to me, seems like they rely on the FBI and other federal agencies to get information. And we know that the New York Police Department sent intelligence reports to them, to the Capitol Police, that’s on them, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office in late December, indicating there’d be violence on January 6th. Any comments on that?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:43:53)
Well, I’m not familiar with the specific NYPD product you’re referring to. I will tell you that we, the FBI, over the course of 2020, put out a number of intelligence products, specifically warning about domestic violent extremism, including specifically warning about it in connection with the election, including specifically warning about that threat in relation to the election, continuing past election day itself, and up through the inauguration, and including a product that I think we put out with DHS in December of 2020.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:44:26)
So we have tried to push out information. I am reluctant to armchair quarterback anyone else in their jobs. I can tell you, we at the FBI are determined to do our part, our part to make sure that what happened on January 6th doesn’t happen again. We find it personally infuriating, anytime. We’re not able, as I said, to bat a thousand, and we’re going to keep working together better.
Senator Klobuchar.: (01:44:51)
Thank you. And I will say that the work you’ve done, your agents have done in investigating these cases, to me, that is very helpful to get those arrests out there and those prosecutions> and not only because people should be brought to justice, but it, to me, is a major deterrent for people doing this again. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:45:12)
The Senator Klobuchar. Senator Cruz.
Senator Cruz: (01:45:15)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Director Ray, welcome. Thank you for your service and thank you for the heroic service of the men and women at the FBI. Congress has now heard from numerous law enforcement officials that there is significant evidence that the January 6th attack on the Capitol was premeditated, planned, and coordinated. And you just had an exchange with Senator Klobuchar, where you, if I understood you correctly, expressed the FBI’s view that it was indeed planned and coordinated. I recognize this as an ongoing investigation and that you’re still learning the details, but at this point, what do we know about the planning and coordination that occurred surrounding the January 6th attack?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:46:07)
I guess, let me step back and say first thing is, there are sort of three groups of people involved in January 6th. The first group, the largest group, the group we need to spend the least time talking about is peaceful, maybe rowdy protestors, but who weren’t violating the law. Then there’s the second group, think of a reverse pyramid. The second group that is people who may have come intending to just be part of peaceful protest, but either swept up in the motives, or emotion, or whatever, engaged in kind of low-level criminal behavior. Trespassed, say on the Capitol grounds, but not breaching the building. Still criminal conduct, still needs to be addressed, but more on the fly, in the moment, opportunistic.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:46:51)
The third group, the smallest group numerically, but by far and away, the most serious group are those who breached the Capitol grounds, who engaged in violence against law enforcement, who attempted to disrupt the members of Congress in the conduct of their constitutional responsibilities. And of those, some of those people clearly came to Washington, we now know, with plans and intentions to engage in the worst kind of violence we would consider domestic terrorism.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:47:20)
And so some of that coordination appears to have been coordinated travel, coordinated meeting up, coordinated in terms of what kind of gear they might be wearing, or bringing with them. That kind of thing. Again, ongoing, obviously ongoing, much more to come, but…
Senator Cruz: (01:47:37)
Often in an investigation, law enforcement follows the money. Is there evidence at this point of coordinated funding, prior to January 6th, providing military equipment, providing communications equipment or the like?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:47:54)
Certainly, that’s a topic that we’re looking at. I don’t know that there’s anything I can say right now in terms of funding or coordinated funding.
Senator Cruz: (01:48:04)
There’s been considerable discussion at this hearing also about the Norfolk report. At the time, how credible and reliable did the FBI considered the Norfolk report as an actionable piece of intelligence.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:48:21)
Senator, my understanding is that our folks at the time viewed it as raw, unverified and therefore of the unknown reliability information, but because of the level of detail that was in it, and some of this is art not science, unfortunately in the world of intelligence, the judgment was that given the press of time, given the specificity in it, even though it sounded somewhat aspirational in nature and was unverified, the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do was just to push it to the people who needed to get it. And as I said, that happened three different ways.
Senator Cruz: (01:49:01)
You had a conversation with Senator Grassley about the death of Officer Sicknick, and there obviously is considerable interest and concern in the Senate and across the country as to the circumstances of Officer’s Sicknick’s deaths. There’ve been conflicting reports about the circumstances of his death. You told Senator Grassley, the FBI at this point is not in a position to confirm a cause of death. Is there any information that the FBI can share with the American people about what we know of the circumstances surrounding his tragic death?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:49:36)
Although I certainly understand and appreciate the keen interest in it for all the reasons we’ve discussed, at the moment, other than to say the Capitol Police has of course categorized it, I think appropriately as a line of duty death, there’s nothing really that I can share right now. Certainly, I understand why it’s very much top of mind for people. And I think it speaks well of the members of Congress that they’re so interested in somebody who’s lost his life protecting all of you. So as soon as we’re in a position when the investigation has gotten to a stage where we can share information, we want to be able to do that.
Senator Cruz: (01:50:12)
Now let’s talk more broadly about domestic terrorism, because the riot on January 6th didn’t come out of nowhere. And last year, the Department of Justice created a task force to investigate and understand the growth of political violence. The memo creating the task force states, “Amid peaceful demonstrations protected by the First Amendment, we have seen anti-government extremists engage in indefensible acts of violence designed to undermine public order. Among other lawless conduct, these extremists have violently attacked police officers and other government officials, destroyed public and private property, and threatened innocent people.” Is that task force still operating?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:50:56)
I know the work that the task force began is still ongoing.
Senator Cruz: (01:51:04)
In the past year, we have seen massive rioting and violence as extremists, many of them leftist extremists, took to the streets across the country, in just two weeks, at the end of May and early June, over 700 law enforcement officers were injured. Looking at all of 2020, over 14,000 people had been arrested in 49 cities, and at least 25 people have died in the violence. And it’s estimated that the property damages from these riots could exceed $2 billion. What is the FBI doing to counter this ongoing pattern of domestic terrorism?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:51:46)
So Senator, certainly we tried to respond aggressively with our partners to the domestic violent extremism that we saw playing out in streets all across the country this summer. A lot of that activity, I would say fell in what we would categorize as anti-government, anti-authority violent extremism. Some of it is anarchist violent extremism. Some of it is militia violent extremism. Some of it might even be sovereign citizen violent extremism. But we saw a huge uptick in violent extremism in that broad bucket over the course of last year.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:52:26)
And so we’re trying to be aggressive with the tools that we have in terms of the charges we’re bringing. We’re trying to, as we talked about, frankly, in connection with January 6th, same thing for the summer, we’re trying to look at sources of funding, planning, coordination, trying to learn more about trade craft and tactics and things like that so that we can be better prepared to prevent it and feed information to our state local partners so they can be better prepared to prevent it.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:52:51)
As I think I said to Senator Grassley, last year we had three times the number of anarchist violent extremist arrests. From, say the prior year, I think it was certainly more last year than the prior three years combined. And we did see, last year, Senator Grassley noted in his opening comments, the first murder by an anarchist violent extreme is last year in quite some time, certainly. Which was the individual who, in Portland, killed a supporter of an opposing viewpoint. And then the individual in question, the violent extremist, was himself killed in a shooter as the marshals were trying to apprehend him.
Senator Cruz: (01:53:39)
Chairman Durbin: (01:53:45)
Senator Coons: (01:53:47)
Thank you, Chairman Durbin. Director Ray, welcome. Thank you for your service and your testimony today. And let me join with my colleagues in conveying our condolences on the line-of-duty deaths of special agents and Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. It has been a long time since there’s been a special agent line-of-duty death, but every loss of life by those who are serving us and protecting us is too many. And we join in grieving their loss and hope you will convey that to their family.
Senator Coons: (01:54:16)
But our purpose here today is to focus principally on what happened in this complex, in this building, in the Capitol, on January 6th. At Charleston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Kenosha, and right here in the U.S Capitol. These are just some of the recent examples where far-right extremists and white supremacists have terrorized this country, their fellow citizens, and murdered individuals.
Senator Coons: (01:54:40)
We all condemn violence, by anyone of any political persuasion, but we have to be honest about the significant threats we face. And that’s the only way we can work together to take steps to confront them. I think it’s a critical to that process for us to uncover the real facts of what happened and given some of the misinformation being spread by some colleagues, I just would appreciate your readdressing a couple of questions.
Senator Coons: (01:55:09)
Can you speak with clarity about what we know about the January 6th right here at the Capitol? You’ve said there’ve been, I think 280 arrests as so far. Has there so far been any evidence that the January 6th riot here, the insurrection, was organized by people simply posing as supporters of President Trump.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:55:31)
We have not seen any evidence of that. Certainly [crosstalk 01:55:34]-
Senator Coons: (01:55:34)
Is there any evidence at all that it was organized, or planned, or carried out by groups like Antifa or Black Lives Matter?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:55:41)
We have not seen any evidence to that effect thus far in the investigation.
Senator Coons: (01:55:45)
And is there any doubt that the people who stormed the Capitol included white supremacists and other far-right extremist organizations?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:55:55)
There’s no doubt that it included individuals that we would call militia violent extremists, and then, in some instances, individuals that were racially-motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race. But the militia violent extremist is probably, at the moment, trending the biggest bucket, if you will.
Senator Coons: (01:56:16)
Well, you face challenges, we as a nation face challenges with extremists of all stripes, types, backgrounds, motivations. As the new chair of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, I’m concerned about how extremists have used social media platforms to organize and incite violence, and in some ways about how social media platforms work to accentuate or accelerate those who have extreme views and to potentially radicalize those who don’t hold those views.
Senator Coons: (01:56:46)
I led a letter with 14 colleagues last November to Facebook raising concerns about the adequacy of their enforcement of their own policies against violence and incitement. Can you speak to the extent to which the January 6th attack on the Capitol was organized through social media platforms?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:57:06)
So certainly social media on January 6th, as for the domestic violent extremist threat more broadly, has become a major factor, a catalyst, if you will. The increased speed, dissemination, efficiency, accessibility that it provides, it facilitates a greater interconnected nature in a more decentralized way. I sometimes say terrorism today, and we saw it on the 6th, moves at the speed of social media.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:57:40)
And we tried to work with social media companies to get them to more aggressively use the tools that they have to police their own platforms on your terms of service, et cetera, and in particular to cooperate with us so that we can bring justice for those who hijack these companies’ platforms to engage in some of the conduct we’re talking about. And that’s where you’ve heard a little bit about the encryption issue come up. That’s an important part of this. We are moving in a direction, we saw it on the 6th, and we’re seeing it more and more every day in this country, where violent extremist, just like other bad actors, are taking advantage of encrypted platforms to evade law enforcement.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:58:29)
And that social media companies and the technology companies are moving more and more in a direction where if we don’t come up collectively with some kind of solution, it’s not going to matter how bulletproof the legal process is, or how horrific the crime is, or how heartbreaking the victims are, we will not be able to get access to the content and the evidence that we need to protect the American people. And then I think we will all rue the day.
Senator Cruz: (01:58:56)
Director, this area raises a lot of very complex questions of civil liberties, of individual rights, fundamental rights to free expression, but I am also concerned about ways in which online disinformation and conspiracy theories lead to radicalization and help pave the way for this particularly tragic event in the history of our democracy and how some of the ways in which social platforms are structured, social media platforms are structured, to accelerate the spread of disinformation. How policy makers and platforms confront these issues are going to be complex. And I look forward to working with you to get the facts as the FBI develops them about what happened on January 6th.
Senator Cruz: (01:59:37)
Two last questions, if I might. My colleague, Senator Whitehouse, asked about responding to outstanding requests for information. And I agree some of the stonewalling that we saw, by a number of agencies over the previous administration, isn’t acceptable. Can you just reassure me the FBI will be as responsive as possible to information request from this committee?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (01:59:58)
Absolutely. My strong view is that you all have an important key function to perform in terms of your oversight of the FBI as with other agencies. And it pains and frustrates me when we’re not able to be as responsive as you need us to be. And I commit to doing my best to see if we can work with you all to get better on that front.
Senator Coons: (02:00:21)
Thank you. Last, Senator Feinstein, asked you a series of questions about the record number of nixed denials last year. This is when someone goes in and tries to buy a gun, gets run through the background check system and is denied. They’re person prohibited, often because they’re a convicted felon. I’m soon going to be introducing a bill with a colleague on this committee that would simply require that when there is an attempt to buy that is denied because someone is a person prohibited, that notification be given to state law enforcement.
Senator Coons: (02:00:53)
That is the law in some states, that is not the law in a majority of states. Does that seem to use something that would be a good additional tool in the toolkit to allow state and local law enforcement to act on the tip that someone who is a person prohibited has just lied and tried to procure a weapon?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:01:09)
Certainly, I think the lied and tried information is often a valuable tool, from an investigative perspective, in preventing a more serious conduct. And we’d be happy to meet with you or engage with you to provide a little bit better sense of how all this works from an operational perspective. I know that the key consumer of the information, here as your question alludes, are state local law enforcement. So I would want to make sure that we do it in a way where we work with them as to what they would find most useful.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:01:44)
Certainly, as I said in response to Senator Feinstein, the volume of NICS checks, overall, and with it, the volume as a small subset of denials, has exploded over the course of the last year. And so I am mindful of the resource burden that it puts on everybody in the law enforcement system, but we’d be happy to talk with you more about it.
Senator Coons: (02:02:07)
Thanks. I look forward to working with you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Durbin: (02:02:10)
Senator Sasse: (02:02:11)
Thank you Chairman. Thank you, Director Way, for being here and thank you for the way you’ve been available to us on this committee and on the Intel Committee. We’ve also been grateful for your work and availability. We’ve talked a good bit about the intelligence failures around January 6th, but some of it is how did we sort signal from noise. And some of it is the handoff from the FBI and other entities to the Capitol Police.
Senator Sasse: (02:02:37)
As you do an after action, how much of the problem is the challenge of navigating a social media world where any drunk guy in a bar now has amplification that he can be heard around the world. And lots of it is just drunk guy in a bar ranting. And some of it is more particular threats because people can find communities of kind of warped belief with other people if they’re planning something wicked on social media. How much of it is the filtering through social media for you to make sense of it? And how much of the January 6th failure was the handoff from the FBI to Capitol Police?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:03:10)
Well, Senator, as I said, when it comes to the handoff, a lot of the attention has really been about this Norfolk SIR, which I think I’ve talked about it at some length, where we provided the information to our partners in three different ways. And as it was, the information was raw uncorroborated information at the time, certainly.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:03:29)
I think the other part of your question, the filter, the social media piece of it is a huge issue user. And it’s something that we, and everybody in law enforcement struggles with right now. You use the drunk guy example, I guess that sometimes I refer to. It used to be that some angry demented guy living in mom’s basement, not that there’s anything wrong with that, in one part of the country is now able to communicate with the similarly angry guy in grandma’s attic in another part of the country, and they get each other spun up now. And how to separate who’s being aspirational versus who’s being intentional, it won’t shock you to learn, and hopefully not other members of the committee, that the amount of angry, hateful, unspeakable, combative, violent, even rhetoric, on social media exceeds what anybody in their worst imagination is out there. And so trying to figure out who’s just saying, “You know what we ought to do is X.” Or, “Everybody ought to do X.” Versus the person who’s doing that, and actually getting traction, and then getting followers, and of course, that’s assuming that they’re not communicating through encrypted channels about all that stuff, is one of the hardest things there is to do in today’s world with the nature of the viral extremism threat we face.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:04:53)
Social media companies play a huge role in helping us with that, but you often hear us say, “If you see something, say something.” To me, the refinement here would be, if Americans see something on social media that seems to have crossed that line, they need to say something. Because that’s going to be our best source of information to prevent this.
Senator Sasse: (02:05:14)
It’s helpful. I’ve heard from Nebraska Law Enforcement before, at one level, they don’t really know what to do with, if you see something say something, because it’s not clear exactly where they hand that information. Let’s talk a little bit more about the handoff between state and local law enforcement as Senator Coons was, and the Bureau, but also between technology platform, content moderation, and the Bureau, but first just inside the Bureau, give us that we’re getting a lot better at this. Because I don’t think we’re giving you enough resources to get the right kind of new human capital you’re going to need, but I’d love to be wrong.
Senator Sasse: (02:05:50)
So go from three years ago to a year ago, a year ago to today, in a day to a year from now, how are we getting better at filtering signal from noise? And what kind of new human capital are you hiring that should give us confidence that we’re going to get better in this world that is exploding with lots online rant?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:06:08)
Well, certainly, there’s a number of things we’re trying to do to get better. And I think we are making progress, but it all, as you referenced, requires resources. So there’s a data analytics piece, because the volume is so significant that we need to get better at being able to analyze the data that we have to do it in a timely way, to separate the wheat from the chaff. And that requires both tools, analytical tools, and we’ve had requests for those in the budgets the last couple of years, but also people, data analysts, who can devote their time to that who have the experience.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:06:45)
So that’s part of it. I think a second part of it is, as I think I referenced in response to an earlier question, all of these investigations that we do, all these arrests we make are important not just from a disruption perspective, but, putting my intelligence hat on, they allow us to learn more about where people communicate, how they communicate, what the magic words are, all that kind of stuff, so we get better at better and anticipating from that reason.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:07:13)
But, make no mistake, we’ve got a long way to go. This is an incredibly hard problem. I know from communicating with my foreign counterparts, especially the Five Eyes, that they’re struggling with it too. As to your point about people knowing where to go, I will tell you that our tip line, our public access tip line, both the email tips and the phone tips, have exploded in volume. And we’re doing things to kind of get that information out to state and local law enforcement much more quickly.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:07:42)
And certainly the social media companies, some of them have gotten better at providing us more real-time information when they see something, because they have a lot of resources to devote to this problem in terms of policing their own platform. So the more we can incentivize them to do that, that’s a big part of this too.
Senator Sasse: (02:07:59)
Can I concretize the example? I’m a high school teacher, a high school principal and some kids…
Senator Sasse: (02:08:03)
… the example. So I’m a high school teacher, or a high school principal, and some kid comes to me and says, “Hey, these kids have always seemed to be online bullies, but now it seems like the things they’re saying sound more violent.” What do you tell them to do?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:08:13)
Contact your local FBI field office.
Senator Sasse: (02:08:16)
So it is FBI, it’s not your local police department?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:08:19)
Well, I think they could also contact state and local law enforcement. We all now work so closely together that I think we view a call to one as a call to us all. If we get the information, we’re nine times out of 10 going to be pushing it to state and local law enforcement as quickly as we can. We do a lot of outreach to the high schools like you’re talking about. Meeting with teachers, meeting with students, meeting with parents to try to get them to understand better what to be on the lookout for, what might be that indicator. Because the one thing we know, whether it’s any kind of domestic violence extremism we’ve talked about here this morning, or frankly just the horrific active school shooter situation is that when you look back on the path to the key moment, almost every single time, there was a friend, a family member, a neighbor, a classmate, a coworker, something, somebody who knew the person well enough to know this is their baseline.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:09:18)
They’ve now changed in a way that’s scary to me and no one knows better than the person who knows them well, and that’s the person we need to come forward. When they do and they’re doing it more and more, we’re able to get in front of it.
Senator Sasse: (02:09:29)
I’m basically at time, so I want to ask you a question here, but I’ll flag one that I want to continue talking with you about. I would love to hear your big national pitch for these data analysts because we need more great human capital to serve their country in this way. But I also want to be sure that our training for these data analysts have First Amendment sensibilities about what they’re there to do. They’re looking for violence, they’re not looking there to be the national speech police. So look forward to continuing that conversation. Thanks for your work.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:09:56)
Speaker 9: (02:09:57)
Thanks, Senator Sasse. Senator Blumenthal.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:10:04)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you Director Wray for being here today. And I want to join in expressing my condolences for the loss of those two agents. And my thanks to the thousands of agents who work day in and day out to make America safer. When you last appeared before this committee in July of 2019, I expressed my concern that Donald Trump’s attacks against members of Congress and his other rhetoric, “Might ignite white supremacists and nationalist organizations and encourage hate crimes.” And I asked you whether you were concerned about the increasing number and intensity of his attacks on public officials and what the FBI was doing both proactively and responsively about them. And you said, ” I think we are very concerned about any threats of violence against any Americans, but certainly that would prominently include our elected officials.” We’ve seen increasing attacks by the president and others against public officials.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:11:17)
When the rioters who came to the Capitol, stormed the citadel of democracy on January 6th, were inside. They boasted proudly and loudly that they were doing what Donald Trump wanted them to do. We have warned specifically about QAnon in a letter dated December 8th, 2020. A number of us, members of the Senate, warned that QAnon specifically was a threat. I would like to ask you whether the threat posed by QAnon and as you well know, adherence of QAnon were among the rioters very prominently who stormed the Capitol, whether the continuing threat is worsened when prominent elected officials, including members of Congress endorse the QAnon theory.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:12:24)
Well, certainly we are concerned about the QAnon phenomenon, which we view as a sort of loose sort of set of conspiracy theories and we’ve certainly seen domestic violent extremists of the sort that you’re describing who cite that as part of their motivation. So that’s something that we do-
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:12:50)
But I apologize for interrupting. As you know, my time is limited. When members of Congress, as has happened, endorse the QAnon theory, doesn’t it worsen the threat of violence?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:13:05)
Well, again, our focus is on the violence and on the plans to commit violence, on the threats to commit violence. It’s less on the rhetoric and the ideology. Obviously, the folks who engage in this kind of violence draw inspiration from a variety of sources and we’re concerned about any source that stimulates or motivates violent extremism.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:13:31)
Well, I’ll follow up in another setting, but I am frankly disappointed that you’re not discouraging one of the sources of incitement, which is prominent public officials endorsing a theory that in turn resulted in storming the United States Capitol. Let me turn to hate crimes. Hate crimes are underreported. We’re seeing a rising trend of hate crimes, particularly directed against Asian-American Pacific Islanders. I have a bill called the NO HATE Act that would require more reporting, provide both incentives and requirements. Wouldn’t you think that kind of measure is a good idea?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:14:22)
So certainly we share your goal of both deterring and reducing hate crime, but also particularly relevantly in promoting better reporting, more complete reporting of hate crime. And we are specifically concerned about hate crimes against Asian-Americans as well. I’m not directly familiar with the bill, but I think we share the goal of trying to figure out how to improve reporting. As you may know, we have [inaudible 02:14:56], which is a new system that we’re rolling out and we’re trying to get to 100% on that. And we’d be pleased to work with you on figuring out how this bill might help advance that goal.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:15:10)
Well, then the NO HATE Act would in fact lead to better reporting. If 87% of hate crimes are unreported now, that is a searing indictment of the present system. We need to know more, and particularly about Asian-Americans and Island Pacificers being victims of them. I know you don’t want to be, as you said, armchair quarterback, but you’re going to be armchaired quarterback by the American people. And I think the American people listening to these past 10 days of hearing and knowing how much information there was out there on social media, in other forums about these thugs and rioters coming to Washington, organized groups, 3% are Proud Boys and others are wondering, why didn’t the FBI sound the alarm? I know there was a communication through that threat assessment.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:16:20)
I know you’ve talked about the agencies that were hearing that assessment, but here we have the United States Capitol where a key function of democracy enabling the peaceful transition of power was taking place and a threat of violence and even death to them. Why didn’t you go to the Gang of Eight? Why didn’t you sound the alarm in some more visible and ringing way?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:16:50)
Well, Senator, I guess a couple things. One, over the course of 2020, we repeatedly, repeatedly put out intelligence products on this very issue, domestic violent extremism, domestic violence extremism specifically tied to the election, domestic violent extremism specifically tied to the election and continuing beyond the election up through the inauguration, and specifically in December of 2020. In addition to that, in connection with the one piece of raw intelligence that’s been discussed so much here today, we did pass that on to the people in the best position to take action on the threat. Not one, not two, but three different ways. Now, more broadly in terms of what’s out in social media, as a number of the questions here today have elicited, I think it highlights and your question highlights one of the most challenging jobs for law enforcement in today’s world with social media.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:17:46)
There is so much chatter often unattributed to somebody in a neatly identifiable way where people are saying unbelievably horrific, angry, combative things, using language about beheading and shooting and explosives and all kinds of things like that. And separating out which ones are getting traction, which ones reflect intention as opposed to aspiration is something that we spend an enormous amount of time trying to do. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time in the ability to make those judgments. I can assure you that as I said I think to Senator Klobuchar, my standard is we’re trying to bat a thousand. We want to thwart every attack, and any time there’s an attack that’s not thwarted, we and our partners want to make sure that we figure out how to do even better at preventing that.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:18:34)
We’re pleased that the inauguration, for example, went smoothly, not withstanding threats and chatter that we were seeing, not just here in the national capital region, but against state capitals all across the country. And our focus was on engaging with all of our partners, our state local partners. I did a conference call with a thousand plus police chiefs from around the country about the state capitals. That’s the kind of thing we were doing to try to make sure that we’re doing the grind, the hard work to get in front of the threat, and we’re going to keep working at it every single day.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:19:06)
I understand your response. What I don’t understand is why this chatter, raw intelligence didn’t prompt a stronger warning and alarm going to the very top of the United States Congress because clearly, the United States Congress was under severe threat.
Speaker 9: (02:19:33)
Thank you, senator.
Sen. Blumenthal: (02:19:34)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Speaker 9: (02:19:35)
Sen. Holly: (02:19:36)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Wray, thanks for being here. Can I just go back to a series of questions that Senator Lee asked you. He asked you about the geolocation and metadata aspects and gathering related to the gathering of better data that is related to your investigation of the January 6th riot. You said you weren’t familiar with the specifics. Can I just clarify your responses to him? So when you say you’re not familiar, are you saying that you don’t know whether or not the Bureau has scooped up geolocation data, metadata from cell phone records for cell phone towers? Do you not know or are you saying that the Bureau maybe or maybe hasn’t done it? Just tell me what you know about this.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:20:18)
So when it comes to geolocation data specifically, again, not in a specific instance, but just even the use of geolocation data, I would not be surprised to learn, but I do not know for a fact, that we were using geolocation data under any situation with connection with the investigation of the 6th. But again, we do use geolocation data under specific authorities and specific instances. Because this is such a sprawling investigation, that would not surprise me. When it comes to metadata, which is a little bit different obviously than geolocation data, I feel confident that we are using various legal authorities to look at metadata under a variety of situations. But again, the specifics of when, under what circumstances, with whom, that kind of thing, I’m not in a position to testify about with the sprawl and size of the investigation and certainly not in a congressional hearing.
Sen. Holly: (02:21:13)
What authorities do you have in mind? You said that you’re using the relevant authorities. What authorities are they?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:21:20)
Well, we have various forms of legal process we can serve on companies that will allow us to get-
Sen. Holly: (02:21:26)
And that’s been done?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:21:28)
When using a lot of legal process in connection with the investigation. So, yes.
Sen. Holly: (02:21:32)
But specifically, serving process on companies invoking your various legal powers to get that data from companies, that’s been done in the case of gathering this data?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:21:44)
In gathering metadata, again, I don’t know the specifics, but I feel confident that that has happened because metadata is often something that we look at and we have a variety of legal tools that allow us to do that under certain circumstance.
Sen. Holly: (02:21:57)
What about the cell tower data that was reportedly scooped up by the Bureau on the day during, in fact, while the riot was underway? What’s happened to that data? Do you still have it? Has it been retained? Do you have plans to retain it?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:22:16)
Again, whatever we’re doing with cell phone data, I’m confident that we’re doing it in conjunction with our appropriate legal tools working-
Sen. Holly: (02:22:24)
Here’s what I’m trying to get at, and I think it’s what Senator Lee was trying to get at. How are we going to know what you are doing with it? And how are we going to evaluate the Bureau’s conduct if we don’t know what authorities you’re invoking, what precisely you’re doing, what you’re retaining? I mean, you said to him repeatedly, you weren’t familiar with the specifics. You’ve now said it to me. I’m not sure how this committee is supposed to evaluate anything that the Bureau is doing. You’re basically saying, just trust us. I mean, how are we going to know? Do we have to wait until the end of your investigation to find out what you’ve done?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:22:55)
Well, certainly I have to be careful about discussing an ongoing investigation, which I’m sure you can appreciate. But all the tools that we have are done in conjunction with prosecutors and lawyers from the Justice Department. Now, if there’s information we can provide you before an investigation is completed that goes through what some of the authorities we have, the tools we have, et cetera, we could probably provide some information like that that might be useful to help answer the question.
Sen. Holly: (02:23:25)
That would be helpful. Thank you. I’ll hold you to that. Let me ask you about some of the things that have been reported in the press. Particularly, there’ve been a series of reports that the Bureau has worked with banks in the course of the investigation into the January 6 riot, both before and after. And that some banks, particularly Bank of America may have handed over data for 200 plus clients who may have used their credit or debit cards to make purchases in the D.C. area. Well, what do you know about this? Has Bank of America voluntarily turned over information to the Bureau about its customers?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:23:56)
I don’t know any of the specifics. I’d have to look into that.
Sen. Holly: (02:23:58)
And so has the FBI requested similar information from any other companies, to your knowledge?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:24:04)
Again, sitting here right now, I do not know the answer to that question. I do know that we work with private sector partners, including financial institutions in a variety of ways all the time in a variety of investigations, but exactly the specifics of what may or may not have happened here, that I don’t know sitting here as we’re talking today.
Sen. Holly: (02:24:25)
As I’m sure you can appreciate my concern here is that 12 U.S.C. 3403 prohibits financial institutions from turning over confidential client records, unless of course they’ve got reasonable suspicion that there’s a crime being committed. Now, the news reports on this have indicated that financial institutions were doing this in cooperation with the Bureau without any such indication of a crime. They’re just turning over reams of consumer data. That obviously would be a major legal problem , a major legal concern. Can you try and get me some answers to these questions? I appreciate you say you don’t know today. You’re not aware of what’s going on, but can you look into this and follow up with me on this?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:25:01)
I’d be happy to see if there’s more information we can provide you on the subject. As I said, we have a variety of ways in which we engage with financial institutions in particular. And as you referenced, there’s a number of legal authorities that describe when you can and cannot do that and how that’s supposed to work. So I don’t want to get out, as they say, over my skis and try to characterize what may have happened in this specific instance, but I’m happy to look into it and see if there’s more information we can provide.
Sen. Holly: (02:25:27)
What about to some of the technology companies, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Amazon, has the FBI had contacts with those tech platforms following the events of the 6th?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:25:38)
We’ve certainly had contact with a number of the social media companies in connection with the 6th. So that much I know.
Sen. Holly: (02:25:46)
Has the Bureau sought to compel any of those companies to turn over user data related to the 6th?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:25:52)
Well, again, I can’t tell you the specifics here, but what I will tell you is that I feel certain that we have served legal process on those companies, which we do with some frequency and we have received information from some of those companies. And whether that’s true of every single one of the companies you listed, I can’t say for sure, but I suspect it is because we work with the social media companies quite a lot.
Sen. Holly: (02:26:17)
Are you aware of any of the companies voluntarily turning over data to the Bureau in relationship to the events of the 6th?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:26:24)
Sitting here right now, I can’t say for sure.
Sen. Holly: (02:26:26)
Just one more question, Mr. Chairman. Time’s almost expired. Are you currently pressuring any of these platforms, these social media platforms or tech platforms to include back doors in their software that would help defeat end-to-end encryption?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:26:42)
Are we pressuring-
Sen. Holly: (02:26:43)
Are you encouraging, are you pushing for, is it your desire to get such access?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:26:50)
We are not trying to get back doors. That is, I think, a criticism that gets leveled our way by people who don’t understand our position often. So I appreciate the opportunity to address it here. We are concerned about end-to-end encryption, especially default end-to-end encryption in connection with a lot of these platforms. And we are concerned that if these companies continue to move in the trajectory that they’re moving in, we are going to find ourselves in a situation where no matter how bulletproof or ironclad the legal authority, no matter how compelling the facts and circumstances, no matter how horrific the crime or heartbreaking the victim, we will not be able to get access to the content that we need to keep people safe. What we have been suggesting, and the cryptologers and cryptographers that I talk to say this is doable, is for the companies themselves to build in a way to have legal access when confronted with a proper legal authority so that they can get access to information and provide it in response to a warrant or a court order.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:27:54)
We’re not going to have a key, we’re not asking for a back door. That’s a myth, an urban legend that has been directed our way, but this is a subject that I think the American people need to understand because decisions that affect the life and blood of Americans all over this country, which normally are made by our elected representatives are in effect getting made in corporate offices in big technology companies. And different people can come down at different places on that balancing, but I would submit that’s a balancing that should be made up here and not by one company based on its business model. And in the context, for example, of child exploitation and to Facebook’s great credit, we get millions, millions of tips on child exploitation through NCMEC every year that help us prevent and rescue kids, hundreds of kids every year.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:28:49)
If they move forward in the direction they’re moving in, which is the direction by the way that Apple already went, we’re going to be in a position where those tips, those leads, that content, that information will drop into the abyss. So the tips will be gone, the victims, all those kids will still be out there. The pedophiles that are exploiting them, they’ll still be out there. The only thing that will be different is that neither the company nor we in law enforcement will know who they are, where they are or what they’re doing. And I don’t think that’s a situation that we want to find ourselves in. So we would welcome the opportunity to work with the companies, perhaps encouraged or incentivized through Congress to get to a situation where we can balance strong cyber security, absolutely. It’s a key part of our mission as well at the FBI, along with strong flesh and blood security, especially for America’s children.
Speaker 9: (02:29:43)
Thank you, senator. Senator Hirono is on remote. Can you hear me, senator?
Senator Hirono: (02:29:49)
Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Excuse me. Dr. Wray, following the January 6th insurrection, you and other senior law enforcement officials were missing from public view and the people who were providing the briefings to the public were the D.C. acting US attorney and the assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office. I hope you agree that at a time like this, it would be very important for high level law enforcement people like you and others to have briefed the public to limit the spread of misinformation about what happened and who was behind what happened. Wouldn’t you agree?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:30:34)
Certainly, I agree. It’s important to prevent misinformation as much as we can consistent with our legal responsibilities.
Senator Hirono: (02:30:43)
And part of the misinformation that happened was that, and you’ve testified that so far, there is no evidence of fake Trump supporters committing or provoking violence during the January 6th riot of the Capitol. That’s part of the misinformation that got out. Were you aware of these false claims?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:31:07)
Well, certainly along the way, we’ve seen a whole variety of claims from a variety of people about the investigation into the January 6th attack, just like with a lot of other high profile attacks. Whether I can recall exactly when the first time I’ve heard that specific claim, I don’t know for sure.
Senator Hirono: (02:31:29)
This is part of the kind of false information and narrative that got out blaming others such as Antifa for what happened. So that is why I think it is really important for you and others like you to be out front. You’ve been asked some questions about hate crimes and you acknowledged that there is a rise in hate crimes against the AAPI, Asian-American Pacific Islander community. Wouldn’t you agree that calling the COVID-19 the kung flu or the China virus adds to the kind of targeted hate crimes that we are seeing a rise against the AAPI community?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:32:12)
Well, I don’t know that it’s really my place as FBI director to start weighing in on rhetoric, but I can assure you that that’s not a language I would ever use, and hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders is something that we are concerned about. We take very seriously. We are investigating where we have facts sufficient to do that. We’re also engaged in a variety of forms of outreach to the public. I think we’ve done 60 plus training or liaison events with the Asian-American Pacific Islander community since just March of last year. We’ve put out intelligence reports to our partners about hate crimes against that community in particular and it’s something we take very seriously.
Senator Hirono: (02:33:00)
I commend you for working with, I assume, state and local law enforcement entities, as well as community advocacy groups to deal with the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. And in fact, just a few weeks ago, there were lethal attacks on… There seems to be a targeting of senior Asians, and so lethal attacks in San Francisco and in New York. And I think these are totally unprovoked attacks. And so I think that we need to continue to focus on what the community can do and what law enforcement can do to make sure that these crimes are prosecuted as the hate crimes that they are. And I think it is also important for leaders to not fan the flames by calling COVID-19 the China virus or kung flu. You also testified, and you were asked some questions about the role of social media by these extremist groups, and you said that terrorism moves at the speed of social media.
Senator Hirono: (02:34:16)
Senators Warner, Klobuchar and I recently introduced the SAFE Tech Act, which would pull back Section 230 immunity from tech companies for things like civil rights violations and wrongful death suits. Do you think that exposing these companies to civil liability would force them basically to take extremist content off of their platforms? Or to take these kinds of content more seriously and do something about them?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:34:46)
Well, senator, I want to be careful not to get out ahead of the rest of the administration and weighing in on specific pieces of legislation. But having said that, I think there are a few things I could say. One is, while the immunity under Section 230 has obviously helped the evolution of the social media industry, it’s also allowed it to avoid a lot of the burdens and risks that other brick and mortar companies have had to face. And it means that important decisions that affect many aspects of society that would normally be made by the people’s elected representatives are now being made in corporate offices in the industry. And so while I can’t comment on specific legislation, I certainly can tell you that I see the value, maybe it’s the best way of putting it, of incentivizing online platforms to address both illicit content on their platforms and to assist law enforcement in bringing to justice criminals who use those platforms to victimize Americans.
Senator Hirono: (02:35:56)
And then there is also the concern that entities such as Facebook and Twitter do more to modify these kind of content. I know this could drive the extremists to use encrypted platforms like Telegram and Signal. So that’s another area that we’re going to need to address. I wanted to turn briefly to your testimony that identifies lone wolf actors as a concern for you. And I think that with regard to lone wolf actors, we need probably a whole of society approach. So what can we all do to deal with the problem of lone wolf extremists?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:36:41)
So I appreciate the question. We do consider that the lone actor, I’ve sort of stopped using the term wolf because I feel like it gives them too much credit, but the lone actors, whether they’re homegrown violent extremists or domestic violent extremists is a real threat, A, because it’s so pervasive, but B, because unlike somebody who’s working as part of a large group, somebody acting alone has fewer people they’re in contact with which means fewer dots to connect, et cetera. It makes it that much harder for us to get in front of. What we desperately need is more and more situations where the members of the public who know that person, who see the transformation, who see things starting to change in a way that they know is different and it’s become much darker and more dangerous, those people to speak up, to contact law enforcement, whoever they trust in law enforcement to alert people to the threat.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:37:43)
And the good news, if there’s any good news in this, is that we are seeing that happen more and more in this country. We’ve had lots of people, as heartbreaking as it must be, turn in family members when they see this transformation because they know that having us or our partners intercede may not only prevent that person from committing an attack against an innocent American, but also may in some instances, result in that person being off ramped to get help as opposed to potentially being killed by law enforcement or incarcerated or something else. So we need the people. We always say, if you see something, say something, and most people picture the abandoned backpack and in Greyhound bus terminal. Obviously, we want people to see something and say something there, but we also need people, if they see something about somebody to say something.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:38:37)
And the more of that we can have and the more members of Congress as key voices in their communities, in your home states can encourage people to do that, that’s one of the key weapons we have as a country, to use your phrase, the whole of society defense against this threat.
Senator Hirono: (02:38:55)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Speaker 9: (02:39:02)
Sen. Cotton: (02:39:04)
Director Wray, welcome. First, I want to say I was deeply saddened by the loss of Special Agents Dan Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. And I want to extend condolences to their families and to the agents who worked with them, and the entire Bureau. My wife and I know many of your agents across the country, and we’re extremely grateful for the work they do to keep our community safe. I want to turn to some of your written testimony. You say that homegrown violent extremist is the greatest, most immediate international threat to the Homeland. These extremists are US-based individuals located in and radicalized primarily in the US who are not receiving individualized direction from global jihad inspired foreign terrorist organizations, but are inspired largely by ISIS and Al-Qaeda to commit violence.
Sen. Cotton: (02:39:49)
So what you’re saying there, Director Wray, if I understand it correctly is that dangers of the threat is from other kinds of extremists, like racial supremacist groups or anarchist groups. The most dangerous threat we have in the country from extremism remains jihadist-
Sen. Cotton: (02:40:03)
… most dangerous threat we have in the country from extremism remains jihadist. Is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:40:05)
Well, I think the key word there was international. I don’t have the written statement for the record in front of me, but what I would say is we view… Maybe step back. What we view as the most dangerous threat to Americans today is largely lone actors, some cases small cells, if you will, largely radicalized online, already here in the United States, attacking soft targets, using crude readily-accessible weapons, motivated either by jihadist inspirations or by a variety of domestic inspirations. So we have the HVEs, the homegrown violent extremists, which are the jihadist-inspired, and we have the DVEs, the domestic violent extremists who are inspired by domestic sources. That bucket, which have a lot in common with each other, is the greatest terrorism threat we face as a country.
Sen. Cotton: (02:41:00)
Okay. I want to turn to another kind of potential terrorist threat. We talked a lot here about domestic terrorism. Obviously, international terrorism remains a serious threat, and an important part of the federal government’s counterterrorism work remains trying to prevent foreign terrorists from reaching our shores. Is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:41:15)
Sen. Cotton: (02:41:16)
And part of the screening process is checking our own criminal record and terrorism databases, but it does rely heavily on foreign governments, both providing us with data about criminal terrorist ties and also to document security practice so terrorists can’t obtain fake IDs, is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:41:31)
Certainly, that’s a part of kind of hardening our homeland defense, if you will.
Sen. Cotton: (02:41:37)
Your predecessor testified to Congress in 2015 that without cooperation from those governments, if the terrorists are not already in our own databases, we could quote, “query our database until the cows come home, but there’ll be nothing to show up, end quote, unless foreign governments work with us. Is that still the case?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:41:54)
Certainly, we depend heavily on cooperation from foreign governments to make that kind of defense effective.
Sen. Cotton: (02:42:00)
Let’s turn to a few of those foreign governments. Is it still the case that Syria and Iran are both nations that share little, if any, information with the United States about potential travelers or immigrants coming to our country?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:42:11)
I will confess that I’m not sure I know the answer sitting here today, but I would be flabbergasted if the answer were anything other than yes, it’s still the case.
Sen. Cotton: (02:42:20)
Still the case that Libya and Syria are both countries that lack effective control over significant parts of their territory, and therefore cannot provide information from people coming from those parts of their country?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:42:34)
I believe that to be the case.
Sen. Cotton: (02:42:37)
What about Myanmar, also known as Burma, where there was a military coup last week? Is it true that the United States now face a serious obstacles to vet individuals coming from Burma?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:42:47)
I’m not sure I know the answer on Burma, but I suspect the answer’s the same.
Sen. Cotton: (02:42:51)
And finally in this rogues’ gallery, what about North Korea? Is it true that North Korea remains uncooperative in providing us information about North Korean nationals that might try to come to the United States?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:43:01)
I have rarely heard North Korea come up in the context of cooperativeness.
Sen. Cotton: (02:43:06)
Thank you. I just want to note before we close on this topic that all of those nations, Syria, Iran, Libya, Burma, and North Korea were among the nations from which President Biden lifted travel restrictions by executive order on his very first day in office, without any plan in place to improve security for those travel situations. Each of them represents a real threat to the United States. I want to turn to another kind of threat we face, which is crime and gang violence in particular. Unfortunately, both drug trafficking and violent crime are now on the rise in the United States. Are street gangs driving a significant part of violent crime on streets across America?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:43:42)
Well, certainly when I go around and I’ve talked with state and local law enforcement in all 50 states, I think the number one issue you would hear about from maybe all of them is violent crime. What drives it in each city, state, town is different, but it’s not just the national gangs, the MS-13s, the 18th Street gangs, et cetera. A lot of times it’s the neighborhood gangs that are really top of mind when you talk to chiefs and sheriffs around this country.
Sen. Cotton: (02:44:12)
And those gangs of whatever type, they often use violent crime as a way to expand their territory and exert more control, so then they can seek money-making enterprises like drug trafficking or prostitution, property crimes like robbery? Is that-
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:44:25)
Sen. Cotton: (02:44:27)
So let’s talk about MS-13, since you raised it. MS-13 has gained notoriety for some particularly brutal crimes across the country in recent years, and they continue to expand their influence in the United States. Is that right?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:44:40)
Well, I know we made significant strides against MS-13 over the last 18 months or so, but it is a very significant gang threat, and the brutality, the savagery, and the level of kind of organization that exists there is something that has to be taken extremely seriously.
Sen. Cotton: (02:45:03)
And it remains primarily a Central American and especially an El Salvadorian gang, is that correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:45:08)
Well, certainly from the triangle, the so-called triangle. But yes, El Salvador is one place from which a lot of them come.
Sen. Cotton: (02:45:16)
They don’t exactly hand out membership cards. I’m sure have a membership directory. Unless they’re named by another gang member, you still use methods like gang tattoos to identify who belongs to MS-13?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:45:31)
That would be one piece of information that would be relevant. We’re obviously talking to human sources, witnesses, informants, collecting information from partners, et cetera.
Sen. Cotton: (02:45:42)
And then I know that your Safe Streets Task Force and your National Gang Intelligence Center, and other units, often work together with the Department of Homeland Security and with state and local law enforcement to find and to prosecute and deport these gang members. In your professional opinion today, is immigration and customs enforcement deporting too many or too few MS-13 gang members?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:46:05)
Well, I don’t know that I’ve tracked the deportation rate related to MS-13 members. When we come across MS-13 members in this country, our focus has been on locking them up and putting them in federal prison as much as we can, which is where we’d like to have them. In addition to the units that you listed off, I think correctly, I would also cite our tag, our transnational group, which is a task force that we have in El Salvador. Because we actually have pretty effective results with US law enforcement working with El Salvador law enforcement, and to a somewhat lesser extent the other two countries in the triangle, to take down some of the MS-13 members in their home country as well. So it’s the two pieces together. So I can’t say sitting here right now anything about the immigration posture, but certainly when we find MS-13 gang members here, we want to put them in orange jumpsuits where they get to spend a lot of time in our prisons.
Sen. Cotton: (02:47:09)
Thank you. Well, when it comes to MS-13, it won’t surprise you to know that I support the lock-them-up policy, but I also support the deporting policy.
Sen. Booker: (02:47:17)
Thank you, Senator Cotton. Director Wray, hello. I know it’s been a long day, and I appreciate you here on the very tail end of the questioners, so I appreciate your endurance. I first just want to associate myself with maybe not the heat that you received from Senator Whitehouse, but definitely the spirit of what he was talking about. And I appreciate your commitment to meet his concerns, which are concerns I’ve heard on both sides of the aisle. It’s very hard to play our role, our constitutionally-mandated role, if we don’t have the information to do the oversight of your agency. So I do appreciate your commitments. I also want to join what is, I think as you’ve seen, really a bipartisan condolences for the loss of Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger. That is the greatest sacrifice anyone can make for this nation, which is to die in the line of duty and protecting others. I’m aware that there are other officers that were injured, other agents that were injured. I hope they’re recovering well.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:48:17)
They are. I had the opportunity the morning after the shooting to go down, not just to meet with Laura and Dan’s families, but also to visit the hospital. And happily, I think the four injured agents should make a full recovery.
Sen. Booker: (02:48:34)
Well, would you please express from the entire committee not only our condolences to the families, but our robust concern for their recovery and their wellbeing? And should they need anything, you obviously have allies here in their wellbeing.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:48:47)
Thank you, Senator.
Sen. Booker: (02:48:50)
You and I have had one of my treasured conversation, frankly, to have the… You showed me the honor of coming to visit me before you were… Sat with me in my office before you stepped into that job. And I really appreciated our conversation about the challenges we still have in this country around racial issues and the urgency for the FBI, which has abused its power before, whether it’s investigations of Martin Luther King, or other ways to really set an example for the largest driver in many ways as we pledge allegiance to this flag of this driver towards being a just nation. I just want to ask you though about your team. We know that diverse teams are better. Everybody from Harvard Business School to every top business consulting agency has shown study after study that diverse teams are stronger teams, but especially ones in law enforcement that have such a mandate that you have, having diversity is really important. And so I guess my first question is, how diverse is the FBI’s workforce now in terms of gender, religious, and racial diversity?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:49:57)
So, Senator, this is a topic that as you may recall from our prior visit is very important to me personally, and something I’ve tried to make as a priority. We’re addressing it in a variety of ways, but in terms of results, I guess I would characterize it as cautiously optimistic. So on the racial diversity front, our special agent class has been more diverse with each year over the past few years, in each case more, certainly, than the diversity percentage of the workforce that exists. And this year, which I think is a bright spot, the percentage, the racial diversity of our applicant pool is much higher than it was in years past. On gender, much the same. The diversity of applications is up significantly. The gender diversity of our Quantico classes is up.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:50:59)
I’ve set aggressive targets for our field offices, and those targets are for the most part being exceeded. So we’re doing a number of things to try to address the issue. We have what we call diversity agent recruitment events, which were easier to do pre-COVID, but that a lot of times I would go to in different parts of the country myself and speak at. We have a very encouraging project we’ve started with 300 Entertainment that’s focused on historically Black colleges and universities, and trying to improve our recruiting pipeline there.
Sen. Booker: (02:51:36)
Can I maybe just ask you, could you share that data with the committee of the progress that you’re making?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:51:42)
Sure. I think there’s definitely information we could provide separately.
Sen. Booker: (02:51:45)
And then your leadership team, can you provide the diversity of the leadership team that you have around you?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:51:50)
Sure. Yes is the answer, but I will say that on that front, I’ve recently appointed… I’m not sure how much you may remember about our structure, but we have at the very top of the FBI six EADs, executive assistant directors. Each one of is over a branch that has multiple divisions. So just over the last couple of months, as people retire, I’ve replaced one of the EADs with an Asian American woman who oversees our human resources branch, and one of the other of these six EADs with an African American male who oversees our intelligence branch, which includes not just our entire intelligence function, but our private sector engagement and our law enforcement partner engagement as well. I also appointed the first-
Sen. Booker: (02:52:45)
I want to honor the time here. I know you’ll be available to discuss that more and give the information. In the minute or so I have left, I think a lot of the questioning has been very illustrative of a lot of the challenges we face. I appreciate that from members of both sides of the dais here. I just wanted to drill into something. We’ve talked about the extremist groups that were at the Capitol. We talked about many others, but as I’ve seen interviews of folks, there were many people that were just saying, “I’m here because President Trump,” now former President Trump, “wanted us here.” And it seemed that this lie that was told over and over again, that many people felt like their government had betrayed them, that the courts and after court case after court case, that Republican official after Republican official were all just dead wrong, really believed in the lie and felt like they were left with no choice but to try to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
Sen. Booker: (02:53:43)
And so I guess I’d just ask to begin with is that… Attorney General Barr said that he had quote, “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Do you agree with Attorney General Barr’s statement that there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:54:08)
I agree with Attorney General Barr.
Sen. Booker: (02:54:10)
And to be crystal clear on this, as FBI director, these would be federal crimes. You’re aware of no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, correct?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:54:22)
We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud, much less that would have affected the outcome in the presidential election.
Sen. Booker: (02:54:30)
All right. Well, I have great respect for Senator Kennedy, and I see him as a friend. I’m not going to abuse the incredible power that Dick Durbin has given me right now, although power is going to my head, but I’m going to police myself and defer to the good Senator Kennedy.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:54:48)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Booker: (02:54:51)
I didn’t hear you. Did you call me…
Sen. Kennedy: (02:54:53)
I called you Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Booker: (02:54:54)
Thank you, sir. Thank you, sir. That sounds very good.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:54:58)
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Director, I’ve listened from my office to your testimony today. Tell me who had the authority to call out the National Guard on January 6.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:55:21)
Well, my understanding is that the decisions to call out the National Guard in one sense are the responsibility of the secretary of defense. But in another sense-
Sen. Kennedy: (02:55:32)
Mr. Director, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I think we can agree that the FBI had credible information that there was likely to be violence on January 6. Can we agree on that?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:55:49)
Well, I don’t know that we had assessed its credibility. We certainly had information that was concerning about the potential for violence in connection with the January 6th events. And as we discussed here this morning, one piece of information that was most specific that I’m aware of was passed quite quickly-
Sen. Kennedy: (02:56:08)
Based on that information… And I’m sorry to interrupt, but we just keep nibbling at the edges and dancing around the issue. And I understand. I’m not asking you to throw anybody under the bus, Chris. I get it, but we need to find out what happened. Now, if you were king for a day, based on the information that you had, maybe not at the time, but later on, would you have called out the National Guard?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:56:38)
You know, Senator, as you said, I really want to be careful not to be armchair quarterbacking others. I think the National Guard we have seen can play a very important role in crowd control-
Sen. Kennedy: (02:56:49)
Excuse me for interrupting. I’m not trying to be rude, but my time’s limited. Who made the call not to… Based on your information, who made the call not to call out the FBI, whether they should have or shouldn’t?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:57:04)
Not to call the FBI?
Sen. Kennedy: (02:57:06)
I’m sorry, I’m tired. The National Guard.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:57:12)
Well, I would defer to others who were more involved in that discussion, but from what I have heard, what I have read, my understanding is that at one stage of the process, the local government was of the view that it did not need the National Guard’s assistance.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:57:31)
Who do you mean by the local government, the mayor?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:57:34)
Sen. Kennedy: (02:57:34)
So the mayor didn’t call out the National Guard?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:57:39)
At the beginning.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:57:41)
What do you mean by the beginning?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:57:43)
In the day or two leading up to the 6th. Then as to exactly how it played out on the 6th itself, I’m not as sure about-
Sen. Kennedy: (02:57:49)
I understand. I mean, clearly, our people are were overrun by the nutjobs, so we’re making progress here. So the mayor or the city government decided not to call out the National Guard ahead of time. What about the House Sergeant at Arms?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:58:16)
I don’t know what role the House Sergeant at Arms played with respect to the National Guard.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:58:21)
Okay. How about the Senate Sergeant?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:58:24)
Sen. Kennedy: (02:58:25)
Okay. How about the Capitol Police, the chief of Capitol Police? Did the chief of Capitol Police make the call not to call out the National Guard?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:58:35)
I don’t know the answer to that. My understanding is that the law enforcement officials here with responsibility over the Capitol, that there were differing views about whether or not the National Guard was appropriate and when and what level. But all I really know on that is what I’ve… Same thing you’ve seen in the press coverage of the events.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:58:56)
Okay, that’s enough on that. I listened to your comments about diversity, and I thank you for your good work there. I think any fair-minded person has to conclude that the diversity is a strength, not a weakness. But this subject comes up a lot, and I think it’s going to come up a lot again, and that’s not a criticism. That’s just an observation. Do you believe that the FBI is a systemically racist institution?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (02:59:42)
No. Now, having said that, I do believe the FBI needs to be more diverse and more inclusive than it is, and that we need to work a lot harder at that, and we’re trying to work a lot harder on that.
Sen. Kennedy: (02:59:54)
Do you believe that the FBI is a systemically sexist or misogynistic institution?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:00:06)
Again, that’s not the way I would describe the FBI that I know and see every day. But again, it’s a place where we need to be more diverse and inclusive, and we need to work harder at that. And we are working hard on that, and we’ve got progress that we still need to make at least to be satisfactory by my standards.
Sen. Kennedy: (03:00:22)
Okay, fair enough. Mr. Director, have you ever been to Hong Kong?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:00:27)
Sen. Kennedy: (03:00:28)
Wonderful place, wonderful people. The Chinese Communist Party is destroying it. If Congress passed a bill and said to the good people of Hong Kong, who yearn for freedom, “Come to America. We’re going to follow our friends in Britain, so come here. You want to get out from under the thumb of the Communist Party, come to America. We welcome you,” do you think the FBI and law enforcement has the ability to screen for spies? One of the criticisms of the proposition I just stated is, “Well, we would be letting in spies.” Do you think based on your knowledge of security that we could catch most of the spies?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:01:21)
Well, I yield to no one in my faith and confidence in the great work of the men and women of the FBI, but I will tell you that the Chinese counterintelligence threat is the greatest threat, certainly the greatest counterintelligence threat, that we face as a country. And the sheer number of what we would refer to as non-traditional collectors working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party is something that is a massive resource challenge for the FBI.
Sen. Kennedy: (03:01:51)
Okay, that was probably an unfair question. I’m not asking you to guarantee anything. In the few seconds I have left, and begging the indulgence of our esteemed chairman, who’s doing a much better job than Durbin, by the way… Oh, he’s back. The Horowitz report. Can you tell me how many people you have referred for prosecution at the FBI as a result of the Horowitz report?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:02:18)
For prosecution or for discipline?
Sen. Kennedy: (03:02:20)
For prosecution first. Just give me numbers, because I don’t want to abuse my time.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:02:24)
Well, the prosecution issue related to anything to do with the Horowitz report-
Sen. Kennedy: (03:02:30)
How many have been fired?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:02:31)
… is in the hands of-
Sen. Kennedy: (03:02:32)
I get it. How many have you fired?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:02:36)
Most of the people involved in Horowitz report are former employees. Of the ones who are current, every single one of them, even if mentioned only in passing, has been referred to our office of professional responsibility, which is our disciplinary arm. Now that piece, and this is important, that piece of it, because we’re cooperating fully with Mr. Durham’s investigation, at his request, we had slowed that process down to allow his criminal investigation to proceed. So at the moment, that process is still underway in order to make sure that we’re being appropriately sensitive to the criminal investigation.
Sen. Kennedy: (03:03:14)
Okay. So you’ve had to hold up as a result of the criminal… I’m sorry I went over, Mr. Chairman. And I’m sure glad you here. Booker was just screwing everything up.
Sen. Durbin: (03:03:25)
Senator Padilla, and I’m sure you’ll do a better job than the previous questioner.
Sen. Padilla: (03:03:32)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I will do my best. Director Wray, other members of the committee have raised their concerns over the increase in hate crimes in recent years against the Latinos, African Americans, the LGBTQA community and others. Over the last year, we’ve seen a significant increase in violence specifically against Asian Americans, including in my home state of California. Earlier in this hearing, members raised the recent lethal attacks in San Francisco and New York as some examples. Just last week in Sacramento, California, a man returned to the premises of an Asian family-run butcher shop with a mutilated cat carcass, for no apparent reason other than to stoke fear. The incident is currently under investigation as a hate crime. It’s clear to me that this uptick in violence against Asian Americans is the direct result of racist rhetoric used by political leaders with intentional regard to the coronavirus pandemic, such as when former President Donald Trump has used offensive references to the coronavirus.
Sen. Padilla: (03:04:54)
Indeed, a March 2020 FBI assessment conducted by the FBI’s Houston office and distributed to law enforcement across the country, and I’ll quote… It predicted a future surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans due to the spread of coronavirus. I want to quote from that assessment. “The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” So I know Senator Hirono has already raised the topic, but I wanted to ask a couple more specific follow-up questions. To what extent, Director Wray, do you believe the increase in violence against Asian Americans has been influenced by reckless rhetoric concerning the pandemic? Two, what steps is the FBI taking to address the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans? And three, part of that, I hope, is an update on how the FBI is proactively working to overcome trust issues in immigrant communities and communities of color.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:05:59)
So Senator, let me try to take all three questions in turn. First, I want to be careful as FBI director not to start to get in the business of kind of weighing in and characterizing rhetoric. Because as you know, we focus on the violence, not on the ideology or the motivation. So I would largely on that issue just reaffirm the intelligence assessment that’s already been produced through the appropriate channels. On the second two questions, in terms of trying to be proactive, a number of things that we’re doing. So in addition to our investigations, which we work closely with state and local, in some cases tribal and other federal law enforcement agencies, in that, we have some cases we’ll be able to bring federal cases working with our civil rights division, counterparts the prosecutors.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:06:56)
In other cases, even if it’s going to be a state or local charge, which sometimes may be the best charge available based on the facts, we are trying to provide forensic support, other kinds of expertise, and experience to help support the state and local prosecution. We’re also trying to do a lot more public outreach, which is both with the community itself, but also with state and local law enforcement. In some cases, field offices are bringing them together, so it’s a group discussion, which I think has a lot of value. We’re also providing trainings. We’re doing a lot of training. We’ve done hundreds of seminars, workshops for both law enforcement and community groups, religious organizations, so forth. And that includes hate crimes training, not just for the hundreds of special agents at the FBI, but for thousands of police officers.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:07:49)
When it comes specifically to the last part of your question, the trust issues, part of that is demonstrating through our work that we’re going to do the right thing in the right way, and that we’re going to respond just as aggressively and professionally to crimes against them as victims as they see with other kinds of crimes. And we have done… Just since March of 2020, I think we’ve done over 60 liaison events or trainings specifically geared towards the Asian American Pacific Islander community, and we’ve also tried to put out intelligence reports like the one you referenced that call out the issue.
Sen. Padilla: (03:08:32)
Great. I think just yet another example of the value of increased and improved diversity, not just throughout the ranks of the agency, but especially amongst agents and amongst leadership. Now, your examples of collaboration with local law enforcement’s actually a great transition to my next question. Some of the most striking revelations in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection here in the Capitol were reports that some members of the Capitol Police were sympathetic to the insurrectionists, that they posed for photos, provided directions, and may have even expressed support for those attacking the very building they’re sworn to protect. I understand that six Capitol Police officers have been suspended, and at least 29 others are under investigation for their alleged role in the attack.
Sen. Padilla: (03:09:26)
We’ve also learned that among those participating in the interaction were numerous off-duty law enforcement officers from around the country. Rooting out white supremacists and right-wing extremists is a challenge that local law enforcement agencies and even the United States military is facing across the country. Director Wray, how is the FBI assisting law enforcement agencies across the country to root out white supremacy or other forms of extremism? And do you believe there’s a concerted effort by right-wing extremists to infiltrate law enforcement agencies?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:10:04)
So, I guess a few things I would say on this topic. Certainly, it is true that in some instances, as we’re continuing to investigate the January 6th attack, there have been some instances of current, or in particular former, military or law enforcement who participated, and we want to pursue those cases just as aggressively as we would anybody else. We are also though, which may go more to the heart of your question, when appropriate, referring individuals to the department that employs them for possible administrative or disciplinary action under their rules as appropriate.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:10:51)
We work very closely with both our law enforcement partners and our military partners in their efforts to address any kind of violent extremism that may be in their midst. We view that as an effect that kind of insider threat, if you will, and they do too. And I want to be clear that in my experience, and I’m dealing with our law enforcement partners and our military partners every single day, the vast, vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of the men and women in uniform, both in law enforcement and the military, are brave, selfless, professional, high-integrity individuals. But when there are bad apples in the midst, we work with our partners to try to get ahead of it.
Sen. Padilla: (03:11:34)
I agree with that final statement, but the threat and the danger that those few bad apples present are to be taken very seriously, I understand. So hope to work with you, possibly to develop further best practices and protocols to be shared with the agencies around the country.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:11:54)
Sen. Padilla: (03:11:54)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Sen. Durbin: (03:11:55)
Thank you. Senator Tillis.
Sen. Tillis: (03:11:57)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Wray, thank you for being here for your years of service and for the great work that so many of the people-
Speaker 10: (03:12:03)
For your years of service and for the great work that so many of the people in the FBI do every single day. Before I ask you a question though, I think it’s very important. I was the last member to leave the Senate chamber, and I observed the Capitol Police doing an extraordinary job and shepherding every single member and every single staff to safety. So I hope as they’re reviewing some of the officers, we should go through a review, I hope that we’re tracking their entire pattern of movement that day. I think you’ll see many of them were doing … putting themselves between us and violence, and we need to make sure that we treat them fairly, but back on the rioters on January the 6th, can you give me a rough idea just of the crimes that many of them are being charged with are being pursued through investigations?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:12:52)
Well, we’re using a variety of statutory weapons, there’s certainly assault charges. There are a number of charges that are specific… By that I mean assault against federal law enforcement, including the Capitol Police, the brave men and women at the Capitol Police that I think you rightly credited there. There’s also various charges related to destruction of federal property, things along those lines. We are now starting to begin to see, as we sort of taken care of the most immediate easiest to prove… I hate to use the word like low hanging fruit charges, but now we’re starting to get more of the more advanced charges if you will. So, we’ve had some conspiracy charges recently. Some of the people that are more involved with different forms of planning or coordination or preparation. Some of those charges are starting to happen and I would expect to see that continue.
Speaker 10: (03:13:50)
And incidentally Miss chair, I want to associate myself with Senator Graham’s comments earlier. I think your threats are going up and we’ve got to match that with additional resources, so I look forward to the committee continuing that. Now, would you see any difference between the charges, the investigations that you’re pursuing in the events on January 6th, and charges it should be pursued against federal buildings and federal law enforcement officers being harmed in Seattle or Portland? Are their active investigations for either of those two events, and would they be treated any differently?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:14:27)
As I think said in response to an earlier question, we are equal opportunity. So by that I mean, we don’t care what ideology motivates you, if you’re engaged in violence that violates federal law, we’re coming for you, and that’s true for the events over the summer and some of the domestic terrorism that occurred…
Speaker 10: (03:14:48)
Are there active investigations related to those events?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:14:51)
Speaker 10: (03:14:52)
Thank you. You mentioned in response to one of the members questions about this just increasing, the volumes increasing. I introduced in the last Congress, I intend to re-introduce a bill called Protect and Serve, which increases penalties for rioters for assaults on federal officers and a more significant consequences. Do you think that those would be helpful tools for law enforcement, and for prosecution?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:15:19)
Sorry, I didn’t mean to… I think, while I’m not familiar with the specific bill, I want to enthusiastically support the idea of looking at everything we can do to protect the men and women of law enforcement. The threats, the violence against law enforcement in this country, is one of the most tragic and sometimes least talked about challenges we face. This year alone, this year alone, an officer is shot and killed in the line of duty at a rate of more than one a week, and when you think about what it takes for someone to be willing to sacrifice his or her life for a total stranger and how unusual that is, just to begin with, and then you add on top of that, somebody who’s willing to do that, get up and do that, every single day. Day after day after day, and they never know when that day might be the day that they don’t come home to their families, and so then you put that in the context of the way in which some violent opportunists or domestic terrorists hijack some of these protests, whether it’s the ones over the summer or the ones on the 6th, and now you got some of these same selfless individuals who are in many cases killed, but for everyone who’s killed, there’s someone who’s survived, thank goodness, but whose life and his family’s life is forever altered. And I don’t think we could ever and should ever take for granted those people because they protect all of us.
Speaker 10: (03:17:02)
I agree. I’m curious, with all the discussion of defund, the police and systemic racism and all law enforcement agency, some of the dialogue that’s out there, have you seen any measurable decrease in the number of people we’re trying to apply to come in to the FBI? I know I’m seeing it in… State troopers are telling me their applications for academies are down by over 70%. We see people accelerating their retirements. Do we have any potential threat out there either within the FBI or for law enforcement in general of having fewer people willing to get into this profession?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:17:36)
So certainly when it comes to state and local law enforcement, because I talked to many of the same chiefs and sheriffs you do, the recruiting challenge is a real concern and it comes up all the time. It’s something we need to be concerned about, and all of these trends that we’re talking about will have… I think we run the risk of that … just making that trend worse. At the FBI, happily, because we can all use some good news from time to time, last year and the year before we tripled the number of people, Americans across the country, applying to be special agents. So when I took the job, it was around 11,000 or so a year of people applying to be special agents. In 2019, it was about 36,000, and then last year, even with the pandemic, it was even higher than that, and that’s the highest number of people applying to work at the FBI as special agents to put their lives on the line, in about a decade. So we’d like to think our work is earning people who want to come work for us, and we’re grateful for that, and hopefully we can do our part to try to encourage more people, because we can only take so many of them to pursue law enforcement jobs in other agents.
Speaker 10: (03:18:51)
Well that is good news. I just wish you all the best of luck and prosecuting every single person that you can that breached the Capitol, and every single person on the grounds who assaulted or threatened a police officer, if there’s anything that we can do to help, and I will follow up with the department to get your perspective as to whether or not you think the Protect and Serve act would be helpful. I think that it will be, but I’d like your professional judgment. Thank you, Mr chair.
Mr. Durbin: (03:19:18)
Thanks Senator. Senator Ossoff?
Jon Ossoff: (03:19:22)
Thank you Mr. Chairman and Director Wray. Greetings from your home state of Georgia. Thank you for your service. There’s been a significant increase in shootings and violent crime nationwide over the last 18 months. There were at least 10 people shot in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday. What does the FBI assess is driving this crime wave?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:19:44)
Well, certainly I am following the same trends you are with concern, not just in Atlanta, but in other cities around the country. I’m not sure there’s any single factor that’s driving it. I think it’s a variety of things. Some of it may be the pandemic itself in its own way has had an impact. There are people who are maybe not at jobs or not in school or not otherwise available, and they’re more … there’s more potential for wrongdoing to occur. We’ve talked about some of the challenges with local police departments and some of the issues there in terms of their recruiting and staffing. A lot of them are understaffed in addition to the recruiting challenge. So that’s a problem. So there are a variety of drivers that we think contribute to it, but the violent crime problem over the last year in particular, 2020, is something that is a great concern and that we are very warily keeping our eye on it. It doesn’t get the same kind of headlines that some of the other threats we’ve talked about today, but as your question I think quite rightly implies, it’s a subject that’s near and dear to the hearts of all the people we know back home.
Jon Ossoff: (03:21:06)
Yeah, with many shootings in Atlanta on Sunday alone, this increase in violent crime is of grave concern to Georgians and people across the country. Will you work with this committee in my office to try to refine that assessment of the drivers of this violent crime wave?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:21:21)
We’d be pleased to do that. I commend you for your interest in the violent crime problem back in our home state.
Jon Ossoff: (03:21:26)
I appreciate that Director Wray. Next week will be the first anniversary of the shooting death of Brianna Taylor, a young woman who died when police officers in Louisville, Kentucky entered her home with a battering ram executing a no-knock search warrant connected to a narcotics investigation. Ms. Taylor was not the subject of that warrant. There’s obviously been a deepening and grave concern about equal justice, due process. The extent of … brutality, harassment, discrimination faced by black Americans in the criminal justice system growing over the last year given incidents such as this one. Without commenting on the specifics of the late Ms. Taylor’s case, is the FBI prioritizing investigations of cases involving color of law violations under 18 USC 242, and what resources have you instructed your field offices to commit to those investigations?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:22:29)
So as you say, I can’t discuss the Taylor case specifically. We have an ongoing federal investigation there, but we are definitely trying to push forward on color of law cases. We do that through our civil rights division within our criminal investigative division. In addition to the investigations we’re pursuing, and we have quite a number around the country, we are also trying to contribute by doing different forms of training and outreach to state and local police departments so they understand better kind of where the lines are and where we fit into it. So that’s part of it as well. We’re also trying to contribute to the situation by encouraging better reporting. We’ve had a lot of conversations this morning in other contexts about statistics and reporting, and when it comes to use of force, we are trying to build out a use of force database that involves use of force by police departments, law enforcement agencies around the country.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:23:40)
It’s voluntary. We can’t mandate all these local police departments provide the information, but we are doing a lot to encourage them to submit their data and my pitch to them has been, “We’re going to be talking about these issues no matter what, and we should all want the conversations to be based on the actual facts and the actual data, as opposed to what some random person thinks the facts or data are.” And so we’ve now reached one of the thresholds where we can start doing some of the reporting related to this effort. We need to get to a certain threshold statistically, I think it’s 80% or something of police departments before the data is considered statistically reliable, but so, investigations, training, and outreach, more complete statistical reporting on use of force.
Jon Ossoff: (03:24:29)
Thank you Director Wray. I know the committee is considering legislation to make that data more available to you from local agencies, and will you provide to the committee and to my office an accounting of the FBI’s investigations over the last two years, color of law violations, title 18 USC 242.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:24:47)
I’m happy to see if we can provide you some more information on that.
Jon Ossoff: (03:24:50)
Okay. Look forward to that. Director Wray, is the recently revealed solar winds breach, a major cyber security breach, a failure? A counter-intelligence failure by the U S government?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:25:13)
I don’t know that I would describe it that way. Certainly the solar winds intrusion is something that reflects a trend that we’ve been calling out for some time, but it takes it to the next level. So for years, we’ve been warning of both China and Russia in efforts to inject malware, to undermine our trust in software that organizations all rely on. We’ve also called out the intrusions into managed service providers, which allow our adversaries to reach a far greater number of networks through single entry points. The solar winds intrusion essentially takes us to the next level, purposely infecting a product that’s widely used to manage networks, and so the scope, the scale, the somewhat indiscriminate nature of the intrusion is something we take very seriously with our partners and…
Mr. Durbin: (03:26:10)
Director Wray, my time being limited, if I might… Surely for malware to be embedded on sensitive US networks at that scale and without detection for that duration must constitute a counter-intelligence failure.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:26:25)
Well, I think it’s a cyber security issue. I think of counter-intelligence a little bit differently than just the kind of context you’re talking about, but as I said, in some ways it’s analogous to what I said about some of the earlier threats. Our goal is to try to bat 1000, and time we don’t bat 1000, we’re obviously looking hard to see what we can do better to prevent that from happening again. When it comes to cyber intrusions in particular though, we are long passed the world where it’s a question of if an organization is going to be the victim of cyber intrusion. We’re in the world of when, and the question is not whether somebody was a subject of a cyber intrusion, but how fast does it get detected? How well does it get mitigated, etc. The scope, the scale, the range of attack methods, the number of adversaries involved in sophisticated cyber attacks dwarfs what it was when I was in law enforcement and national security before, and a huge amount of the information, a huge amount of the information, for America in particular, is in the hands of the private sector.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:27:38)
And so unlike in some of the other kinds of threats we’ve been talking about here this morning, the partnership between intelligence community, other federal agencies and the private sector is at the heart of the issue.
Jon Ossoff: (03:27:51)
Thank you director Wray. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Durbin: (03:27:53)
Thank you Senator Ossoff. I’m glad you brought up solar winds because I think it’s the first reference at this hearing. I’d like to do a follow- up before I recognize Senator Blackburn. So what do we do about it? We know that we don’t have an extradition agreement with Russia, so even finding and naming the hackers doesn’t lead to any punishment of them, what is our response as a deterrent to future cyber intrusion?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:28:21)
So Mr. Chairman, I think discussing the response in any detail is probably something that would be better done in a classified setting. That by itself might give you a little bit of a hint, but what we have found… Speaking more generally, what we have found over the last couple of years in the cyber arena in particular is that we are at our most effective when we have joint sequenced operations. That, essentially, think of it as the … having the whole be greater than the sum of the parts. So you mentioned a few of the things that can be done, any one of those things by themselves ain’t going to get the job done, but if you start putting some of those things together in a way where each amplifies the effect of the other, we have actually seen some pretty good results with some of our adversaries. So it’s everything from, not just the law enforcement piece, its foreign partner participation, it’s private sector hardening, it’s treasury sanctions. It’s a whole host of things, but when you put them together, sequenced, while I would never suggest to you and you would never believe me if I did suggest to you, that that’s going to somehow just eliminate the problem, it does push the adversary back and slow their progress, but this is going to be a long, hard slog.
Jon Ossoff: (03:29:41)
Thanks director. I believe that Senator Blackburn is on remote. Senator?
Mr. Durbin: (03:30:09)
Technical difficulties. She’s waited patiently so I’ll give her another minute. See if that helps.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:30:18)
Yes. Mr. Chairman. I’m here.
Mr. Durbin: (03:30:21)
Okay Senator, you have the floor.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:30:25)
Oh thank you sir. I appreciate that. And yes, I think … I don’t have enough bandwidth… Something’s wrong with the video transmission. We’ll just go with audio, and to the chairman’s follow up, Director Wray, I would just like to add, I think it would be excellent, and Mr. Chairman I would offer to you, is we’re looking at what is happening with cryptocurrencies and with the growth in that market place and how this currency could be used when it comes to cyber crimes and to terrorism. I think a briefing from you all on what you are tracking and what you’re seeing would be very helpful to us. So I would commend that as a second place for us to go. And director Wray, I want to say thank you to you, for being here and thank you to the FBI and the US attorney’s offices in Tennessee for the work they did after January 6th, tracking down and catching the rioters from Tennessee that had taken a part in those activities.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:31:44)
And there are a lot of questions that still remain. One, and I know Senator Kennedy mentioned this, but the national guard, and the timeline that was there. I’d like for you to speak to that if you can, the day off the timeline, because I understand that Mayor Bowser spoke with the secretary of the army twice, at 1:34 and 2:22, and with Chief Sun, he spoke with the guard, the DC guard, commanding general at 1:49, and the guard began to mobilize it 3 and the troops did not arrive until 5:40. Is that your understanding of the timeline?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:32:29)
Senator, I appreciate the question, and I’m glad you tied me back to my exchange with Senator Kennedy because I fear that I may have contributed to a little bit of a muddle here. So first let me say that my understanding is that, on the question of authority, is that the DC mayor and the US Capitol Police can ask for the national guard. That the secretary of defense has the authority on federal land. The secretary of the army has authority on, in effect, DC or … when it’s not DC, state land. I really don’t have the specifics on exactly who requested what and when, and I understand why it’s topic of keen interest, but I as FBI director am not intimately involved in that process and so I don’t want to add to any confusion that’s out there.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:33:21)
Okay. So then it would be appropriate that we direct that, first of all, to the guard command and to the secretary of the army. Is that what I’m hearing you say?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:33:38)
I think so, yes.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:33:40)
Okay. All right. That’s sounds great. Thank you for that clarification, because I do think that we do need some clarification there. Let me go to some of the riots that have taken place around the country and the crime that has seemed to spike this year and previous to this, the FBI participated in operation legend. Of course, Memphis, Tennessee was a part of that effort. So we thank you for that, but let me ask you, is the FBI tracking extremist groups like Antifa or other radicalism that are connected to violence in cities across the country, the violence and the looting that has taken place, and we know operation legend wound down and ended in January. So how is the FBI going to continue assisting local law enforcement in the cities where you have these riots that have taken place?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:34:52)
Well Senator I appreciate the question. I think you’ve touched on two very, very important but distinct topics. So one is the violence on our streets in a lot of our major cities, including Memphis, that that operation legend was designed to address. And the other is the violence that’s occurring amidst protests, where otherwise peaceful protests are hijacked by people who engage in violent criminal behavior. So on the first, on what I would call sort of the more traditional violent crime side, the, in effect, operation legend side, if I can just use that as a shorthand, we do think that was a successful operation, but it was by its very nature finite in duration. What we’re doing since then is trying to work with our safe streets task forces, which have representatives of state, local, and other federal agencies, and to try to bring a strategic intelligence driven approach to the violent crime problem. What I have found, and I’ve talked with state and local police chiefs in all 50 States, is that each city has its own idiosyncrasies. There may be certain common trends, but ultimately there’s usually some kind of, in effect, tail wagging the dog that is contributing disproportionately to the violent crime problem in that community and if everybody can be working together in intelligence driven way, they can prioritize the impact and dismantle the enterprise as opposed to just kind of pushing the problem around.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:36:33)
Okay, let me… Not to cut you off, but to jump in there, because you’re correct. There are different set of issues around the different types of crime. I understand that, and I appreciate that, but I think part of the frustration is… Let’s take July 4th last year with the Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland, with the fire that was started, and how did the FBI and federal and local law enforcement agencies attempt to track down those that were responsible? Was this an extremist group or groups, or was it individuals, like a lone actor, which you mentioned earlier, and of course in Nashville on Christmas day, we saw the actions of alone actor, and separately, at some point I would like to get an update from you on that, but let’s talk about what you’re doing to track those groups that are there … or like in Seattle with the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, where they’re just really flouting the rule of law and trying to abolish a police presence. So how are you tracking these anarchist groups who are planning attacks, who are occupation occupying public spaces, and what type of work are you doing to help protect communities from this?
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:38:14)
So sure. So that’s the second topic of the two that we touched on. So we do have a number of domestic terrorism investigations. We would call them anarchist violent extremism investigations, into individuals, some of the most dangerous individuals involved in some of the conduct, in particular over the summer. We are looking at everything from tactics, to funding, to logistics, and we’re pursuing all available charges against them. I think I may have mentioned in response to an earlier question that last year in 2020, we arrested more anarchist violent extremists than the prior three years combined. But in addition, I would say that in some of the activity that you’ve described from over the summer, when it’s targeting federal buildings, there are certain charges that may be available there as was true with the courthouse in Portland and as is true obviously with the Capitol on the 6th, but when it comes to non-federal facilities, sometimes the charges end up being state local charges, where we work closely with and support our state local partners as they bring charges. So we are continuing to move full speed ahead. We’ve increased significantly the number of investigations into that kind of activity you’re describing and we’re going to keep at it.
Marsha Blackburn: (03:39:44)
Okay. Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Durbin: (03:39:50)
Thank you Senator Blackburn. As we conclude the hearing, in area shameless self promotion, I’m not going to send your QFR, but I’d like to send you a copy of my domestic terrorism prevention act to ask for your reaction to it. You may suggest some changes to make it more effective and I’d appreciate that. It’s been a while since you’ve been before the committee and we’ve certainly tried your patience today, but you’ve been excellent in your presentation, and I just want to thank you and the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the sacrifices they make to keep America safe. This meeting of the judiciary committee will stand adjourned.
Hon. Christoper A. Wray: (03:40:28)
Thank you Mr. Chairman.