Sep 17, 2020
House Homeland Security Hearing Chris Wray Testimony Transcript September 17: FBI Director Testifies
The House held a homeland security hearing on national security threats on September 17. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified. Read the transcript of the full hearing below.
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Chairman Thompson: (00:00)
… with those Americans dealing with devastating natural disasters, including the wildfires in the West and Hurricane Sally in the South. As Chairman, I remain committed to ensuring they receive the federal help needed to respond, recover, and build back stronger. Today the Committee on Homeland Security is meeting for its annual hearing on worldwide threats to the Homeland. Our nation recently observed the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Nearly two decades later, we continue to mourn the nearly 3000 lives lost that terrible day, and keep their loved ones in our prayers. This Committee and the Department of Homeland Security were established in the wake of 9/11 to help prevent future attacks on our soil.
Chairman Thompson: (00:58)
Regardless of who was Chairman, we’ve held regular hearings examining where were at threat with leaders from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and National Counterterrorism Center. And regardless of who has occupied the White House, whether Democrat or Republican, we’ve received cooperation in that effort. Today was supposed to be no different.
Chairman Thompson: (01:26)
Unfortunately, as we see from the empty chair in front of us, Mr. Chad Wolf is not here to represent the Department of Homeland Security. Let me be clear about how we got here. The Committee began engaging with the Department over three months ago on June 10th, 2020 to secure Mr. Wolf’s participation in this hearing, alongside his colleagues from the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center. Any assertion that the administration committed to having DHS, FBI, and NCTC testify before this Committee as a worldwide threats hearing in July is false. DHS tentatively offered a couple of dates, but then could not agree with its FBI and NCTC counterparts on the date for the hearing in June or July.
Chairman Thompson: (02:22)
In fact, it was the Department of Homeland Security that conveyed to the Committee that September 17th was the earliest Mr. Wolf would be available to testify at this hearing. In the interest of receiving Mr. Wolf’s testimony, the Committee agreed to the offered date. It was not until last week that the Department informed the Committee that Mr. Wolf would be reneging on the commitment to testify in anticipation of being nominated for Secretary of Homeland Security. I would note that despite his refusal to testify today, Mr. Wolf has spoken to the media on multiple occasions since President Trump announced he intended to nominate Mr. Wolf to be Secretary of Homeland Security, including no fewer than four appearances on Fox News.
Chairman Thompson: (03:14)
Mr. Wolf has Department of Homeland Security for the last 10 months and has been responsible for numerous decisions directly relevant to the subjects the Committee intends to explore. With that in mind, last week I wrote Mr. Wolf to make clear that there is no legal prohibition barring a nominee’s testimony, and to urge him to honor his commitment. In response, the Department, again, declined to provide Mr. Wolf to testify at this hearing. Faced with continued refusal, on Friday I issued a subpoena for his appearance in accordance with House and Committee rules. Regrettably, he has chosen to defy the subpoena. That he would refuse to come before the Committee, after committing to do so, should appall every member of this Committee. Insisting Mr. Wolf keep his commitment to testifying before Congress isn’t playing politics, it’s doing our job.
Chairman Thompson: (04:16)
Congress has the authority and obligation to execute its constitutional oversight responsibilities regarding Mr. Wolf’s decision and the Department’s action during his tenure. As Chairman, it is my responsibility to ensure the Committee fulfills its Constitutional response abilities. 19 years after the attacks of 9/11, we continue to face grave threats to the Homeland, including the rise of domestic terrorism, ongoing foreign interference in the 2020 elections, and a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed nearly 200,000 American lives. As a person running the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Wolf should be here to testify as Secretaries of Homeland Security have done before.
Chairman Thompson: (05:07)
Instead, we have an empty chair, an appropriate metaphor for the Trump administrations dereliction on so many of these critical Homeland Security issues. Mr. Wolf may attempt to evade oversight and the Department may try silly stunts to distract from this hearing, but we will not waver. The stakes are just too high. Indeed, former Department officials, the administration’s own political appointees, are coming forward to sound the alarm that our nation’s security is being compromised in favor of the President’s political interests. Americans who care about securing the Homeland and upholding our most sacred values expect their representatives to hold the Department of Homeland Security and this administration accountable. Be assured that undermine my Chairmanship, I will not waver in my commitment to doing so, today or in the future. To that end, I’m pleased that Director Wray and Director Miller are here today. I look forward to that testimony and the members questions. The chair now recognizes the ranking member of the full Committee. The gentlemen from Alabama, Mr. Rogers, for an opening statement.
Ranking Member Rogers: (06:26)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ranking Member Rogers: (06:28)
Before I get started, I wanted to acknowledged our newest member of the Committee, Mr. Garcia, who I know is going to be a great addition to our Committee’s work in the future. Since the heinous attacks of September 11th, we have made great strides to thwart global jihadist operations and to stop threats before they reach our shores. However, today, global jihadists are joined by cyber hackers, rival nation states, and transnational criminal organizations. Together, they present incredible new risks to our economy, our safety, and our way of life. Make no mistake, the threats to our Homeland have never been more real than they are today. That’s why it’s important that we, as members of this Committee, understand those threats. It is our job to ensure that DHS, FBI and our intelligence community have the resources and authorities they need to continue to dismantle terrorist organizations and protect our Homeland. I look forward to hearing more about how the administration is countering the threat from Al Qaeda, China, and Iran and others who seek to do us harm.
Ranking Member Rogers: (07:41)
Mr. Chairman, I’m also disappointed DHS is not here today, but I want to record to be very clear on why DHS is not represented. It is not the fault of the Department or this Administration. Acting Secretary Wolf offered to testify before this Committee in both July and August. Unfortunately, the majority refused to make either of those dates work. Now due to his nomination, Mr. Wolf is prohibited from testifying under a policy that’s been in place under both Republican and Democrat administrations for decades. Nevertheless, due to the significance of today’s hearing, the Department offered to have Mr. Cuccinelli testify. He’s the second highest ranking official at DHS and perfectly qualified and informed on today’s subject matter.
Ranking Member Rogers: (08:32)
And I ask unanimous consent to include his testimony for the record.
Chairman Thompson: (08:36)
Ranking Member Rogers: (08:37)
Thank you. He should be here today providing the Department’s perspective on those threats we face and what DHS is doing to counter them. But instead of having productive hearing with Mr. Cuccinelli, the Chairman chose to subpoena and then empty chair Mr. Wolf. This is a political stunt, is huge disservice to our Committee and to the public. This is the single most important hearing we hold in this Committee. But unfortunately, as with most things in this Congress, the majority has chosen to play politics. As a result, the public is being deprived of critical information from DHS. Perhaps that’s the real reason why this majority didn’t want Mr. Cuccinelli here.
Ranking Member Rogers: (09:23)
Having the public hear about all the good things DHS is doing to protect them might undermine the Radical Left’s latest rallying cry, “Dismantle DHS.” Fortunately, Director Wray and Director Miller are here to provide us with their valuable perspectives. I look forward to hearing from both of you about the threats we are facing and with that, I got back to Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Thompson: (09:53)
Thank you very much. The Committee does not want to hear a testimony from the Department. Therefore, after Mr. Wolf declined our invitation, we issued a subpoena to obtain his testimony. The so-called standard practice by which the Department says Mr. Wolf cannot testify is the administration’s own self-imposed limitation. I also note that this is an administration whose respect for so-called precedents and even laws is highly situational. If the minority wanted to hear testimony from Mr. Cuccinelli, they had every right to invite him to appear as their witness at this hearing today. I’m not aware of the minorities requesting his testimony.
Chairman Thompson: (10:45)
Other members of the Committee are reminded that under Committee rules, opening statements may be submitted for the record. Members are also reminded that the subcommittees will operate according to the guidelines laid out by myself and ranking members in our July 8th colloquy.
Chairman Thompson: (11:04)
I welcome our panel of witnesses. Our first witness is the director of the Federal Bureau of investigation, Christopher Wray. Director Wray began his law enforcement career in 1997, serving in numerous positions at the Justice Department before assuming his current role in 2017.
Chairman Thompson: (11:24)
Next we have the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christopher Miller. Director Miller served in the United States military from 1983 to 2014 and in numerous civilian national security roles before assuming his current position. Without objection, the witnesses full statement will be inserted in the record. I now ask each witness to summarize his statement in five minutes or the best you can do within that time. Beginning with Director Wray
Director Christopher Wray: (12:06)
Morning, Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Rogers, and members of the Committee. I’m honored to be here today on behalf of the men and women of the FBI to discuss our nation’s top threats from the FBI’s perspective, and what we’re doing to counter those threats.
Director Christopher Wray: (12:22)
I know we all share a lot of the same concerns about topics ranging from international and domestic terrorism, to cyber security, to the violence in our streets, and particularly this year, to the threat of foreign influence in our elections, and that’s just to name a few and I look forward to updating you on these and other important topics this morning. But I’d like to begin by covering quickly a few items that have been particularly top of mind for us at the FBI over the past few weeks.
Director Christopher Wray: (12:52)
First, terrorism remains the FBI’s top priority, although the nature of that threat has evolved significantly since 9/11. We are ever vigilant in our efforts to prevent attacks by international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Those groups pose a threat, not just to Americans overseas, but also here at home. Most notably by those we call “homegrown violent extremists,” often lone actors inspired by foreign terrorists, self radicalized online, and motivated to attack soft targets with readily available weapons. We’re also working around the clock to prevent attacks by domestic terrorists who are inspired by one or more, or ethnically motivated violent extremists. They too are often radicalized online and mobilize quickly to carry out their violent plans.
Director Christopher Wray: (13:46)
People like Richard Holzer, who our Denver Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested on hate crime charges just last year, while he was planning to blow up a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. As with any terrorism case, we’re focused on disruption on making arrest before a criminal can act. Just this year alone, through the hard work and dedication of countless men and women, both at the FBI and across our partner agencies, we’ve successfully thwarted potential terrorist attacks in Kansas City, Tampa, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Boston, Phoenix, and other locations.
Director Christopher Wray: (14:25)
Now, in recent months, we’ve witnessed protests in various places around the country and many members of Congress have raised questions about those protests. Although the majority of protestors have been peaceful, we have opened investigations on individuals involved in criminal activity at these protests, some of whom adhere to violent extremist agendas designed to sow discord and upheaval. Let me be clear, we do not investigate groups or individuals based on ideology or the exercise of First Amendment protected activity alone. But when the ideology leads someone to commit criminal acts and pursue violence, the FBI will not hesitate to take appropriate action. That’s why we’ve been working closely with our federal, state, and local partners to ensure the safety of all of our citizens, including, I should say, the safety of those trying to exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully. We in law enforcement must keep our communities safe and secure while safeguarding our citizens constitutional rights and civil liberties. And as I’ve said before, one of those need not, and must not, come at the expense of the other.
Director Christopher Wray: (15:37)
We also remain focused on other threats. In less than two months, of course, Americans will exercise one of their most cherished rights: to vote in a free and fair election. Americans must have confidence in our voting system and our election infrastructure. That’s why the security of our elections is and will continue to be one of our highest priorities. We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections. And we’re working closely with our federal state and local partners, as well as the private sector, to share information, bolster security, and identify and disrupt any threats. Just recently, for example, we shared threat indicators with both Facebook and Twitter that allowed them to take down fake accounts created as part of a Russian disinformation campaign before those accounts could develop a broader following. Turning to the cyber arena, we’re focused on an increasingly diverse array of threats from our cyber adversaries, from state-sponsored cyber intrusions by nation states like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, to sophisticated cyber criminals seeking to explore technical vulnerabilities primarily for personal profit. Just yesterday, I announced the FBI’s new cyber strategy leveraging our unique expertise and authorities to impose risk and consequences on our cyber adversaries. We’re focusing on results. And that means we’re working to enable our partners operations as well as our own. To take one example, the FBI and NSA recently joined to expose highly sophisticated Russian military intelligence malware, providing the private sector and other government partners the indicators they need to disrupt that tool.
Director Christopher Wray: (17:24)
We also face the increasingly blended threat of state sponsored economic espionage, facilitated by cyber intrusions. In July, based on the FBI’s investigative work, DOJ indicted two Chinese hackers working with the Ministry of State Security for carrying out a global computer intrusion campaign that targeted hundreds of victims, including, I should note, companies developing COVID-19 vaccines, testing technology, and treatment. With that kind of behavior, China continues to undercut their own claims of being a trusted and effective partner of the international community. Just yesterday, we unsealed charges against five Chinese hackers who were targeting victims around the world from their safe Haven in China.
Director Christopher Wray: (18:10)
With our partners, we’ve now arrested two of their co-conspirators in Malaysia and seized or took down hundreds of the hackers accounts, servers, and domains. Now I’ve touched on only a handful of the important threats we face and only quickly at that, and of course there are many significant others. As the threats evolve in scale, impact, complexity, and agility, we’re relying on our deep well of expertise, intelligence, and partnerships. I’m committed to ensuring that the Bureau does great work while adhering to our core tenets of fidelity, bravery, and integrity. In these challenging times, I tell my folks that we’ve got to keep calm and tackle hard. Remaining faithful to our core values and best traditions while making sure that we’re always doing the right thing in the right way. Thank you. Happy to take your questions.
Chairman Thompson: (19:09)
Thank you very much for your testimony. I now recognize Director Miller to summarize his statement for five minutes.
Director Christopher Miller: (19:18)
Thank you, sir. Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Rogers, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the global counterterrorism environment and to highlight the tireless work of the professionals of your National Counterterrorism Center. I’m truly honored and humbled to lead such an extraordinary group of patriots. As my statement for the record reflects, today’s terrorism threat to the United States and our allies is less acute, but more ideologically and geographically diffuse, emanating from more groups and more places than it did in 2001. ISIS and Al Qaeda to operate in more than two dozen countries worldwide, Iran and its Shia allies increasingly threaten US interests overseas, and lone actors, inspired by a range of ideologies, pose the primary terrorism threat on US soil.
Director Christopher Miller: (20:20)
Our focus remains defeating Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and other terrorist actors, while defending our shores from terrorist entry. We believe this threat picture will only grow more complex over the coming year as technological advances, changing geopolitical dynamics, and instability resulting from a global pandemic create more opportunities for terrorists to benefit. However, the US and our CT partners worldwide can exploit some of these same dynamics to our advantages. The complex landscape requires thoughtful responses that evolve along with our adversaries, and we apply the lessons that we’ve learned over the last 19 years to adapt for the future.
Director Christopher Miller: (21:10)
At the National Counterterrorism Center, we are innovating new ways of doing business to ensure we are best aligned to connect the dots amid a flood of ever changing information. Through technological innovation and organizational realignments, we are positioning ourselves to mitigate the threat of today and preempt the threat of tomorrow. To do this will require greater resources to enrich our terrorist identities analysis and enhance our ability to detect and prevent terrorists travel to the United States. We also will need to invest in new data science and information technology solutions to optimize how we harness information available from our inner agency partners to combat the threat. In addition to adaptability, an evolving terrorist threat requires vigilance, especially as other national security priorities eclipse counter terrorism and prominence, and the US’s physical footprint in key jihadist theaters shrinks.
Director Christopher Miller: (22:14)
We believe that the changing national security framework and priorities only reinforces NCTC’s mandate to serve as the government’s lead agency for counterterrorism threat information and analysis. As our inner agency partners work diligently to allocate resources to address the full scope of national security challenges, we remain focused, laser focused, on leading the government’s CT enterprise to guarantee that we maintain relentless pressure on terrorist networks and preclude them from creating sanctuaries from which they can plot and project combat power. That is the central lesson learned from our 19 years of experience in this global war on terror. Nearly two decades after 9/11, it is now more important than ever that the NCTC remains positioned to lead the fight against terrorism by building on its legacy of vigilance and adaptation to prepare for the future. I am confident that our integrative and agile model has revolutionized how the US addresses transnational threats. Our approach is a no-fail mission and is one that remains worthy of emulation across the federal government. But perhaps most importantly, it has allowed us to uphold our sacred commitment to protect and serve the American people.
Director Christopher Miller: (23:36)
In closing, thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today, and I look forward to your questions.
Chairman Thompson: (23:45)
I thank the witnesses for their testimony. I remind each member that he or she will have five minutes to question the panel. I’ll now recognize myself for questions.
Chairman Thompson: (23:57)
Director Wray, can you, for the sake of the Committee, identify what organization proposed the greatest threat from a domestic standpoint here to the Homeland. Is it a right wing extremist, or is it a left wing, or what does your reports reflect?
Director Christopher Wray: (24:29)
Mr. Chairman, we assessed that the greatest threat to the Homeland, to us here domestically, is not one organization, certainly not one ideology, but rather lone actors, largely self radicalized online, who pursue soft targets using readily accessible weapons. And those include both domestic violent extremists of a variety of sorts, as well as homegrown violent extremists who are motivated by foreign, jihadist type sources. Those two groups, those two categories as a whole provide the greatest challenge and threat to us here at home. Partly because, and you’ve often heard the expression in the past, the importance of connecting the dots. Well, if you compare the threat I just described to the sort of Al Qaeda sleeper cells of old, that group, the sleeper cells, you’ve got a group of people colluding, conspiring, fundraising planning, preparing, communicating. So there’s a lot of dots out there to connect if the intelligence community and law enforcement know where to connect, and it’s usually curves over a long period of time.
Director Christopher Wray: (25:48)
These people, both categories, the domestic violent extremists and the homegrown violent extremists, they don’t have a lot of people that are working with, they don’t take a lot of planning and preparation. They can go from radicalization to mobilization in weeks if not days, and so the challenge of connecting the dots, working with NCTC and our other partners, is that much greater because there are that many fewer dots to connect and that much less time to do it. So that the time, as the experts say, from flash to bang is that much more daunting. So that’s why that’s the biggest challenge to us here in the Homeland.
Chairman Thompson: (26:22)
So when we hear officials say Antifa is the biggest threat on the Left, are they being correct?
Director Christopher Wray: (26:39)
Well, we don’t really think of threats in terms of Left and Right at the FBI. We’re focused on the violence, not the ideology. Our domestic violent extremists include everything from racially motivated violent extremists, which we’ve talked about here in this Committee before, I think when I testified last year, for example, all the way to antigovernment, anti-authority violent extremists, and that includes people ranging from anarchist violent extremists, people who subscribe to Antifa or other ideologies, as well as militia types, and those kinds of.
Chairman Thompson: (27:16)
Well, I think what I’m trying to reflect on it is we hear from time to time that this organization, by name, we need to investigate. Secretary-Designee, if he was here, he would get asked this question, but he’s not. He asked for an investigation of Antifa because they were the greatest threat to the Homeland. And if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying that it’s really not organizations so much as it is ideology. And I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I think that’s what I heard.
Director Christopher Wray: (27:59)
I appreciate that. We look at Antifa as more of an ideology or a movement than an organization. To be clear, we do have quite a number of properly predicated domestic terrorism investigations into violent anarchist extremists, any number of whom self identify with the Antifa movement. And that’s part of this broader group of domestic violent extremists that I’m talking about, but it’s just one part of it. We also have the racially motivated violence extremists, the militia types, and others.
Chairman Thompson: (28:33)
Thank you. Can you tell me if, as of this date, you have information that Russia is trying to influence the election for 2020?
Director Christopher Wray: (28:49)
Yes. I think the intelligence community’s consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections primarily through what we would call malign foreign influence, as opposed to what we saw in 2016, where there was also an effort to target election infrastructure, cyber targeting. We have not seen that second part yet this year, or this cycle, but we certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more the malign foreign influence side of things. Social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals, et cetera. An effort to both sow divisiveness and discord and, and I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly, primarily to denigrate vice President Biden in what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment. That’s essentially what we’re seeing in 2020.
Chairman Thompson: (29:59)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes the ranking member for questions.
Ranking Member Rogers: (30:06)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ranking Member Rogers: (30:08)
Director Wray, the Department of Justice has recently announced many FBI investigations that led to the arrest of Chinese nationals conducting highly sensitive research in the United States that have been found to be connected to the Chinese military. The growing number of these types of cases and non-public details of those risks raise alarm bells for me. I’m introducing legislation this week to address China’s efforts to circumvent our existing vetting procedures and take advantage of our open and world renowned education research institutions, particularly those that are taxpayer funded through government grants. What is the significance and the prevalence of this threat?
Director Christopher Wray: (30:48)
I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear the very end of your question.
Ranking Member Rogers: (30:52)
The Chinese nationals who are using our educational facilities for their research and stealing our intellectual property, what’s the threat, the significance of it, in your view?
Director Christopher Wray: (31:08)
So the Chinese view themselves as in a international talent war and they recognize that American innovation and research is the envy of the world and frankly, the envy of China. And when they can’t innovate and research themselves, they send people over here, in some cases legitimately, but in many cases not, who engage in intellectual property theft, taking information, American research, and bringing it back to China to advance China’s national security goals. Which has the perverse effect since a lot of this research is taxpayer funded, as a sense of the perverse effect of having American taxpayers funding China’s advancement at our expense.
Ranking Member Rogers: (31:59)
What can Congress do to help you combat that threat?
Director Christopher Wray: (32:04)
Well, certainly we appreciate the Congresses allocation of resources to our counter-intelligence efforts. That’s an important part of it. I think I publicly acknowledged that the FBI now has over 2000 counter-intelligence investigations related to China, by far the biggest chunk of our counter-intelligence portfolio, and we are opening a new Chinese counter-intelligence investigation about every 10 hours.
Ranking Member Rogers: (32:38)
Director Christopher Wray: (32:39)
And so the scope and scale of this threat is really breathtaking and we need as many resources as we can to help everybody tackle it. But it’s not just a government problem. We need to work with the private sector, you mentioned the academic sector. I will tell you I’m very encouraged by the response we’ve gotten from both the private sector and, frankly-
Director Christopher Wray: (33:03)
Things we’ve gotten from both the private sector and frankly the academic sector. Lately I think people in this country are starting to wake up to the threat, and voluntarily undertaking appropriate measures. So, the Congress can be very helpful in raising awareness both when you’re all at home in your districts, but also through your work here in Washington in highlighting the importance of the threat and communicating in effect back to the Chinese that this is an issue that it’s bipartisan, that all Americans care about, and that we’re not going to tolerate it anymore.
Mr. Rogers: (33:36)
So, you do believe that the academic sector is sensitive to this?
Director Christopher Wray: (33:41)
Well, yes. It varies, I will tell you, significantly from university to university about how sensitive and how cooperative with us they’ve been, but I think this is frankly one of the bright spots over the last couple years. We’ve had quite a few universities. I’ve been to all 56 FBI field offices, and I will tell you I’m struck by the number of offices where universities that three or four years ago wouldn’t have wanted an FBI agent anywhere near campus, to some that now have office space set aside for our people. I think that’s not just because they’re idealistic and believe in the country, I hope, but rather it’s recognition that the information that’s being stolen is their information. So, it’s about protecting their research, their professors, their hard work frankly and I think the more of that we can have, the better off we’ll be because the FBI certainly can’t tackle this alone.
Mr. Rogers: (34:47)
All right. Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Thompson: (34:48)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes young lady from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (34:58)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. To both of the witnesses, we thank you for your presence and also your service to this nation. Director Wray, the FBI on May 30th, 2019 issued the intelligence bulletin on anti-government identity based in French political conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent, activity. I think you focused or made the point today in your testimony that you act more toward the ideology or you don’t investigate ideology. You are determined to assess the threat to the United States. So, I’m interested. QAnon activity has resulted in arrest of persons planning to carry out violent acts based on the nonsense spouted in web forums and social media that form the core of QAnon beliefs. How do you characterize that organization?
Director Christopher Wray: (35:56)
How do I characterize QAnon?
Ms. Jackson Lee: (35:57)
QAnon activity has resulted in arrest of persons planning to carry out violent acts. How do you assess that organization as it relates to violent acts?
Director Christopher Wray: (36:09)
So, we view QAnon as essentially less of an organization and more of a complex set of conspiracy theories, and certainly we have had cases that properly predicate cases involving violence where people have been motivated by some of those conspiracy theories, but as you said, we don’t investigate the ideology or the conspiracy theory itself. I don’t think we’ve seen lethal attacks involving that kind of motivation, but we have certainly-
Ms. Jackson Lee: (36:48)
So, your investigations would be driven based upon any violent acts.
Director Christopher Wray: (36:52)
Correct. Violent, no matter what ideology or belief it is of domestic violent extremism, we look at three things. One, violence or a threat of violence, two, a federal crime obviously, and then third, the motivation that fuels it. We have to have those three things to open an investigation.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (37:14)
Black Lives Matter was organized shortly after the tragic, senseless death of Trayvon Martin. Young people took to the streets asking for justice. They have obviously continued their fight for justice, and particularly in the wake of police shootings of African American men, and most recently of course George Floyd, my constituent, and Elijah Blake, in states in this country. Do you see just on the name of Black Lives Matter and the basis of their organizing, them as an extremist group intending to turn American into a socialist nation or to destroy America?
Director Christopher Wray: (37:59)
We don’t express a view on the political organization itself of Black Lives Matter. If there were people who follow that group or who adhere to that ideology who were then to, based on that ideology or anything else, to commit violent, criminal activity then we would approach them just like we would anyone else.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (38:21)
You’re no longer pointing to black identity groups.
Director Christopher Wray: (38:27)
Well I think what you’re referring to, and we had some good conversations in the past about this, in 2017 there was briefly a product or a category that the FBI came up with that predates me-
Ms. Jackson Lee: (38:42)
Director Christopher Wray: (38:42)
About black identity extremism.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (38:43)
Right. I just want you to say yes or no. The reason is because my time is short, and I appreciate the work. I’m familiar with it. The point I’m trying to make is that does the existence of Black Lives Matter and their advocacy of justice does not determine them to be destructive socialist groups trying to destroy the nation? You have not characterized them in that way.
Director Christopher Wray: (39:04)
We don’t characterize them one way or the other, no.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (39:07)
Have you seen any excessive violence that can be attributed to Black Lives Matter as opposed to any other groups that may be involved in violence?
Director Christopher Wray: (39:18)
I can’t think of one sitting here right now. Certainly we have had racially motivated violent extremist cases involving African American defendants who have pursued violence against, say, law enforcement and whether any of those cases involve some reference to Black Lives Matter, sitting here right now I can’t recall one, but we certainly have had cases of the first category.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (39:45)
As you have had cases with white individuals as well with violence against officers.
Director Christopher Wray: (39:49)
Ms. Jackson Lee: (39:50)
In particular, the one in Oakland, California. Individuals Carrillo and Justus were known to have been the culprits in the shootings. Boogaloo Boys and Proud Boys, those individuals were not involved in protests to your knowledge, as Vice President Pence indicated that they were involved in protests. These were white individuals who unfortunately tragically shot officers Dave Patrick Underwood and another one. Are you familiar with that?
Director Christopher Wray: (40:23)
Yes, I’m familiar with the case.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (40:24)
Those were not-
Chairman Thompson: (40:24)
Young lady’s time has expired.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (40:26)
Were those protesters-
Director Christopher Wray: (40:30)
Well on the Carrillo case, my recollection is there was no evidence that he was participating in the protest himself. I think there was information that he capitalized on the protest as a setting or a medium for which he could commit the tragic attack on the FPS officers that you referred to.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (40:58)
Yeah, thank you.
Chairman Thompson: (40:59)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes young man from Louisiana, Mr. Higgins, for five minutes.
Mr. Higgins: (41:07)
I thank the Chairman and the panelist. For the record, Mr. Chairman, I’d like to thank the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Wolf for actively and personally participating in the recovery supervision of my district after Hurricane Laura. Secretary Wolf was on the ground fast, and he’s been personally at my avail. I regret that we were not able to work out his appearance here today, but I do appreciate his service and the direction he’s given, and the personal assistance he’s given to my office in the wake of Hurricane Laura and the devastation we’ve suffered there. Director Wray, thank you for being here today, good sir, and I’d like to talk to you about election security. The National Counterintelligence Security Center, the NCSC, released a statement last month outlining China, Russia, and Iran’s effort to interfere with the upcoming presidential election.
Mr. Higgins: (42:14)
You’re also mentioning your written testimony that foreign adversaries are attempting to sway US voters’ preferences and perspectives to shift US policies and to increase discord in the United States, and ultimately to undermine American peoples’ confidence in our election process. Can you share with us regarding social media platforms, which is primarily the means by which this interference effort is being pushed, how is the FBI working with the social media platforms to ensure our election security and to minimize fake profiles and foreign influence in the attitudes and perspectives of the American people?
Director Christopher Wray: (43:02)
Director Christopher Wray: (44:18)
So, I mentioned one example in my opening statement that recently occurred where we were able to pass information to Facebook and Twitter. They were able to shut down Russian influence accounts really right before they could ever build a following, and the faster we can do that and the more agile way we can do that, the better. The reason for that I think is important for people to understand. Misinformation, or disinformation, or fake information, is only effective if it seems credible and it’s only credible if it’s built up some reservoir of credibility, which means that these Russian efforts require a certain amount of time to build up a reservoir of credibility so that when they’re really active, people care what they have to say. If we’re able to shut them down and knock them back quickly before they can really build up that credibility, then it’s not going to stop it, but it means that it’s much, much less effective. So, we need more of that. We’re having more of that.
Mr. Higgins: (45:21)
Yes, sir. Thank you for that assessment. Those were encouraging words. Can we conclude based upon your perspective, Director Wray, that the FBI does have an ongoing and functional relationship with the social media platforms to deter or to dismantle ultimately individual efforts by foreign nation states to sway the perspectives of the American people and to ultimately influence our elections? Are you comfortable with the kind of relationship and communications you’re having with the social media giants?
Director Christopher Wray: (46:12)
Well, I guess the best way I could answer that is to say I tend to be ambitious for the organization, for the country, and so I think there’s always room for improvement and I’m always impatient for more progress and more improvement, but certainly the strides that we have made at the FBI working with some of those companies over the last few years has really been very encouraging. I think we’re making great progress. I’d like to see more progress, including from them, but we’re moving in the right direction for sure.
Mr. Higgins: (46:47)
Thank you sir-
Mr. Rogers: (46:48)
Mr. Higgins: (46:48)
Mr. Chairman. My time has expired. I yield.
Mr. Rogers: (46:53)
Chair recognizes the gentleman from Rhode Island, Mr. Langevin, for five minutes.
Mr. Langevin: (46:59)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to begin by thanking Director Wray and Director Miller. A few questions here today, and a few testimony. Hearing from our nation’s top law enforcement and Homeland Security officials on the enforcement of Homeland Security officials on the threats facing our country is of paramount importance to the American people. I’d also like to note my profound disappointment that [inaudible 00:47:29] had declined to join you, and I associate myself with the Chairman’s remarks earlier on that topic. Director Wray, let me begin with you and let me start on topic on the Solarium Commission in which I served as a commissioner, as did you. I want to thank you for your participation on the commission as well as that of Deputy Director Bowdich on this commission. I’m very proud of the collaborative work that we did in developing recommendations, many of which I’m optimistic will become law by the end of the year. What are your observations, Director, on the [inaudible 00:48:08] and which recommendations do you consider most pressing?
Director Christopher Wray: (48:13)
Well first, let me say I appreciated the opportunity to serve on the commission, and I commend my fellow commissioners, especially you and Senator King and others for really pushing this topic before, hopefully, we have some truly apocalyptic cyber crisis in this country, and for not shying away for some very hard issues. I think there are several recommendations in the report that we really would think would benefit our cyber investigative and intelligence missions, and I think the commission was on the right track on that, including in particular really highlighting and encouraging the government to double down on our National Cyber Joint Investigative Task Force, the NCIJTF. That sort of brings a whole of government approach to the importance of attribution-
Chairman Thompson: (49:15)
Director Christopher Wray: (49:15)
Which is so key. I think the commission also highlighted a number of statutory gaps and inconsistencies. There’s references to the need to update, for example, the pen register and trap and trace statute. There’s references to administrative subpoena authority for computer intrusion cases. Those were a few things that jump out at me. Certainly the highlighted importance-
Mr. Langevin: (49:43)
That’s good. My time is short, so let me jump to another topic. I also want to highlight the joint collaborative environment to allow [inaudible 00:49:52] across government and the private sector work together to reduce cyber threat intelligent products. So, that’s another important one but let me turn to elections, because this is a very important topic. We only have about seven weeks to go until the election, and early voting begins Monday, and misinformation and disinformation from foreign and domestic actors are widespread, and we’ve discussed some of this topic already this morning. Director Wray, who is responsible for coordinating election security across the inter agency, and to put it bluntly, who is in charge? I also want to know who is responsible for coordinating efforts to combat election related misinformation and disinformation. Take them in order there.
Director Christopher Wray: (50:47)
So, the FBI takes the lead on malign foreign influence domestically, and we work closely through our Foreign Influence Task Force. We have people from NSA for example on our task force. We work very closely, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, with the social media companies and that’s really almost daily engagement. We engage through the foreign influence task force really every day, especially in the current run up to the election in the inter-agency on the malign foreign influence piece, in particular [crosstalk 00:51:27].
Mr. Langevin: (51:27)
Who would you say is in charge at the inter-agency?
Director Christopher Wray: (51:30)
Mr. Langevin: (51:31)
Who would you say is responsible for coordinating across the inter-agency? Who’s in charge?
Director Christopher Wray: (51:39)
Well, we all work together just as we do against the terrorist threat. It’s an inter-agency process. We take the lead on the malign foreign influence threat. DHS takes the lead on election the election infrastructure hardening. ODNI takes the lead in terms of coordinating the intelligence analysis that comes out of it.
Mr. Langevin: (52:01)
Who’s responsible for combating the election related misinformation/disinformation?
Director Christopher Wray: (52:07)
I think the FBI takes the lead in combating that.
Mr. Langevin: (52:11)
Okay. Well, I appreciate your ancillary perspective. I know my time has run out, but I will say this really underscores the need for a national cyber director so that across response, we have someone that is identified as the person in charge. Working together is important. I highly support a collaborative environment, but also having someone in charge is essential. I know my time has expired, Mr. Chairman. I yield back at this question. [inaudible 00:52:38] other questions for the record.
Chairman Thompson: (52:39)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes the young lady from Arizona, Ms. Lesko.
Ms. Lesko: (52:45)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you both of you and all your employees for the hard work you do protecting our nation. Director Wray, when do you plan to declassify the 302s that were produced regarding the Ukraine election interference in the 2016 election?
Director Christopher Wray: (53:06)
I don’t have an update for you on the timing of any specific declassification document, but I’m happy to see if there’s information we can provide back to your office as a followup.
Ms. Lesko: (53:17)
Thank you, and Director Wray, as you know IG Horowitz identified numerous major errors in the FISA Court application process under the Obama Administration’s, I would’ve classified it, as spying on the Trump campaign. So, what status are we at in cleaning that whole process up?
Director Christopher Wray: (53:44)
So, appreciate the question. Let me say first that I think that report describes conduct that I consider unacceptable and unrepresentative of who I know the FBI to be as an organization. It cannot be allowed to happen again. I’ve installed an entirely new leadership team. I put in place on the same day the report came out, implemented over 40 corrective actions that accepted every recommendation in the IG’s report, and then went above and beyond. The senior most people involved in that investigation are all gone, either terminated during my tenure, or resigned, or retired and we’re moving forward with changes to processes, training, oversight within the organization. We’re creating a new office of internal audit. You may have seen an announcement from the Attorney General on that and got his approval to do that, which will provide the back end check, the old trust but verify. We’ll get the verify part coming through that, so I’m very encouraged by the progress we’re making, but it’s going to take hard work.
Ms. Lesko: (55:02)
Well, thank you and I’m glad that you appreciate it because obviously to the average American person, including me, if the FBI can spy on an incoming President of the United States, every person in America is concerned that they will spy on them. So, I’m glad it’s being cleaned up. I do have a question about Boogaloo. Recently it’s my understanding that two Americans self identifying as members of the Boogaloo Boys arrested for attempting to partner with Hamas due to their similar goals and missions. Have there been any arrests? How have these arrests modified the DHS and FBI approach to investigating and handling rioters and domestic terrorists?
Director Christopher Wray: (55:57)
So, I appreciate your flagging that particular case. I think it’s a very revealing, interesting case. It was a Minneapolis case. Those were two individuals who I think associated themselves with the Boogaloos, which much like Antifa, is more of a movement or an ideology than it is a group itself. I think one of the things a lot of people don’t understand about people who subscribe to this Boogaloo thinking is that their main focus is just dismantling, tearing down government. They’re less clear on what it is they think they’re going to replace government with. I’m not even sure they would all agree with each other, and that’s why this case in Minneapolis that you highlighted is so revealing, because these two individuals decided that they were onboard with providing materials to support the Hamas, which is not something that most people would previously have associated with Boogaloos.
Ms. Lesko: (56:52)
Yeah. It’s very interesting. I do have one last question, only 49 seconds left. There have been statements by top people here, in fact Chairman Nadler has said on the floor of the US House of Representatives that basically Antifa is a fantasy made up by the radical right or Fox News, or something to that effect. Would you agree with that? Is Antifa a total fantasy or is it real?
Director Christopher Wray: (57:21)
So, Antifa is a real thing. It’s not a group or an organization, it’s a movement or an ideology, maybe one way of thinking of it, and we have quite a number and I’ve said this consistently since my first time appearing before this committee, we have any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would describe as violent anarchist extremists. Some of those individuals self identify with Antifa.
Ms. Lesko: (57:53)
Thank you sir, and I yield back.
Chairman Thompson: (57:55)
Thank you. Chair recognizes the gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Richmond, for five minutes.
Mr. Richmond: (58:20)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, let me just express how disappointed I am that DHS is not here, although there are real things that we need to know, especially in Louisiana, especially from DHS. We have wildfires, we have hurricanes, we need to know if FEMA has the funds to help our American citizens whose lives have been turned upside down. For those people in Lake Charles, Louisiana that are in shelters, and surrounding cities like New Orleans. We need to know, what’s FEMA’s plan? Does DHS has the funds? Have the funds been moved over to build a wall?
Mr. Richmond: (59:01)
Now, look. Fortunately for New Orleans, we were escaped this time from major damage. However, because of what Congress did for us after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we continue to pay it forward, and even though my colleagues from Louisiana may not want to criticize DHS or the president, I will do it. We have people who are very vulnerable now, and we need to know what’s the Federal Government’s plan, the amount of money they have? For DHS not to be here is sad. Let me start. Director Wray, really quick. You talked about movements and ideologies, but Black Lives Matter is more of a principle and an organization. What I’d like to go into very quickly is that, do you all identify it as an extremist organization?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:00:03)
I’m sorry, can you repeat the question? I’m having a little bit of a hard time with the audio.
Mr. Richmond: (01:00:06)
I said Black Lives Matter is a principle, and it’s also an organization. Do you all identify Black Lives Matter as an extremist organization?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:00:18)
We have not identified Black Lives Matter in any way.
Mr. Richmond: (01:00:24)
Do you identify the organization as a violent organization or a threat to peace?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:00:35)
As I said, we have not identified the organization in any way. Unlike on the international terrorism side, the foreign terrorist side, there is no mechanism under US law for us to, and we don’t identify domestic organizations as anything, really.
Mr. Richmond: (01:00:54)
Director Wray, I know that you hear all the time this whole mantra of law and order. What I’m trying to do is get you to give some clarification, because things may get silly, dangerous, or foolish. So, my example would be posting on social media a comment that if armed black people come to my city, I will drop 10 of them. That is dangerous rhetoric, especially when we see people exercising their right to carry arms that are white and that are black, and for people to assume that the ones that are black are a threat, that they can publicly say, “I will drop 10 of you,” is concerning. I know that you as one of our top law and order officials should have some concern about that rising level of rhetoric and agitation.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:01:54)
Well we, I think, are very concerned about violence of any kind, including violence that deprives citizens of their constitutional rights and civil liberties. Certainly one of the concerns that we have amidst all the current unrest is a growing trend of protests begets counter protests, begets violence against one side, against the other, and so there’s this increasing phenomenon of individuals attacking each other in addition to attacking law enforcement. That’s not good for anybody.
Mr. Richmond: (01:02:32)
Thank you, Director Wray. Really quickly, a lot of my mayors have called me from around the country that are saying, “Wait. The violence in the streets, the chaos and the destruction of property people are assigning to Black Lives Matter and from my experience, what we’re seeing is that is in fact not Black Lives Matter.” Would you agree with that statement?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:02:53)
I don’t think I would characterize it the way you’re hearing, certainly. I guess what I would say is from one city to another, from one night to another, who’s committing violence and destruction of property varies widely. Certainly from city to city, sometimes from night to night. I think in general what we’re seeing across the country are three groups. Right? Three categories is maybe a better way of putting it. One is peaceful protesters, lawful, peaceful protesters. A second is what I would call criminal opportunists, people engaged in state, local, low level vandalism and looting and things like that. That’s criminal activity and needs to be addressed, largely a state and local matter. Then there’s a third category, which is the most dangerous, and those are the people engaged in arsons of police vehicles, throwing of Molotov cocktails, those kinds of things. That’s the group that we, FBI, are most focused on and most concerned about and those groups are motivated by a wide variety of ideologies and agendas.
Mr. Richmond: (01:04:02)
Thank you, and I see my time is up. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Thompson: (01:04:05)
Thank you. Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania for five minutes, Mr. Joyce.
Mr. Joyce: (01:04:10)
Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Thank you Director Miller, and Director Wray for this important update on worldwide threats to our homeland. Director Wray, are you seeing a coordinated effort from radical anarcho left wing organizations who are currently perhaps targeting law enforcement officers?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:04:36)
Well as I said a few minutes ago, the violence varies widely. Much of the violence that we’re seeing, it does not appear to be organized or attributed to any one particular group or even movement. That doesn’t make it any less serious, or criminal, or unacceptable. Now, we are seeing in certain pockets more regionally organized folks coalescing, often coordinating on the ground in the middle of protests, in terms of tactics and things like that. That is some of the most dangerous activity, because that’s often what leads to destruction of small business, destruction of government buildings, and particularly concerning to me, assaults on law enforcement and Federal law enforcement officials in particular, but not exclusively. We’ve got case after case of people burning, setting fire, and pouring gasoline and setting fire to marked police vehicles. So, this is not innocuous activity and it takes a very, very, very special person to be willing to put his or her life on the line for complete strangers every day, which is what law enforcement in this country does.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:06:01)
… what law enforcement in this country does. And even before all this latest activity, the rate of line of duty deaths was alarming. Then you add on top of that COVID, and COVID deaths for law enforcement continue, because of course law enforcement doesn’t have the ability to sit it out. And now we’ve seen a significant uptick in violence against law enforcement in this country this year. It’s up markedly from last year. And the reason I know that, besides just looking at the statistics is that I made it a practice after becoming FBI director to every time there is an officer shot and killed in this country, to personally call the chief, or sheriff responsible for that officer and express my condolences and support on behalf of the FBI.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:06:48)
And I will tell you, we had a stretch just recently, late August, early September, I think it was, maybe more recently than that, where over a 15 day stretch, I made seven of those phone calls. That’s an officer feloniously killed every other day. And these are people average age is in their late thirties. They had their whole lives ahead of them. They had families, and it breaks my heart.
Mr. Joyce: (01:07:14)
I applaud you for connecting with local law enforcement when these tragedies occur. You and I realize that these men and women bravely, every day, put on the uniform to protect us. Continuing along this line, has there been any assistance from social media companies to help weed out potential threats when these organizations are using their platforms?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:07:41)
Director Christopher Wray: (01:08:13)
So, any assistance, I would say yes, some assistance. It varies a bit from company to company. Some of them devote more resources to that kind of operation, which supports law enforcement than others. But we do certainly have a number of engagements with, or partnerships almost, with some of those companies.
Mr. Joyce: (01:08:34)
And finally, do you see any foreign governments attempting to communicate with these organizations, or assist any political party within them?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:08:45)
I’m sorry, which organizations are we talking about now?
Mr. Joyce: (01:08:48)
With these left wing organizations, which I think are behind so much of the attacks on law enforcement.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:08:59)
Well, I guess I would answer that in two parts. One, we, we have seen some efforts by our foreign adversaries. I would mention China and Russia specifically, but not exclusively, to piggyback on a lot of the unrest activity that’s been occurring, as part of the effort, either to sow divisiveness and discord, in the case of the Russians, or to try to advance their own narratives, say in the case of the Chinese. So there’s that level of engagement.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:09:38)
And then I would say the second piece is, maybe not the organizations you’re talking about, but we have seen some engagement between racially motivated, violent extremists and like-minded individuals overseas on that front.
Mr. Joyce: (01:09:54)
Thank you for your insights. And thank you for your update.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:09:59)
Chair recognized the gentlemen from New Jersey, Mr. Payne for five minutes.
Mr. Payne: (01:10:06)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s an honor and privilege to be here today with a committee. And let me first say to Mr. Wray and Mr. Miller, that I appreciate you understanding your obligation to show up when the committee request your appearance, as opposed to the empty chair that is there. And let me ask Mr. Ray, so with Antifa, you’re saying it’s more of an ideology than an organized group, in which a lot of people on the other side feel is some organized group. Is it an organized group? Or is it more just a notion of thought and philosophy with respect to… Because when I hear, “Antifa is there, Antifa is doing this”, I’m still trying to figure out who or what Antifa is. Could you enlighten me?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:11:30)
Well first let me say, as I think I said in response to an earlier question, Antifa is a real thing. It’s not a fiction, but it’s not an organization, or a structure. We understand it to be more of a movement, or maybe you could call it an ideology. And we certainly have, as I’ve said, a number of, and we have had for some time, and we’ve opened quite a number of this year, of properly predicated investigations into violent anarchist extremists who subscribe to, self-identify with Antifa. They say, “I am Antifa”, things like that.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:12:16)
And we have seen individuals, I think I’ve mentioned this in response to one of the earlier questions, identified with the Antifa movement, coalescing regionally into what you might describe as small groups, or nodes. And we are actively investigating the potential violence from those regional nodes, if you will.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:12:47)
Thank you, Congress, we might need to unmute yourself.
Speaker 1: (01:13:01)
We’re having audio issues with the Webex.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:13:02)
We would advise that we’re having some issues with Webex right now. We’re trying to correct them. We’ll stand by. (silence).
Speaker 2: (01:13:10)
Speaker 3: (01:14:14)
Speaker 2: (01:14:19)
Gentleman from New Jersey may continue.
Mr. Payne: (01:14:25)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Wray, did you finish your response?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:14:38)
I finished my response, but I’m not sure whether you still online while I finished. I’d be happy to pick up where I left, if you could tell me where you lost contact.
Mr. Payne: (01:14:51)
Well, I think I got the gist of your response. So I’ll move on. Mr. Miller, the past four years of seeing the United States significantly scale back its presence and commitments around the world. Our NATO allies no longer trust us to keep our commitments, leaving the door open for other forces to step into this vacuum. And as we’ve seen time, and again, instability leads to violence, is the National Counterterrorism Center planning for the effects of a global leadership vacuum?
Mr. Miller: (01:15:45)
Thank you, sir for that question. I’ve been so impressed, I’ve been doing this for a few years and the most amazing thing is the partnerships we have internationally on the counterterrorism front. And I have seen no degradation in our commitment and our partnerships in that regard. As a matter of fact, oftentimes it’s almost one of those, during the Cold War, we said foreign policy ended at the water’s edge. It’s very much the same way with counter-terrorism now. Obviously concerned about drawing back from our commitments overseas, but we maintain a robust, a very significant counterterrorism presence overseas, and we have the ability to generate combat power and deploy that forward if there’s a enemy, a terrorist group that is in a position to threaten us.
Mr. Payne: (01:16:41)
Do you believe that the United States is acting as a global leader should?
Mr. Miller: (01:16:51)
As you noted, we’re in a great transformation, geopolitically and geostrategically from the counterterrorism aspect. I talk with all my partners regularly, with our five eyes, and I feel very confident that we maintain a close relationship and partnership and leadership role.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:17:12)
Gentlemen from New Jersey, time has expired. Chair recognizes gentlemen from North Carolina, Mr. Bishop.
Mr. Bishop: (01:17:21)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a doggy in the background, it sounds like… First I’d note that the petty game about who from the Department of Homeland security testifies today, must be amazing to Americans outside the beltway. This is the annual hearing on worldwide threats to the Homeland. And I can’t, for one, imagine setting aside that priority in order to engage in a snip with the department about whether Mr Wolf, or Mr. Cuccinelli appears, so we have neither. And in light of that, I’ll direct questions, Director Wray to you.
Mr. Bishop: (01:17:54)
All summer and early fall, of course we’ve seen numerous and ongoing riots, looting, property destruction, even serious injuries and killings in cities across the United States, Minneapolis, LA, Seattle, Charleston, Chicago, St. Louis, Washington DC, Rochester, Lancaster, and of course, Portland come to mind. And we’ve seen some media characterize. These events as fiery, but mostly peaceful. And politicians have dismissed them occasionally as myth, but Americans have seen independent reports and shocking videos, and they keep coming. I don’t really understand the thinking of lawmakers who seek perversely to justify this criminality, by pointing to the existence of other violent extremists with different ideology. I would think all elected officials would condemn violence regardless of the ideology of the perpetrators. And perhaps, especially for ideologies closer to their position on the, on the spectrum.
Mr. Bishop: (01:18:54)
But indeed as Miss Lesko pointed out earlier, the characterization of right and left in these things is pretty hard to pin down. In any event, some of these reports, even early on, have suggested that there were pallets of brick pre-positioned in riot areas. We’ve seen reports of vehicles on scene to facilitate, or supply rioters, coordination of activity via social media you made reference to earlier, and interstate travel of rioters to multiple venues. All of these in turn suggest a funding source, or multiple funding sources. Now, you have made reference, as has the attorney general, to numerous arrests having been made. Are you investigating sources of funding and support of that criminal activity?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:19:38)
I appreciate the question. And certainly we have a number of investigations and are pursuing a number of leads that do things like try to identify networks, travelers, supply sources. We look at repeat offenders. As I mentioned, I think in response to a question from one of your colleagues, one of the things that’s been so challenging about this is that an awful lot of the coordination, or organization, if you will, that occurs is happening on the ground, in the dark, on the streets at a tactical level, as opposed to on a more structured, or coordinated national level. And that makes it that much harder to investigate and disrupt.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:20:28)
But I think it’s important for people to understand that although I do agree that the majority of the people out there protesting in general across the country are peaceful protesters, there’s no question that the big number, the biggest number is peaceful protesters. That should not diminish, which I think is the point you’re making from the fact that even though it might numerically be a smaller group, that’s very dangerous activity that that smaller group is engaged in. And that’s why the FBI is focused, much as your question was, we’re focused on the violence. Not the ideology.
Mr. Bishop: (01:21:08)
To be sure…
Director Christopher Wray: (01:21:09)
Don’t really care, left, right, violence is wrong. We’re going after the violence. We don’t care what motivates it.
Mr. Bishop: (01:21:14)
To be sure, those issues ought to be irrelevant to this committee, or to any law enforcement agency in the United States. That is to say what ideology someone has, or their first amendment activity. And to say, so that much of that happening is frankly something that we should take no cognizance of. But as to those people who are engaging in violence and destruction, and there have been many, the question becomes, with its proliferation in so many places, is the FBI examining the finances underlying the people who you arrest to see what their Venmo account say? To see what the sources of cash are that come to them, that they’re buying their supplies with? And their fireworks, that they fire law enforcement officers? And are you using civil forfeiture laws to disrupt those sources of funding and the like?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:22:07)
Well, without reference to any specific investigation, I can tell you that there are any number of investigations in which the source of funding, the source of supply are things that are of particular interests and the things that we’re actively questioning and pursuing leads on. As far as the civil forfeiture piece, I will confess that sitting here right now in the hearing, I can’t off the top of my head, think of a situation where we’ve yet been able to use that. But we will use every tool in our toolbox if we think it fits.
Mr. Bishop: (01:22:41)
My time’s expired. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:22:43)
Thank you. Chair recognized gentlelady from New York for five minutes, Miss Rice.
Miss Rice: (01:22:48)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Miller, late last month, your boss, the Director of National Intelligence, Ratcliffe, said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would cease in-person election security briefings to Congress. Then just yesterday, he reversed that decision and said that he will continue to brief the Senate and House intel committees on efforts to secure the 2020 elections from foreign interference. But will no longer conduct briefings for all lawmakers, citing the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.
Miss Rice: (01:23:18)
It’s incredibly frustrating that a nonpartisan issue like the security of our elections has been so politicized, that members of Congress are now considered untrustworthy of this critical information. It’s also particularly alarming that this information is being withheld from members of Congress, only weeks after DHS confirmed publicly that Russia was working to boost president Trump again, by discrediting Vice President Biden’s health. Will you commit to us that the ODNI and I will continue to keep all members of Congress informed on election security threats? And if your answer is yes, how do you plan on doing that?
Mr. Miller: (01:24:02)
Ma’am, with all respect, I don’t do election security. I absolutely will provide any information you require, the Congress requires on terrorism matters, but that really is a decision that’s being made at the DNI level. And my center, we just do counterterrorism ma’am.
Miss Rice: (01:24:22)
Well, maybe you can take the message back to your boss.
Mr. Miller: (01:24:24)
Miss Rice: (01:24:24)
Because to say that members of Congress are not worthy to be trusted with this information when it’s actually our job to have this information and to have some level of oversight, is really disturbing.
Mr. Miller: (01:24:38)
Yes, ma’am, I’d be happy to take that message back.
Miss Rice: (01:24:40)
Thank you. Mr. Wray, recently, the Department of Justice and Federal Partners conducted the largest ever seizure of terrorist organizations, cryptocurrency accounts, seizing in total 300 accounts, allegedly used by foreign terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas to fund attacks. Our of this committee, we passed a bipartisan bill that would require DHS to develop and submit a threat assessment report on the use of virtual currencies by terrorist organizations.
Miss Rice: (01:25:11)
This version of the bill was included in the NDAA and signed into law, just this past December. This case demonstrates the adaptability of terrorist groups who have traditionally used unlicensed money services businesses, or other money laundering operations to adopt their terror finance activities to the cyber age. In your opinion, will cryptocurrencies continue to be used by these terrorist organizations on a wider basis? What trends are you and your respective department seeing in this matter?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:25:49)
Well, councilwoman, I agree with you that cryptocurrency is a source of particular concern. It’s proliferating, not just across terrorist threats, but across other kinds of criminal threats as well. And within the terrorism space, both across international terrorists and domestic, and it makes it one of the key investigative tools that we have. One of the key investigative strategies that we have in that space, much as was in the answer that I just gave to Congressman Bishop is to follow the money. That’s one of our go-to moves.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:26:23)
And of course the ability to follow the money is critical across every threat. And the cryptocurrency makes it that much harder for us to do that. We have developed a lot of expertise on that, but each time we solve one kind of cryptocurrency, a new kind comes on the market. And part of the reason why this is such a big deal, is that it fits with other technological trends, which have a similar effect of hiding and obstructing criminal activity from law enforcement.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:26:57)
So, if you think about any investigation we have, you’ve got the stuff, the documents, the communications. You’ve got the people, the witnesses, the sources, human sources, and you got the money. Well, if cryptocurrency hides the money, if default end to end encryption blocks us from any kind of lawful access to the stuff, and if artificial intelligence and all the various ways in which technology makes it harder for us to protect human sources, then we lose the money, the people and the stuff. And that’s when we’re in a really bad space as a country from protecting us from terrorist threats, all the way to organize criminal threats and others.
Miss Rice: (01:27:45)
Can I ask you to just talk a little bit more, you made reference earlier in response to a question, about the collaboration that your agency has with social media platforms in terms of misinformation and disinformation. Can you just talk more about that? Because if people can’t trust the information that they’re getting, that just goes to the heart of really effecting what I think all of us on this committee want to do, which is everyone’s right, and ability to vote and base their decisions on facts, not misinformation and disinformation.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:28:24)
Director Christopher Wray: (01:29:10)
And so that’s why that’s part of the key effort. Now we, the FBI are not, and can’t be the truth police. And a lot of people don’t understand that that is not how we go about deterring misinformation efforts and malign foreign influencers. We follow the threat. So if it’s the Russians, we followed the Russian actors, we identify certain accounts, we talk to the social media companies, they take action. But we don’t have people sitting on social media trying to find things that look false and then wondering who did it. We go the other way. We look at the actor and then see what they’re trying to spread. The social media companies though, they can come at it in whatever way they want, based on their terms of service. And they have resources that I envy sometimes, that they can and should, and are increasingly bringing to the fight.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:30:02)
It’s particularly of concern to us, in the election context, when Americans make the mistake of getting information about elections themselves from social media. So, it’s one thing to push out a misinformation about a candidate, or a policy, or something else. But when information gets pushed out about where you go to vote, whether you’re polling places open, whether it’s closed, that kind of thing, we’re trying to make sure Americans know to get information about where and when and how you vote. You need to go to your local election officials website and don’t take it from social media.
Miss Rice: (01:30:39)
Thank you both for being here today. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:30:43)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes gentlemen from Texas, Mr. Crenshaw for five minutes.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:30:49)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for moving us into a much cooler room.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:30:52)
Yeah. Much cooler.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:30:53)
Yeah. All right. Thank you, Director Wray, for being here. I’d like to ask you about a number of things, China, Iran, Russia. The thing is, is I think politically there’s not that much daylight between us on these issues. We largely agree on these threats. But there seems to be disagreement over, politically speaking, is the source of the domestic threats that we’re facing. The vast amount of looting, rioting and destruction that’s occurred in our country over the last few months. I don’t understand why we disagree on these origins, but we do.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:31:26)
There’s been a lot of peaceful protest. That is absolutely true. There’s also been more than 550 declared riots, many stoked by extremists in Antifa and the BLM organization. Recent report indicated between one and $2 billion of insurance claims will be paid out. That doesn’t even come close to measuring the actual and true damage done to people’s lives, not even close. That’s just insurance. We’ve heard multiple reports of small businesses without any insurance whatsoever. Some of these will never open up, even if they did get insurance payments. And I’ve heard many members of this body, of this committee, question whether Antifa even exists. Director Wray, earlier you confirmed Antifa does indeed exist, but you consider it more of an ideology than a group, correct?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:32:09)
Yes. An ideology, or maybe a movement.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:32:13)
Okay. That seems to me to be downplaying it. And this is an ideology that organizes locally. It coordinates regionally and nationally. It wears a standardized uniform, it collects funds to buy high-powered lasers to blind federal officers, build homemade explosive devices, feed their riders, since they clearly aren’t working, and then bail out those who’ve been arrested. This is an ideology that is trained its members, makes shield wall phalanxes is to attack federal officers. It formed an autonomous zone in an American city and besieged a federal courthouse in another. So it just seems to be more than an ideology. Do you have a way to define what you mean by it’s not a group?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:32:55)
So I want to be clear that by describing it as an ideology or movement, I by no means mean to minimize the seriousness of the violence and criminality that is going on across the country. Some of which is attributable to that people inspired by, or who self-identify with that ideology and movement. We’re focused on that violence on that criminality. And some of it is extremely serious.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:33:24)
And you mentioned before three categories, the criminality, the peaceful protesting, but then you didn’t use these words, but I will, ideological rioting. I think that matches that third category of what you said, the people who purposefully want to instigate it, Antifa being clearly one of them. So, I want to read you the definition of domestic terrorism. Section 2331, says, “Domestic terrorism has three components, A, involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States, or of any state. B, appear to be intended. First to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, two, to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion, or three to effect the conduct of the government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. And C, occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” Does that at all match the activities of Antifa?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:34:16)
Well, it certainly matches the activity of some of the individuals we’re investigating and have pursued other kinds of charges against. You put your finger on a little bit of a legal predicament, which is that there is not currently, in Title 18, a domestic terrorism offense, or crime as such. There’s a definition-
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:34:37)
That seems pretty specific.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:34:38)
Well, there’s a definition, but ironically, unlike on the international foreign terrorist side, there’s not a crime of domestic terrorism that you can charge. So typically, in domestic terrorism cases, including of the sort you’re describing, we’re pursuing explosive charges, firearms charges, rioting charges, you mentioned, or other…
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:35:02)
Are you prevented from say, following the money, following the websites? These groups are clearly organizing again, it seems strange to me that we can’t call it a group.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:35:09)
We’re not precluded from following the money. And as I said to Congressman Bishop, we have a number of investigations where we’re-
Speaker 1: (01:35:16)
One more question before my time is up. [crosstalk 01:35:18]
Director Christopher Wray: (01:35:17)
… not a material support to offense like there is. We could do material support to Al Qaeda, or ISIS. There’s not a material support to a domestic terrorism.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:35:26)
One more question. The FBI Civil Rights Investigation can target law enforcement officials who willfully fail to keep the public from harm, in violation of the color of law statute, does that apply to mayors and city councils who have restrained their police departments, such as Mayor Wheeler in Portland, Mayor de Blasio in New York and the Minneapolis City Council?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:35:47)
Well, respectfully, I think that’s a legal question that I would want to defer to the Attorney General and Department of Justice, on whether that would apply there.
Mr. Crenshaw: (01:35:55)
Thank you. I yield my time.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:35:57)
Chair recognizes gentleman from California. Mr. Correa.
Mr. Correa: (01:36:01)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank our witnesses today, Director Wray, Director Miller for being here today. And I thank all the good folks that work under you and your agencies for keeping us in this country safe and keeping our families safe as well. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman Thompson, also, for holding this most important hearing. And your focus today is a central topic of this Homeland Security, which is keeping this country secure. One of the purposes of this committee is to assess international, as well as domestic threats to this country. One of those threats right now, biggest one I hear about much in my district, is election security. But not only are foreign actors threatening to again, interfere with our election, but there’s a lot of concern in my district about peaceful transition of power in this country. That’s been the hallmark of our democracy. And a lot of my constituents are concerned that if President Trump loses in November, he will not relinquish power and he will try to stay in office.
Mr. Correa: (01:37:16)
I’m reminded of Al Gore who lost the election in the year 2000, by a ruling of five to four United States Supreme Court. I’m saddened that Mr. Wolf is not here today, because I wanted to ask him a few questions, yes or no. And what I really wanted for Mr. Wolf was I wanted to ask them to make the same commitment as general Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made. And I’m going to quote him, open quote. And General Milley said, “I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical US military in the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, US courts, and the US Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the military and I foresee no role for the U S armed forces in this process.”
Mr. Correa: (01:38:13)
And I was hoping that Mr. Wolf would also take that pledge. And Mr. Chairman, since he’s not here, I’d like to submit for the record these questions in writing, and hopefully you can get them to him and he’ll respond to them.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (01:38:28)
Mr. Correa: (01:38:30)
And gentlemen, I have a question for both of you. Sometime in mid-August, the Senate Intelligence Committee released it’s fifth and final version, or volume, I should say, regarding the Russian interference into the 2016 election. That center report found that Manafort passed sensitive campaign information to Russian intelligence officers. And my question to both of you is, are you monitoring to make sure that it’s not only…
Mr. Correa: (01:39:03)
Are you monitoring to make sure that it’s not only foreign interference into our elections, but rather that campaigns here in the US are not trying to ask or solicit foreign support by foreign countries of domestic campaigns? Question.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:39:22)
Well, certainly we pursue what I would call foreign influence investigations, both with respect to election interference in the sense that was described in the Senate, in the Sissy report, but also in terms of political corruption or illegal campaign financing cases and things like that. Some of those are criminal investigation. Some of those are even counter-intelligence investigations in certain scenarios, I can imagine. So we certainly have a number of people working on those kinds of matters. And that’s a threat that we take very seriously as part of our overall effort to protect not just our elections, but our democracy from foreign interference and influence.
Mr. Correa: (01:40:09)
Mr. Miller: (01:40:11)
Sir, in accordance with statute that’s beyond the remit of the National Counterterrorism Center, we focus on linkages of international terrorist organizations into domestically, but have no role in that and not completely familiar with all the ins and outs, sir.
Mr. Correa: (01:40:27)
I’m running at a time, so very quickly Mr. Miller, then under your definition of terrorism, how does the concept of foreign interference of our elections, foreign manipulation of our democracy fit into the concept of terrorism?
Mr. Miller: (01:40:45)
Sir, we focus on acts of violence committed against American citizens to affect political change from an international context only. When you talk about influence and whatnot, that’s different category that doesn’t fall within our remit, sir.
Mr. Correa: (01:41:07)
Chairman, I’m out of time. I yield.
Chairman Thompson: (01:41:10)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey for five minutes. Mr. Van Drew.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:41:18)
Thank you, Chairman. Thank you all for being here today. Just very briefly, I wanted to go back to the Antifa issues. So if we have an organization that is able to communicate among different counties, different states, different areas, different cities is able to organize when Black Lives Matter, also organize at the same time, advertises for people to help them and they will pay them, feeds them as was said so eloquently before and takes care of them, that to me would be more than just the loosely knit group of people. I mean, I guess we want to define this a little bit that there, in mind, there is Antifa. There is a group or individuals that control Antifa and have some authority over it. And it is to some degree without question organized. Would you agree with that?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:42:15)
Well, I think what I would say is that we have seen folks who subscribe to or self identify with the Antifa movement who coalesce regionally into what we refer to or think of as more as small groups or nodes. And they’re certainly organized at that level, those individuals.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:42:34)
Not to interrupt you.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:42:35)
Mr. Van Drew: (01:42:36)
But for example, and I understand that some people self identify as communists yet there is a real communist organization that is organized at the same time.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:42:49)
Right. I’m not sure I’m seeing the rest of …
Mr. Van Drew: (01:42:53)
What I’m saying to you, maybe to clarify a little bit more, is just because some people self identify doesn’t mean that there is more of an organizational aspect to this. That there’s something out there that deserves a very thorough investigation.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:43:10)
Well, on the last part, I would say we are very thoroughly investigating. And as I mentioned, we have a number of, quite a number of properly predicated investigations being conducted by our joint terrorism task forces around the country into violent anarchist extremism. And any number of those involve people who are tied either by their own admission or otherwise to the Antifa movement. And in some cases, we see those individuals working together in a tactical, organized way. So the investigation in those instances might be more of what we might call an enterprise investigation.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:43:55)
Let me ask you this question. Black Lives Matters, which are good words. Black lives do matter. Black babies, black parents, mothers, and grandfathers, and fathers and human beings and human souls. So there’s nothing wrong with those words, yet it is emblematic of an organization that is Marxist. You just get your Google out and look it up. It’s a Marxist organization. And it is also an organization that believes in some degree an overthrow and a change of the country, and also believes that the nuclear family or the traditional family that we know it has a place no more. Is there any examples or is there any real interaction with Antifa and Black Lives Matters? Or they just happen to always be at the same place at the same time?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:44:48)
I’m not sure there’s anything I could share on that certainly in this, in this kind of setting. I guess what I would say to you, and again, it’s important to understand this, not for you, but for people listening, right? We investigate the violence. We’re about the violence. We’re agnostic about the ideology. We don’t investigate the ideology. But when the ideology inspires violence, we will investigate the violence aggressively. And when I make comments about movements and ideologies, I want to be very clear that I’m in no way minimizing the seriousness of the criminal conduct or the violence that we’re investigating or in any way downplaying the aggressiveness or determination of the FBI to investigate those leads fully and pursue whatever charges are available to us.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:45:38)
Because the ideology of Antifa is based on changing and breaking down the United States of America. So I think that’s something that we have to all just admit. Not you all. I’m not saying that to you. But in a cruder way, strap them on and say, “Yeah, this is what it is. And this is something we have to deal with.” One other quick question here too. We’re seeing a lot of emerging threats as a result of evolving communication technology. I just want to ask you a few questions. What role have novel communication technologies played in the recent rise in domestic extremism?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:46:21)
Mr. Van Drew: (01:46:23)
And are you getting the tools you need to really deal with this?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:46:25)
Right. I very much appreciate the question. And I actually think it flows naturally out of the first topic that you raised because the coordination, the communication that we’re describing and some of the frustrations that we have in really drilling into that is in part due to terrorist actors, whether domestic or international for that matter, relying on increasingly end to end encrypted messaging platforms. And we are getting to a point where the technology companies are creating an entire warrant-proof world in which there are devices and communications platforms that it doesn’t matter how awful the conduct, it doesn’t matter how tragic the victim, it doesn’t matter how bulletproof legally our court order is to get into it, we’re going to be blinded to it. And that’s a dangerous, dangerous world for us to be in. And it’s directly relevant to some of the activity that you’re describing, but lots of other threats too.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:47:29)
I’ll take, for example, the Sutherland Springs shooting. Some of the members of the committee, and you may remember, which was one of the deadliest shootings in America down in Texas. The phone that that shooter had, we’ve been trying for now three years to get into. And this is not just an FBI problem. It’s not just a federal law enforcement problem. If you talk to state and local law enforcement leaders around the country, like I do every day, you hear about this issue more and more all the time. And so we have to figure out a way to deal with that or we’re going to create a world where law enforcement is blind in its ability to protect kids, families, and communities.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:48:08)
Chairman Thompson: (01:48:08)
Gentleman, his time has expired.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:48:11)
I’m sorry. Thank you so much for your time.
Chairman Thompson: (01:48:14)
Chair recognizes young lady from New Mexico, Ms. Tara Small.
Tara Small: (01:48:19)
Thank you, Director Wray and Director Miller for being here. Transnational criminal organizations present a continuing threat to our homeland and our border communities. I’ve discussed efforts to curtail their efforts with acting secretary Wolf and was hoping to continue that work today. However, I look forward to working with the department in the future to strengthen our border security.
Tara Small: (01:48:40)
As I’ve said many times, to fully understand the threats and our defense capabilities at the southwest border, the department needs a mile by mile analysis of that border. Which is why I recently introduced legislation directing the department to conduct such an analysis and to develop a plan to meet gaps identified in that analysis. I understand CBP conducts a border security improvement plan, which is a start, albeit, limited. And I request the department provide it to the committee as soon as possible.
Tara Small: (01:49:07)
Moving on to cyber security, Director Wray, according to US intelligence officials, Chinese and Russian hackers are using cyber tools to steal American biomedical research used for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Officials have also expressed concern about the possibility of Chinese and Russian hackers damaging American efforts to develop a vaccine. What is the department doing to combat foreign hackers and to work with pharmaceutical and academic institutions to strengthen their cyber defense capabilities?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:49:38)
So Congresswoman, you’re correct that we are seeing efforts by our foreign adversaries to engage in cyber targeting of COVID vaccine research, testing, technology, treatment technology, and efforts to disrupt our national response to the pandemic. We’ve recently publicly attributed some of that conduct to China’s most prolific cyber actors. I know that our UK counterparts have publicly attributed some activity there on the same kind of front to Russian actors as well. We’ve tried to be very forward leaning in our engagement and outreach to companies, manufacturers, universities, research centers, et cetera when we see targeting by these adversaries, cyber targeting so that they can take appropriate steps from a cyber security perspective to harden their systems and prevent exfiltration of the information. And so far, I think we’ve been pretty successful in getting there before valuable information has been lost. But make no mistake, this is a very, very real cyber threat that we’re contending with daily.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:51:04)
Thank you, Director Wray. Congressman Higgins and you also discussed Russian disinformation related to elections. Another way that Russia is, in particular, is seeking to undermine American’s recovery is with COVID-19 and the public health crisis through spreading that same disinformation on the virus and on future vaccines to create distrust within the public. Are there any distinct challenges in disrupting Russia’s disinformation specifically on COVID-19 and vaccination efforts?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:51:36)
Well, certainly misinformation, we share your concerns about misinformation about COVID, whether it’s misinformation about the infectiousness of the disease itself or misinformation about treatments and cures and vaccines. And in some instances we’re able to, and we have, pursued cases for various scams and schemes, essentially fraud. People pitching fraudulent tests and cures and people claiming to have the vaccine, things like that. So when there’s sort of fraud engaged, we’re able to use law enforcement tools to go after it. But as I said in the election context, and you’re right to kind of draw the analogy, we’re not the truth police. And especially on something like medical issues, we defer to CDC and the medical professionals to correct misinformation there. But it’s important that people get their information in this context from the medical professionals and not from things like social media.
Mr. Van Drew: (01:52:45)
Just reclaiming my time briefly, just to stay on Russia and making sure that Russia is not spreading this information on this. You mentioned that a key strategy of working to disrupt Russian voices of disinformation was stopping them before they gained credibility. And so I wanted to see if in the COVID-19 space, there’s an extra challenge there. If for example, Russian disinformation is gaining credibility, for example, through anti-vaxxers?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:53:16)
Well, certainly as we discussed and as you mentioned, the essence of disinformation, the only way it works is to do it through voices that are viewed as credible. So if there were, and I’m not sure that I can think of a specific example off the top of my head, but if there were a situation where a credible voice that people really paid attention to as a medical expert was pushing out under the guise of being a medical expert flawed, badly flawed and dangerous information, then that would be a source particular concern.
Tara Small: (01:53:54)
Thank you. My time has expired.
Chairman Thompson: (01:53:55)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Guest, for five minutes.
Mr. Guest: (01:54:03)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Director Wray, Want to direct these questions to you. We’re here today talking about threats to the homeland. And I specifically want to discuss recent attacks on our law enforcement officials. We saw just this past weekend in California the headlines from Fox read “Compton ambush leaves two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies fighting for their lives.” The story goes on to say a manhunt is underway in California early Sunday after two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies were shot in their patrol car by a suspect who opened fire without warning or provocation. The deputy’s a 24 year old man and 31 year old woman were both in critical condition at the time of this article and fighting for their lives as they underwent surgery following the attack.
Mr. Guest: (01:54:49)
A handful of anti-police protesters show up to the hospital where the deputies were being treated. A local faith leader who came to the hospital to pray for the deputies told a reporter that some of the protesters had been shouting slogans like, “Death to the police.” Protesters were blocking the entrance to the hospital emergency room and yelling, “We hope they die.”
Mr. Guest: (01:55:11)
In June of 2020 the AP reported “California deputy shot in ambush attack at police station.” A California deputy was shot in the head but survived an ambush by gunmen intent on harming or killing the police. The shooter opened fire around 3:40 AM on the backside of the police station. ABC News, July 22nd of this year, “Police officers killed surge 28% this year in some point to civil unrest and those looking to exploit it.” CNN, February 10th, 2020, “Attacks on police or a cause for alarm.” The article goes to say, “An armed assailant approached a marked police van in the Bronx on Saturday evening and opens fire on two on duty police officers. The suspect who remained at large until the following morning. Then on Sunday police video captures a man, later identified as the same suspect strolling into NYPD’s 41st precinct before opening fire on police wounding a lieutenant.”
Mr. Guest: (01:56:21)
Fox News, June of this year, “Police under siege.” They go through incident after incident of attack on police. Buffalo, New York two law enforcement officers are struck by vehicle Monday and another was run over during a demonstration in front of the Buffalo Police Departments E district. The trooper who was run over suffered a shattered pelvis and broken leg. Cincinnati, Ohio, an officer was saved by a ballistic helmet when a bullet struck the protective covering. Chicago, police reports Monday that 132 of its officers had been injured during violent riots. Davenport, Iowa, an undercover police officer in an unmarked vehicle was struck twice by gunfire. Las Vegas. The Las Vegas police officer was on life support after being shot in the head Monday during a protest. Minnesota, shots were fired at law enforcement officers near a Minnesota police station last week. On May 28, another, which means a second police precinct in the city was set ablaze as violent protests surged. New York, a New York police officer was seen being struck by a vehicle in what appeared to be a deliberate hit and run. Oakland, California, several shots were fired at Oakland police headquarters. A federal law enforcement officer was also shot and killed Friday night.
Mr. Guest: (01:57:40)
We see story after story after story of violence against our first responders. The very men and women who put their safety in jeopardy to protect us are under attack. And so director, I ask you at this time what intelligence, what information can you share about us, about these attacks? And also what can we do as Congress to better protect our first responders?
Director Christopher Wray: (01:58:06)
Well, first let me say, although I’m familiar with every one of those instances you described, just hearing you go through them again is just yet another reminder to me about how tragic this is. And I think it’s important for Americans to take a deep breath for a second and think about what it means for somebody to put his or her life on the line for a complete stranger. And then after they’ve paused and thought about that for a second to think about what it means to get up every morning and do that day after day after day after day. And as I said in response to, I think one of the earlier questions, and you’ve touched on through your comments, the number of officers feloniously killed in line of duty this year is up significantly from last year.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:58:58)
And that’s not even counting all the officers who were lost to COVID because they have to be out on the streets doing their jobs and they can’t stay home. That’s not counting all the officers who miraculously survived an attack but whose lives are forever altered. That’s not counting the officers who died in things like vehicle incidents as they’re racing to the crime scene.
Director Christopher Wray: (01:59:25)
And as I mentioned, I think to Congressman Bishop, one of the things I started doing when I started in this job is I decided I was going to call every time an officer is shot and killed through, or killed through adversarial action in this country, I was going to call myself the chief or the sheriff and express my condolences on behalf of the FBI. And each time I do it, I ask my staff to give me a picture, a photograph of the officer, any description of their family so I know how many kids they had, how old their kids were. I had a guy recently who was engaged to be married, had six months out of his wedding day who was killed.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:00:05)
And I’ll never forget, for example, having to call in your home state to Brookhaven, Mississippi, where they lost two officers in a single incident in a department of, I want to say, less than 30 people. I mean, think about what that means to a department like that where every single person knew those two officers. So I understand people in this country are angry and upset and hurt. And I get that. And there’s reasons to be angry and upset and hurt. I don’t mean to minimize their concern and hurt. But the law enforcement families hurt too. And these people who put on the uniform and go out to protect all of us and our families everyday deserve some level of appreciation. And I appreciate your comments.
Mr. Guest: (02:00:55)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chairman Thompson: (02:00:58)
Thank you very much. Director Wray, for the record, I think there’s no issue around support for law enforcement on this committee. It’s consistently been there. It’s only when the rules get changed is there a concern. And I might ask Mr. Rose to talk a little bit about the rules. After 9/11, Congress did quite a bit of job towards supporting the men and women and their families who lost their lives. And all of a sudden in the middle of this, New York gets penalized in terms of the resources that Congress had already approved. So it’s those kinds of things. With that I yield to the gentleman from New York.
Mr. Rose: (02:01:49)
Chairman, thank you. Director Wray, Director Miller, first of all, we do not have a domestic terrorist designation in United States of America. We have a foreign terrorist organization designation, a specially designated terrorist group designation. That’s correct? Okay. Asides from a domestic terrorist designation, which is in our legislative purview, something I support, something that some Republicans do not support, some Democrats do not support. Do you need any other further resources to go after criminal organizations in the United States of America that are organizing to inflict violence on American citizens, law enforcement especially?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:02:33)
Well, I think I would put resources in sort of two categories. One is funding for data analytics, which I can explain why that’s relevant, to boots on the ground, et cetera. So there’s that piece of it. And then I would say there are our tools. We always want more tools. And I touched on one of the concerns earlier, which is this end to end encryption issue. And especially when you’re talking about organizations and people communicating with each other, if we move into a world in which bad guys have a choice between putting all of their information and their communications in platforms or devices that are warrant proof, that are utterly beyond reach of law, no matter how rock solid the legal case is, I don’t think that’s a judgment that those companies should be making on behalf of the American people. I think that’s something that, say Congress-
Mr. Rose: (02:03:32)
I most certainly agree. Can you please commit to getting us in a memo form or a list form the tools you think you need to keep us safe and our law enforcement officials safe and our citizens safe from violent criminal organizations in the United States of America?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:03:48)
We’d be happy to follow up with you with some more information.
Mr. Rose: (02:03:50)
Thank you. So then let’s see that we can unite around something here rather than what it appears that we are doing. I want to move on to the threat of white supremacists globally, domestically. Director Miller, looking at the existing list of STDGs and FTOs, put that list aside, which organizations are you concerned with, particularly in the white supremacist organization front?
Mr. Miller: (02:04:17)
As you noted, thank you, it’s nice to have an army veteran here, by the way. Yeah. Russian Imperial Movement, as you know, we designate.
Mr. Rose: (02:04:26)
Mr. Miller: (02:04:26)
Which was, I thought, a real strong statement in a good way. We see the other groups. You see what’s going on in Germany right now.
Mr. Rose: (02:04:36)
Mr. Miller: (02:04:37)
Oh, geez. Well, they changed their names so fast these days to keep ahead of us.
Mr. Rose: (02:04:42)
Right. So things like [San and Krieg 02:04:45], Combat 18?
Mr. Miller: (02:04:46)
Mr. Rose: (02:04:47)
AZOV. Now, if you look at any of those global groups, do you see any connection between those groups in Germany, central Europe or otherwise, any connections between those groups and domestic organizations?
Mr. Miller: (02:04:59)
Nothing monolithic or … We are not picking up anything of a routine, systemic connection. I think what you’ll see is more ad hoc because they’re all sitting online together chatting, but have not picked up anything deliberate-
Mr. Rose: (02:05:19)
But you are seeing communications between them. You’re seeing interactions. You’re seeing physical movement of people at all?
Mr. Miller: (02:05:25)
Other than, as you know, with Russian Imperial Movement, there have been Westerners that have gone out to some of their training-
Mr. Rose: (02:05:33)
To Crimea as well?
Mr. Miller: (02:05:34)
Mr. Rose: (02:05:34)
To fight in Crimea. Do we know who all those individuals are, who have gone to partner with the Russian Imperial Movement or Azov and come back here?
Mr. Miller: (02:05:44)
I can’t say that we know all of them.
Mr. Rose: (02:05:46)
You think that’s a problem?
Mr. Miller: (02:05:47)
Is it probable that we know-
Mr. Rose: (02:05:49)
No. Is that a problem?
Mr. Miller: (02:05:52)
Mr. Rose: (02:05:52)
Would you say that we know everyone?
Mr. Miller: (02:05:55)
Mr. Rose: (02:05:56)
Would you say that we have a system in place for those who have gone to try to work with ISIS or Al Qaeda?
Mr. Miller: (02:06:02)
Like Director Wray noted with the communications technology the way it is right now, I would like to say we know, but I cannot say definitively that we know everyone who has gone overseas to support a foreign terrorist organization.
Mr. Rose: (02:06:15)
Would you support this administration, looking at expanding the list of foreign terrorist organization and STG organizations so as to assist us in fighting this new terrorist threat?
Mr. Miller: (02:06:28)
I think we have an extraordinarily robust and solid system for doing that. And we look at that regularly to see if we are aligned correctly if there are any other organizations that should be designated.
Mr. Rose: (02:06:42)
To include those organizations that you just referred to earlier that are not presently on the list?
Mr. Miller: (02:06:48)
Mr. Rose: (02:06:49)
Okay. Thank you.
Chairman Thompson: (02:06:52)
Chair recognizes gentlemen from California, Mr. Garcia, for five minutes.
Mr. Garcia: (02:06:57)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you to ranking member, Rogers, for the warm welcome. Really appreciate it. As a student of national security, as a former frontline operator and a steward of developing national security technologies and doctrine, it really is an honor to be here, especially during this era of our nation’s history. Director Wray, Director Miller, thank you both for being here today, taking the time to help educate us and keep us aligned and to keep both sides of the aisle informed. Really appreciate it.
Mr. Garcia: (02:07:33)
Director Wray, I think your comments, the single biggest threat to our nation’s security right now is our politicians and government leaders, especially at the state and local levels and city levels to not get their collective programs together and support law enforcement. As my colleague from Mississippi, Mr. Guest, mentioned it is getting ugly out there. It’s getting uglier out there. And as leaders of government, if we don’t back law enforcement, and if we don’t make it crystal clear and unambiguously that we support those who protect us as a nation, not just through policy but also through funding, then this will get worse. So I really appreciate your comments and commitment to that. And I also appreciate your condemnation of previous abuses of power by your organization and look forward to fixing those sins of the past. So I appreciate you both being here.
Mr. Garcia: (02:08:26)
I’d like to pivot to a slightly different conversation and topic if we can. In my district, I come from southern California. We were unfortunately the site of a mass casualty at a local high school where we lost two of our beloved team less than a year ago. Where I come from, I was a former Naval aviator. And whenever there was a mishap, whenever there was a loss of life, we would convene what was called a safety investigation board or review. This team would go away for six months, nine months sometimes. They’d look at every element that led to the mishap, what the pilot ate, what medications he was on, what his family life was like, what his emotional state was, what his mental health state was, and they’d come back to the entire fleet and debrief us on the incident. All the lessons learned, what went wrong, what went right in some cases, how could we have avoided that situation.
Mr. Garcia: (02:09:23)
In our country we don’t seem to have anything like that for what I would call mass casualty incidents. We have these fatalities at high schools. We have mass casualties in different venues, different types of weapons. We hear about it in the news. It makes frontline stories for a couple of weeks. And then it goes away. And besides the close friends and families and the communities that are impacted, we sometimes don’t remember the specifics and the details.
Mr. Garcia: (02:09:51)
I guess my question is, why don’t we have that? Why don’t we have sort of a mass casualties, lesson learned report that becomes public domain? We can redact things to protect anonymity and protect personal, private information. But within that, we can get lessons learned about what this kid was going through, what his parents saw, what telltales or issues were prevalent. And I bet you we do find common denominators for some of these cases. Something that as parents we can read, something as teachers we can read. Classmates can have access to it. And we can all as a nation, really understand what led to some of these. Why don’t we have that? What do we need to do in order to get to that and have it available to all 330 million people [inaudible 00:31:40]?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:10:41)
Well, Congressman I appreciate the question. I think we do have some of that actually. We, at the FBI, have done a number of studies of, not individual, self contained mass casualty attacks, but we’ve looked at the trend of them, have looked at the collection, the universe of them over a longer period of time and have generated some reports about indicators that might’ve tip people off if they had known what to look for. And so we’ve tried to get some of that information out. A number of the field offices, as I mentioned, I visited all 56 of our field offices, met with partners, law enforcement community in each place, and a number of offices are doing, FBI offices, are doing outreach efforts with schools and neighborhoods in their AOR, their area of responsibility, to kind of better educate people as to what to look for.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:11:43)
Because one of the things that we have learned, and frankly, the same thing applies on a lot of the terrorism incidents, is that if you look back, there’s almost always someone, a classmate, a family member, a neighbor, a coworker who-
Director Christopher Wray: (02:12:03)
I remember a neighbor, a coworker who saw at least with the benefit of hindsight, saw a change in behavior, a transformation. And you hear us say all the time, “If you see something, say something.” And most of us, when we hear that we picture the unintended backpack in the bus station. And of course we want people if they see something to say something there, but we also need people if they see something about somebody to say something.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:12:28)
And so the more we can educate people as to behavioral patterns to be concerned about, a lot of this is very individualized because people are individualized. And so it’s the people who know the baseline of behavior of the person to know, “Wait a minute, this has changed now. And this is something I should be concerned about. I should go to the school security officer. I should contact law enforcement, et cetera.” So that’s part of it.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:12:56)
There’s also lessons learned in terms of hardening our schools. And there’s been a lot of work done with our state and local partners on that. So there’s a kind of an infrastructure piece of it. So there’s a lot of work to be done in this space. And it’s going to take a kind of a collaborative law enforcement, education community partnership to do it.
Mr. Garcia: (02:13:17)
Yeah and I’m out of time, but I’ll just say that I think we needed a concerted effort to try to make some of those documents and lessons learned that are truly accessible to every American out there so that we’re actually benefiting from foresight and not just misreading on hindsight. I think that’s the path forward. So again, gentlemen, thank you for your time.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:13:36)
Chair recognizes the gentlelady from Michigan. Mrs. Slotkin.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:13:42)
Thank you Mr. Chairman, thank you to our witnesses for being here. I really appreciate it. And I know there’s been back and forth on whether acting secretary Wolf should have been here. Whatever the reason given that this is a worldwide threats hearing, the secretary should have come here. And this idea that someone under Senate confirmation can appear is actually factually incorrect. I know that since I was under Senate confirmation when I was called to testify many times.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:14:10)
Let me ask about, I think Mr. Wray, you’ve been really helpful and just being straight and clear about kind of the threats that are going on out there. Can you talk about level of effort on extremist violence, domestic extremist violence? You’ve talked about in this hearing how you’re seeing … 2019 I think you said was one of the greatest levels of domestic violence we’ve seen in the country for some time since Oklahoma City.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:14:43)
Can you tell me how many cases you have open? And if you don’t know the exact number, just approximately you have open on groups that are white supremacist versus groups that are coming from the left. Just level of effort that the FBI employing right now.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:15:02)
Well, trying to think of what I can say, certainly off the top of my head on numbers. I mean, I will say that, let me start with this. As a general rule, we have each year lately, we’ve been having roughly a thousand domestic terrorism investigations a year. It’s higher than that this year. A good bit north of a thousand this year. I know that we’ve had about 120 arrests for domestic terrorism this year. Now, that number of investigations, the thousand plus and the 120 arrests, that’s domestic terrorism across the board, right?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:15:43)
Everything from racially-motivated violent extremists to violent anarchist extremists, militia types, sovereign citizens, you name it. Of the domestic terrorism threats, we last year elevated racially-motivated violent extremism to be a national threat priority commensurate with a homegrown violent extremists. That’s the Jihadist-inspired people here and with ISIS.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:16:12)
So let me because that’s important, right? That what you’re saying is the level of threat from domestic terrorists across the board regardless of ideology is at the same level as homegrown terrorists that have connections to a foreign terrorist organization? Did I hear you correctly?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:16:31)
We’re treating it as a commensurate priority in terms of warranting our intention and resources, yeah.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:16:36)
But I mean, I’m assuming you’re giving it that attention because it deserves that attention because the threat has elevated from a time when …. I mean, I’m a former CIA officer, we were doing a lot of foreign terrorism Nexus stuff, 2005, six, seven through the last 10 years. So it’s interesting I think that domestic terrorism has elevated in the FBI’s eyes.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:16:58)
And I think the thing that we’re all struggling with is there are these homegrown terrorists of every flavor and type, but just in the number of either cases or arrests, how many of them are white supremacists? If not the exact number, is it the same as other types of domestic terrorism? Is it higher? Just give us a level of approximate numbers.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:17:24)
What I can tell you is that within the domestic terrorism bucket category, as a whole racially-motivated violent extremism is I think the biggest bucket within that larger group and within the racially-motivated violent extremists bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:17:51)
Okay. That’s very helpful.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:17:52)
I don’t have the numbers for you.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:17:53)
That’s very helpful. So the white supremacists are the largest of the racially-motivated domestic terrorists?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:18:00)
Let me also say and I would also add to that, that racially-motivated violent extremists over recent years have been responsible for the most lethal activity in the US. Now this year, the lethal attacks, domestic terrorism, lethal attacks we’ve had have I think all fit in the category of anti-government, anti-authority, which covers everything from anarchist violent extremists to militia types. We don’t really think in terms of left, right. We have-
Elissa Slotkin: (02:18:30)
Yep. I understand.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:18:32)
That’s not the way we look at the world.
Elissa Slotkin: (02:18:33)
I understand. And then just in my last seconds, I’ll be submitting some questions for the record for Mr. Wolf commensurate with the questions that I submitted to Chairman Milley on the role of the Department of Homeland Security in and around our elections and the peaceful transition of power, but thanks very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:18:51)
Thank you very much. In line with Ms. Slotkin’s question, Mr. Wray you know Congress passed a law, the DATA Act. It’s referred to as the Domestic and International Terrorism Act that requires the production of a report identifying everything that Ms. Slotkin talked about. Are you familiar with that?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:19:20)
I am familiar with it. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:19:22)
And you know we three months late on the production of that report?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:19:27)
And so I’m certainly aware of the report and the requirement. I will say that and I’m aware that it’s delayed and behind schedule. I know that the first report of the ones that are called for as my understanding it’s complete and that it’s in the inner agency approval process. So it should be forthcoming soon. Unfortunately, with COVID of course, when the NDA was passed, no one anticipated the impact of COVID and the impacts that would have on our workforce.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:20:00)
So that’s been a big part of the delay, but I understand the importance of it. And I know we’ve been engaging with you and your staff in terms of providing briefings and so forth as well. And we’ll get it to you just as fast as we can.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:20:12)
I think it’s important that all members of Congress have access just to the data and if they have some followups from it. It’s fine, but Congress has spoken and I hope you follow. Gentleman recognizes the gentleman from New York, Mr. for five minutes.
John Katko: (02:20:34)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you both for being here today. I appreciate it very much. Spend a lot of my waking hours down here in Washington on antiterrorism matters and election security and cybersecurity. So I could talk to all of you for hours, but I do want to pause for a second, Director Wray to just commend the work of the FBI agents on a regular basis. You don’t hear that enough and you should.
John Katko: (02:20:56)
For 20 years before I came to Congress, I was a federal organized crime prosecutor. And some of the best cases I ever did had heavy involvement by the FBI, including police corruption, political corruption, gang cases, and homicides. And so I just want to commend the line agents day in and day out who do all the great work. And please convey my thank you to them.
John Katko: (02:21:22)
There’s plenty of ways I can go here, but one thing that’s been gnawing at me and I just want to touch on real quick if I can, for both of you because I have another question and that is when the New York City Police Department was cut by 1/6th or a billion dollars of their budget. And knowing that New York City is the primary target in the world for terrorists to attack. I’m just curious if either one of you have had any sort of information or concerns that have risen because of the lack of funding that they now have? And you could start with Director Wray.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:21:54)
Well, first let me say, I appreciate your kind words about the hard-working men and women of the FBI. We and our folks had a tough job before this year and certainly COVID didn’t make it any easier. And I’m really proud of the hard work that’s gone on in terms of keeping our people and their families safe, but not letting up on the mission. And the results are pretty extraordinary, frankly.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:22:19)
As far as New York as somebody who grew up in New York City and still has family there, I care deeply about the safety of that city in a very personal way. And certainly, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the FBI director to wait and to sort of political debates local or otherwise. But I think our police officers, including the NYPD police officers are extraordinary public servants who have a very, very, very, very tough job to have, to undertake. And I think people really ought to think carefully about the ramifications of making that job harder.
John Katko: (02:23:03)
Okay, thank you. Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller: (02:23:05)
Thank you, Congressman. And obviously last Friday, as we recognize the 19th anniversary, our hearts went out to a New York City and we were disappointed we weren’t able to go up, but of course, with COVID-19 and whatnot, we weren’t able to do that. I’m hopeful that next year at the 20th anniversary, we’ll be in an entirely different place in this global war against terrorism and we’ll have some good news on Al-Qaeda’s demise.
Mr. Miller: (02:23:31)
I just wanted to highlight, we have the most unbelievable partnership with the NYPD. We have an analyst, she’s magical embedded into the National Counterterrorism Center. And we talk to NYPD probably three or four times a day. I’m not familiar with in total honesty, I’m not familiar with the cuts. I’ll look into that, absolutely. And if there’s anything we can do to support, obviously we will because between the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the NYPD, they’re just a remarkable partners and we want to help them in any way we can.
John Katko: (02:24:08)
Thank you very much. And Director Wray, I spent a lot of time on election security. It’s one of my greatest concerns and everything from making sure that the machines don’t get hacked into and I’m relatively confident on that due to high concern I have about the possible obstruction in the process of the election by a foreign actors, such as Russia and Iran and China.
John Katko: (02:24:35)
And I’m also concerned about like in New York State, for example, there’s a delay of eight days before they start counting absentee ballots after the election, which delays the results, which delays individual’s belief in the results. And I’m concerned about that. But if I could just ask you this question, I know you’ve testified on a lot of different aspects. What’s your biggest concern right now about election security going forward for this fall?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:25:01)
Obviously, there are a lot of aspects of it that we’re concerned about and you touched on some of them. But I think in many ways, what concerns me the most is the steady drumbeat of misinformation and sort of amplification of smaller cyber intrusions that contribute over time. I worry that they will contribute over time to a lack of confidence of American voters and citizens in the validity of their vote.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:25:37)
I think that would be a perception, not a reality. I think Americans can and should have confidence in our election system and certainly in our democracy. But I worry that people will take on a feeling of futility because of all of the noise and confusion that’s generated. And that’s a very hard problem to combat.
John Katko: (02:25:57)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:25:58)
Thank you. Chair recognizes the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Cleaver. Mr Cleaver, you need to unmute yourself.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:27:10)
Well, we’ll go to Mr. Green. We’ll go to Mr. Green for five minutes.
Mr. Green: (02:27:12)
Yes, Mr. Chairman. Can you hear me?
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:27:15)
Yes, we have you.
Mr. Green: (02:27:17)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think the witnesses for appearing and I’m especially interested in a topic related to violent activity. I have in my hand, Mr. Chairman, a story from the Washington Post dated September 14th, 2020. And it is titled Trump Health Appointee, Michael Caputo warns of Armed Insurrection After Election. The relevant portion of the story that is quoted reads. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin. He warned in video. The drills that you have seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen. Because it’s going to be hard to get.” Mr. Director of the FBI, you pride yourself on your independence, do you not?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:28:22)
I’m sorry, Congressman. I had a little bit of a hard time hearing the very end of your question.
Mr. Green: (02:28:26)
I said, do you pride yourself on your independence, do you not?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:28:29)
I do pride myself on my independence in my organization.
Mr. Green: (02:28:33)
And you will investigate anybody or any opportunity to prevent a crime. Is that correct?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:28:40)
We will follow the facts and the law and nothing else and we will aggressively pursue any criminal activity.
Mr. Green: (02:28:48)
Can you explain to me kindly sir, why you have not pursued the facts and the law as it relates to Mr. Caputo and these statements? He appears to be warning us of some sort of impending crisis related to violence.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:29:06)
Well, I don’t want to start to try to engage in whether or not there’s any particular investigative activity going on that might be somehow related to all that. What I would say is that we don’t investigate rhetoric and we will investigate when we have proper predication of a federal criminal violation. And you can be assured that if we have a situation where we have the facts and the law and the evidence that we will pursue it without regard to any other consideration.
Mr. Green: (02:29:41)
Permit me to ask this. Mr. Caputo is a part of or was a part of that administration. He appears to be on some sort of leave right now. He has indicated that there is going to be violence. It would seem to me that at least an interview would be an order. Why have you not interviewed him?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:30:04)
Congressman, I’m not particularly familiar with the public comments that you’re referring to. But as I’ve said, if we see credible evidence of violent criminal activity that is a federal crime, we will pursue that activity.
Mr. Green: (02:30:22)
Mr. Chairman, may I kindly insert the Washington Post article in the record without objection.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:30:30)
Mr. Green: (02:30:33)
Thank you back to you again, Mr. Director of the FBI. My hope is that my calling this to your attention today will give you sufficient reason. You’ve got a member of the United States Congress who is bringing to you intelligence that has been reported publicly, that a member of that administration has made comments that there will be violence if there is a refusal to stand down by a person who is associated with the presidency.
Mr. Green: (02:31:09)
My hope is that this is sufficient for you to at least interview someone. Let me move to the Director of National Counterterrorism. Would this intelligence not seem to indicate that there may be some sort of activity that would fall under your umbrella if this is credible information, Mr. Director Miller?
Mr. Miller: (02:31:34)
Sir, thanks for the question. My focus and remit is connections between international terrorist organizations and any US domestic violent extremists or homegrown violent extremists.
Mr. Green: (02:31:54)
I have to ask now rhetorically, what does it take to investigate someone who’s associated with this administration who makes these kinds of comments? This seems to be fairly serious to me. I likely will be at the inauguration and we have a person who’s associated with the administrations who’s indicating that bullets are going to fly and shooting will begin. These are his words.
Mr. Green: (02:32:25)
It would seem to me that this should be sufficient. So I’m going to ask as a member of Congress that the FBI perform its duty as an independent agent, hearing none, having favor for none, investigate this, and please report to me if you would if the committee does not desire to know. Would you kind of report to me what your findings are to the extent that you can? Yield back, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:32:55)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes Mr. Cleaver for five minutes.
Emanuel Cleaver: (02:33:05)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for my technological failure earlier. Let me also, first of all say, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman for your leadership. I look at leadership as being measured by how they function during a crisis and we’re in a crisis. And I think you handled it magnificently. Director Wray, let me just say that polarization in our country is rising frighteningly at least that’s how I analyze it. And I think it’s helping to create a new and growing and dangerous tribalism in our country now. And becoming a nation where people want to live in neighborhoods where people have similar ideologies and we loathe [inaudible 02:34:09] voter and that’s a different political [inaudible 02:34:12] we can then line in a little small circle in which we might function in community, but we accept it and even praise it when it’s done to achieve something politically.
Emanuel Cleaver: (02:34:26)
Now let me just say, I have to say I appreciate you and the way you handled the department. I can tell you I tremble at night because we have seen many of our institutions damaged over the last few years and people in positions of significance have allowed those organizations to bend to the will of politicians. And I have not [inaudible 02:34:53] with the FBI. I think you’ve played it straight. [inaudible 02:34:58] as well. This is not what I wanted to talk about when the hearing started. I would like for you to address if you can where the FBI stands in terms of morale and whether the FBI is now in a situation where we depend on it to [inaudible 02:35:25] its central objectivity. And I’ll also end by just saying that your under stress presentation today is something that I want to express appreciation for it. But where’s the FBI right now, in terms of the guys who are out on the streets doing all of the work that we need to be done to protect the United States of America?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:35:48)
Well Congressmen, I want to tell you, I very much appreciate your kind words to our folks and the question. I will say that I could not be more proud of our people. And whenever you ask questions about something like morale, it’s a hard thing sometimes to measure, but I’ll give you a few pieces of information that I think are extremely good news. One is that last year and this has been a trend over the few years of my tenure as FBI director, our attrition rate is down to 0.4 or five or 6%. So well less than 1%.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:36:29)
And they’re very few organizations in this country that have an attrition rate that low, but an even better piece of news is on the recruiting side. Last year, we had tripled, tripled the number of people in this country applying, these are qualified applicants to be special agents of the FBI. The prior years, the highest number in about a decade. And this year, we’re on track to be even higher. And so I think that’s just very positive signal about the brand of the FBI and the currency of the FBI out all across the country and among the public.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:37:08)
Just in the middle of COVID, our folks have opened something like 750 COVID fraud investigations. 600+ violent gang members arrested just in the course of a single month. I mentioned the terrorist attacks we’ve forwarded. I think in fiscal year ’20, we recovered something like 500+ kids who were victims of human trafficking. I could go on and on and on, but they’re doing all of that despite the challenges of the current environment. And I say I’m honored, but really I’m humbled to be working with them.
Emanuel Cleaver: (02:37:45)
Thank you. It would have been great if Secretary Wolf had been here. I think unfortunately, tragically and painfully, his absence does continue to do damage to the democracy I’d like to yield back to you at this time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:38:02)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes the gentlelady from Illinois, Ms. Underwood.
Lauren Underwood: (02:38:08)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Your agencies have identified domestic violent extremism, particularly white supremacy as a leading threat to our homeland. Last month, a teenager from my district in Antioch, Illinois went to Kenosha, Wisconsin where he allegedly killed two people with an AR-15 style rifle [inaudible 02:38:28] the protest there. We have seen too many examples of this kind of deadly violence being fueled by online extremism. And now to combating domestic extremism requires a thoughtful approach in order to safeguard American civil liberties.
Lauren Underwood: (02:38:42)
Director Wray in explaining the FBI’s approach to domestic extremism you said, “The FBI is only concerned when responses cross from ideas and constitutionally protected protests to violence.” In the days before the shootings in Kenosha, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab found that so-called militias were publicly organizing on social media for armed individuals to travel to Kenosha. A so-called militia leader wrote, “Law enforcement is outnumbered. Take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs.”
Lauren Underwood: (02:39:17)
Another user wrote, “I’m on the way with 75 people from Green Bay. We have lots of guns, lots of pipe bombs. Going to cleanse the streets of rioters. A third user wrote, “Attention, all non-whites and degenerates of Kenosha. You have until sundown to pack up your belongings and leave the area. After that, anything that happens to you or your children will be your fault. And a fourth quote. “Shoot to kill, folks.” Director Wray, are these ideas or are they threats of violence?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:39:51)
I’m sorry, Congresswoman. The very last part, the question itself, I couldn’t quite hear. I’m not sure if it’s the audio or-
Lauren Underwood: (02:39:57)
Director Wray, are these ideas or threats of violence?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:40:03)
Well, without reference to any specific case, certainly language about violence can in certain instances be part of the offense and can be threats. I mean, we pursue threats to commit violence, not just the actual commission of violence.
Lauren Underwood: (02:40:21)
To your knowledge, did Facebook at any point provide any of these Kenosha-specific threats to federal law enforcement?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:40:29)
I can’t sitting here right now speak to any specific tips or threats. I will say that we get lots of leads and tips from Facebook and work closely with them on a lot of terrorism issues.
Lauren Underwood: (02:40:47)
In light of the violence that occurred at similar events this year, I think we can all agree that statements like these are concerning. And that’s why it’s so important to share this information as soon as possible with local officials like those in Kenosha, so they can make effective plans to keep their community safe.
Lauren Underwood: (02:41:03)
And I want to be clear, I’m speaking here about statements publicly posted online often under users’ real names, not about private communication. Director Wray, What steps if any did the FBI take to alert state and local officials in Wisconsin about these specific threats of violent activity in their area?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:41:23)
Well Congresswoman, there’s a few things that I would say on this topic. First, just to be clear, we don’t have people, we FBI don’t have the resources or the authority to just sit on social media and troll for threatening [crosstalk 02:41:38] I know you’re not suggesting that, but what I’m just making sure that the people out there understand that [crosstalk 02:41:44] I’m sorry?
Lauren Underwood: (02:41:48)
We have limited time. If you can answer the question.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:41:51)
But so what we do do we have in addition to the relationships we have with social media companies, we have something called NTOC, which is our National Threat Operations Center that has both call in lines, 1-800-CALL-FBI. And then an email version and we get tips-
Lauren Underwood: (02:42:10)
Excuse me, sir. I asked if you took steps to alert the local officials.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:42:14)
Yes. And so what I’m getting to is that the National Threat Operations Center, when it gets threats and tips of the sort that you’re describing, we have a mechanism by which we feed that information as quickly as possible to state and local law enforcement so they can take appropriate action. We have a system called eGuardian that does that.
Lauren Underwood: (02:42:34)
Reclaiming my time. The director is not answering specifically whether or not the FBI alerted state and local officials in Wisconsin. I’d like that noted for the record. The day after the Kenosha shootings, I heard from a mother and the alleged shooter’s hometown in my district who wrote that, “There’s a militia there in Antioch that’s becoming more and more emboldened to take the law into their own hands. And I’m becoming fearful to send my children to the same schools as white supremacists militia members.”
Lauren Underwood: (02:43:01)
Domestic extremism and white supremacy pose critical threats to our homeland. To stop deadly extremist violent, federal law enforcement and their partners must seize on opportunities to intervene before the violence begins. And I’m looking forward to working together with you, Director Wray on improving our ability to prevent violent threats from becoming violent actions. Thank you to our witnesses for being here I’m so disappointed that not all of our witnesses fulfilled their duty to help this committee and the American people understand the threats to our national security. And I yield back.
Mr. Chairman Thompson: (02:43:39)
Thank you very much. Gentlelady yields back. Chair recognizes the gentlelady from New York, Ms. Clarke for five minutes.
Yvette Clarke: (02:43:45)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank our ranking member Rogers. As our nation faces immeasurable threats from the rise of white supremacist terrorist groups to the risk of cyber attacks, tripling our critical infrastructure. This committee has an obligation to conduct oversight and ensure that the executive branch is doing its job. But Congress can only fulfill our constitutional role if the executive branch follows the law and appears before us, when subpoenaed.
Yvette Clarke: (02:44:16)
I’d like to thank Director Wray and Director Miller for appearing before us today. I’d also like to condemn in the strongest possible terms, Mr. Wolf’s refusal to appear before us and comply with a lawfully issued subpoena. His refusal to testify is yet another example of the lawlessness that has infected the Department of Homeland Security.
Yvette Clarke: (02:44:39)
Mr. Wolf may not want to answer that for his department’s actions or removing the uteruses of ICE detainees to manipulating intelligence to minimize Russian meddling in our election. But when a congressional committee subpoenas you, the law says you must show up. And with that, I turn to my questions. My first question is actually-
Yvette Clarke: (02:45:03)
… to my questions. My first question is actually for you, Director Wray. And it’s a bit parochial. It has to do with my district. Yesterday, I joined a letter to Commissioner Shea of the New York city Police Department signed by two New York state legislators, two members of Congress and members of the New York city council regarding, excuse me, alleged cooperation between the FBI and the NYPD in a community in my district. Specifically, it alleged that in light of New York’s new state level bail laws, investigations that would have previously been handled by local officials, the NYPD, are now being turned into federal cases. Are you aware of any arrangement of this nature between the Bureau and the NYPD?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:46:00)
I’m not familiar with the specific issue that you’re referring to, at least in New York. I will say that-
Yvette Clarke: (02:46:08)
Will you look into it and get back to me on this?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:46:13)
I’d be happy to take a look. You said there was a letter that you’d written-
Yvette Clarke: (02:46:17)
Well, this was actually sent to our local police commissioner, but there was a public statement made by one of our police officials that they are working with the FBI. And so I’d like to get some clarity around what this arrangement is, if it exists at all.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:46:38)
Okay. Well, I’ll have my staff follow up with your staff to get a little more information about it and see if there’s information that we can provide that would be helpful to you.
Yvette Clarke: (02:46:47)
Wonderful. I appreciate that. I’d like to ask a question about the recent resurgence of white supremacists against African Americans, Jewish Americans, Latinos, and still many others. POLITICO recently obtained a draft DHS 2020 Homeland threat assessment, which described white supremacists as the deadliest domestic terror threat currently facing the nation. But subsequent drafts diminished this warning. What is your assessment of the deadliest domestic terrorist threat currently facing the nation? And have you ever faced political pressure or have received a request from any other element of the US government to alter the assessment?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:47:38)
Well, first let me say, my commitment to calling it straight extends not just to our investigations, but to our intelligence assessments. That’s been my commitment since day one, and will continue as long as I’m sitting in this role. And we have continued to take that approach to all of our intelligence assessments on my watch. As far as the issue about danger and domestic terrorism threats, what I would say is that we assess that the most dangerous threat to the Homeland encompasses lone actors, radicalized, often online with easily accessible weapons against soft targets. That includes homegrown violent extremists that are jihadist inspired as well as domestic violent extremist of all sorts. Now, within the domestic violent extremists, we have assessed that racially and ethically motivated violent, extremist has been responsible for the most lethal activity over the last several years. And that’s why we elevated it-
Yvette Clarke: (02:48:53)
I asked specifically about white supremacists. Are they included in that threat assessment?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:48:59)
Yes. So within the racially and ethically motivated violent extremists, I would say the biggest chunk of those, I can’t give you a percentage, but the biggest chunk of that are individuals who are motivated by some form of white supremacist ideology. And that group, the racially motivated violent extremist, has been responsible for the most lethal activity in The last few years. I will say, just as a point of clarification, this year the lethal attacks that we’ve seen, I think, have all been from antigovernment or anti authority types. But if you go back over the last few years, it’s been the racially motivated violent extremists that had the most lethal attacks in the homeland.
Yvette Clarke: (02:49:42)
[crosstalk 02:49:42] Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
Chairman Thompson: (02:49:46)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes gentlelady from Las Vegas, Ms. Titus, for five minutes.
Ms. Titus: (02:49:54)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Can you hear me?
Chairman Thompson: (02:49:59)
Yes, we can.
Ms. Titus: (02:50:01)
Thank you. I’m sorry. [inaudible 02:50:03] Mr. Wolf here, because I wanted to ask him about the limitation on J-1 Visas, which is keeping several dozen especially ed teachers from coming to Clark County. And I really don’t think special ed teachers are a threat to the homeland, but nonetheless. Director Wray, despite your protest to the contrary that the FBI is not being politicized, we’ve seen increasing politicization of the justice department under Attorney General Barr. And this has crossed a longstanding line that we don’t usually expect or see or tolerate this sort of thing from our nation’s law enforcement. Just yesterday, the attorney general told the nation’s federal prosecutors, this is virtually a quote, to be aggressive when charging certain demonstrators with crimes including the crime of sedition. Now, sedition as you know is an act of inciting revolt or violence against a lawful authority with a goal of destroying or overthrowing.
Ms. Titus: (02:51:11)
Now, put that in the context of the fact that FBI officials earlier this year described the perpetrators of some of these actions at demonstrations as largely opportunistic individuals taking advantage of the protest. Then we had a report by Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which monitors political upheaval around the world. They looked at 7,750 protests from May 26 to August 22nd in 2,400 locations in all 50 states and in Washington and found that 93% of the protests were peaceful. Third, we’ve seen the statement by the former federal attorney from Eastern Virginia, who said, well, if your Eastern district of Virginia, Mr. Rosenberg, he said, “If Barr is saying, if you have a sedition case, then bring it. That’s okay. But if he’s urging people to stretch to bring one, that’s deeply dangerous to our constitution.”
Ms. Titus: (02:52:24)
I wonder if under these new directives from Attorney General Barr, who’s apparently trying to shore up the president’s law and order image, you’re going to change your approach to dealing with some of the people who’ve been involved in these demonstrations. If you’re going to look at building a case for sedition, it’s difficult to prove, but maybe you’ll set out to do that. Could you kind of describe how this might make a difference in the crimes that you pursue against some of these people?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:52:56)
Well, Congresswoman, I’m not familiar with the conversation that’s been attributed to the attorney general in the press. So I can’t really comment on that specifically. I will say my commitment, our commitment, is to pursue justice in every investigation. To follow the facts, follow the law and follow proper predication. And we have a commitment to protect the American people and uphold the constitution and we’re going to do both in every investigation. And that includes in this context.
Ms. Titus: (02:53:27)
Could you talk a little bit about the crime of sedition and what it would take to prove it? And do you see any cases pending out there now that might fit under this kind of charge?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:53:40)
Well, I will confess that I’m not a legal expert on the crime of sedition, so I’m not sure. I would have to brush up on that to be able to really answer your question in the intelligent way that I think you would expect of me. Certainly there is dangerous, violent criminal activity that is occurring amidst some of the protests around the country. And we, I think, have a responsibility to pursue that activity aggressively, but appropriately. Even if numerically, it may not be the lion’s share of the protesters by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn’t take more than one person to engage in sometimes lethal activity against others. And so we have a responsibility to pursue that. But you can be confident that we’re going to pursue that based solely on the facts and the law and the appropriate evidence, and not based on any kind of improper or partisan consideration.
Ms. Titus: (02:54:40)
Would you think that Mayor Durkan or Governor Jay Inslee are domestic terrorists because of what’s happened in Seattle? This has been suggested perhaps by this administration.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:54:53)
I’m not familiar with the particular comments that you’re referring to. So I really can’t comment on that.
Ms. Titus: (02:54:58)
Well, I know. I’m just asking, do you think they would fit the category of domestic terrorist based on what’s been happening in Seattle?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:55:06)
I’m sorry. Do I think who’s domestic terrorist?
Ms. Titus: (02:55:09)
Mayor Durkin and Governor Inslee?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:55:14)
I wouldn’t be describing them that way. But I will say I don’t tend to ascribe labels of terrorist or criminal activity to people except when we’re speaking through our charges. That’s how I would communicate about that.
Ms. Titus: (02:55:32)
I appreciate that. I wish some other members of the administration felt the same way. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Chairman Thompson: (02:55:38)
Thank you. Chair recognizes gentlelady from New Jersey, Ms. Watson Coleman.
Watson Coleman: (02:55:44)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to our witnesses for the service that you render, the job that you do and your willingness to be here and have an exchange of views. Mr. Wray, I have a series of followup questions. Congresswoman Underwood asked you about investigations and you did not answer whether or not you would be pursuing those investigations at her request. So is that a yes or no?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:56:18)
I will confess, Congresswoman, that I was having an extremely hard time hearing Congresswoman Underwood. I don’t know if it was the quality of the audio connection or perhaps because she was appropriately wearing a mask that I couldn’t hear through the mask. So I will confess that I really couldn’t understand the question very well. I was doing my best to answer it to the best of my ability. So it probably makes more sense for me to follow up with her staff offline to make sure that I actually understood the question.
Watson Coleman: (02:56:48)
Thank you. What about Congressman Al Green’s request that you investigate the statements that Mr. Caputo made while he was a spokesman at the DHS impacting what the CDC was saying, and his notion of there would be violence and that the scientists were actually, I think the terminology is creating… were seditious in their actions. Will you be investigating that? I know you said you didn’t know the comments that were made, but now that you know, will you be investigating that?
Director Christopher Wray: (02:57:36)
Well, first Congresswoman, well, let me say, as you may know, we don’t ever confirm or deny the existence of investigations. And so when we get requests from members of Congress to investigate something which happens all the time, we take evidence that’s submitted. If somebody has credible evidence of a crime, we’ll review the evidence and decide what to do about it.
Watson Coleman: (02:57:58)
Okay. Then can you tell me a couple of things? Number one is, do you feel that voting by mail as a result of the pandemic in anticipation of having the largest turnout in voting at a time when we have this pandemic, do you believe that there is widespread, fraudulent and abused historically in voting by mail? Yes. A yes or no.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:58:31)
Well, with respect, I’m not sure it easily lends itself to a yes or no question, but I will answer the question. We take all election related crime seriously, including voter fraud. whether that’s in-person-
Watson Coleman: (02:58:43)
Well, then I guess my question is it is a yes or no question. Is there this sort of experience, historical record, of widespread abuse of voting by mail? Yes or no.
Director Christopher Wray: (02:59:03)
We have not seen, to date, a coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election. We have certainly investigated… if I just may finish. We’ve certainly have investigated a voter fraud committed by mail. It’s typically been at the local level.
Watson Coleman: (02:59:23)
And very isolated circumstances, I suspect. I’m just wondering how often you get to speak to the attorney general. And if you would use your good graces and the respect that we have for you to sort of ask him to stop spreading such misinformation about voting, integrity. I want to ask you a couple of questions about white supremacists. First of all, let me ask you about Black Lives Matters. Does Black Lives Matter represent an organization to you? Is that a yes or a no?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:00:03)
I understand that there is an organization that calls itself Black Lives Matter.
Watson Coleman: (03:00:09)
Okay. Do you have it listed as a terrorist organization?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:00:13)
Watson Coleman: (03:00:15)
Do you have any reason to believe that it is a terrorist organization?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:00:22)
Well, we don’t categorize domestic organizations as terrorist organizations under the law because there’s no mechanism for that. We-
Watson Coleman: (03:00:33)
Have you found any individuals that have aligned themselves with Black Lives Matter as the perpetrators of any of the violent actions that you’ve seen take place in what was peaceful demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter allies?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:00:59)
I can’t, sitting here right now, speak to specific cases. I know that we have had a wide range of domestic violent extremists in midst of the current protest activity, engaging in violence or destruction of property. And whether in any one of those cases, somebody may have aligned themselves or associated themselves with… sitting here right now. I can’t think of one, but I don’t know for sure.
Watson Coleman: (03:01:25)
Oh, thank you. Do you know whether or not they’ve been aligned with white supremacists and Boogaloo militia groups or whatever other sort of right wing groups?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:01:37)
Well, we’ve had a number of investigations involving some of the activity we’re talking about. So domestic violent extremism that in some instances, as I’ve mentioned, are people who are associated themselves with various anarchists ideologists like Antifa and in other instances associated themselves with the Boogaloos, for example. I mentioned the case in my exchange with Congresswoman Lesko about the Minneapolis individuals, for example, who associate themselves with the Boogaloos and ultimately were also ensnared in trying to provide material support to Hamas. And then there’s some other cases that we’ve had involving Boogaloo activity. I believe perhaps the individual who killed the FPS officer in Oakland may have referenced Boogaloo inspiration.
Chairman Thompson: (03:02:44)
Gentlelady’s time has expired.
Watson Coleman: (03:02:47)
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Thompson: (03:02:51)
Yes. Chair recognizes gentlelady from Florida, Ms. Demings.
Ms. Demings: (03:02:53)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to both of our witnesses for being with us today. I do have to say that I am disappointed that Assistant Secretary Wolf did not join us today and also ignored our subpoena. I have always expected and kind of prided the fact that the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, those in the intelligence agency would act above the fray, act above politics, keep us safe, hold bad actors accountable and eagerly appear to tell their own story on behalf of the men and women that they work for and the American people. So Director Miller and Director Wray, thank you both for being with us today. I can also say that I am grateful for the work that the men and women in law enforcement do every day. And I can say that and hold them accountable when they are engaged in wrongdoing.
Ms. Demings: (03:03:52)
All at the same time, the men and women in law enforcement do not deserve nor need to be used as political pawns. As I believe that we have heard too much today, I think they are clear on who they work for and that they work on behalf of the American people. Before I get into my line of questioning for the reasons we are here today, Director Wray, following up on my colleague, Ms. Titus’ line of questioning about the attorney general’s agenda. We’re in a strange place right now. We’re just hearing strange things all the time. And what I did here recently, the attorney general say that really concerned me. He said, “Like I say to the FBI agents, whose agents do you think you are?” Now Director Wray, as we think about law enforcement and the very nonpartisan role that law enforcement is engaged in or should be, to alleviate any confusion on behalf of your agents or the American people, how do you respond to that comment from the attorney general?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:05:14)
Well, I’m not familiar with that particular comment from the attorney general. I will say we, the FBI, work for the American people.
Ms. Demings: (03:05:22)
Okay. Thank you so much for clearing that up. Secondly, I know both of you have said that pretty much the biggest threat or these persons who we would consider as lone wolfs, lone individuals, homegrown violent extremists. How much would you say that they have taken advantage? When we look at the number of protests that we’ve seen the country, how much would you say, and I admit the acoustics were not the best in here. How much would you say that they have taken advantage of the number of protests to really spread their own individual purpose, calls, message? And what can we anticipate as we get closer to the election from them?
Director Christopher Wray: (03:06:08)
Well, certainly we have seen amidst some of the protests, in some cities, at certain times, dangerous, violent extremism, committed by people from a variety of ideology who are hijacking those protests as cover or that’s where I could use as cover for their own ability to engage in violence and dangerous criminality. I think one of the phenomenons that, that lends itself to is not just dangers to small businesses, dangers to law enforcement that we talked about already, but frankly, danger to the other protesters as well. The people who are there peacefully then find themselves in the line of fire. So it’s activity that we need to pursue aggressively using every lawful and appropriate tool that we have in the toolbox. I think one of the things that we have started to see more and more of that I am concerned about, this goes to your question about what can we expect to see in the future.
Director Christopher Wray: (03:07:13)
In addition to people committing violence against government buildings and law enforcement, which is a real problem, and people need to understand that it’s really happening and having real consequences. You’re also seeing now different, violent extremist groups or individuals committing violence against each other. In other words, one group shows up to pick a fight with the other group and who knows which is chicken and which is egg, but now you’ve got an additional level of combustible violence. As opposed to maybe just one category of violent extremists hijacking a particular protest, now you have both groups from opposite sides adding to the combustibility and the danger of the situation. And so we’ve certainly seen that in a number of cities and that’s a force multiplier in a bad way that I’m concerned about going forward.
Ms. Demings: (03:08:09)
Thank you so much. Mr. Chairman, may I ask one more question? Director Miller, in maybe acting director of national intelligence conducted a so-called reorganization of the National Counterterrorism Center without consulting Congress, reportedly cutting resources and staff. What is the impact of the reorganization at the NCTC’s operation?
Mr. Miller: (03:08:34)
Thank you, Congresswoman. And we owe you a briefing on that. Be happy to do that. I’ve been there for five weeks. I thought the reorganization, we cleaned up some stuff. We had some seats that weren’t being filled for a long time. So those kind of went away. So I have not seen any major issue at all with our effectiveness or efficiency. Happy to talk to you more about that.
Ms. Demings: (03:08:58)
That’d be great. So you do commit to working with Congress to discuss the resources?
Mr. Miller: (03:09:02)
Ms. Demings: (03:09:02)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chairman Thompson: (03:09:05)
Thank you very much. Chair recognizes gentlelady from Texas.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (03:09:11)
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your generosity. I just want to put on the record one question and introduce elements into the record. Is the DOJ contemplating or has it contemplated opening an investigation into domestic terrorism charges against BLM? I would like to have that on the record for a response by both our witnesses today and Black Lives Matter. And if so, what is the status? I’m going to introduce this. New York Times, federal offices deployed in Portland. Didn’t have proper training. DHS memo said. I’ll just do unanimous consent at the end, Mr. Chairman. Washington Post, ICE flew detainees to Virginia so the planes could transport agents to DC protests. A huge grown a virus outbreak followed. ABC News, death at protest from Kenosha to Portland, but motives tell a different story. This indicates who were actually involved in that.
Ms. Jackson Lee: (03:10:09)
FBI names QAnon a domestic terrorist threat. Asked unanimous consent. This is the Federal Bureau of Investigation intelligence bulletin May 30th, 2019. Esquire, years after being debunked, interest in Pizzagate is rising again. And finally political divides, conspiracy theories and divergent news sources heading into 2020 election. Pew Research Center, 43% of Republicans identify fraud as a major problem with voting by mail versus 11% Democrats. I ask unanimous consent that these be introduced into the record. I’m sorry. NPR, what is QAnon? The conspiracy theory tiptoeing into the Trump World. I ask unanimous consent that these periodicals be submitted into the record, along with those questions.
Chairman Thompson: (03:10:58)
Ms. Jackson Lee: (03:10:59)
I thank you.
Chairman Thompson: (03:11:00)
[inaudible 03:11:00] I also ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a statement, for the record, from Brian Levin director of the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Without objections, [inaudible 03:11:16]. I thank the witnesses their valuable testimony and the members for their questions. The members of the committee may have additional questions for the witnesses. And we ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to those questions. Hearing no further business, the committee stands adjourned.