Christopher Wray Makes Changes at the FBI—So What?

 

The reputation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is in the tank and I see little reason for optimism for the future. And FBI Director Christopher Wray is only making the situation worse. Following IG Michael Horowitz’s report on FISA abuse, Wray promptly called for sweeping changes of the FBI’s procedures in submitting applications to the FISA court.

Actually, that’s not true. Wray’s proposed changes ensure that nothing much will change, primarily because he hasn’t dealt with the root problems.

Here is a summary of the changes that Wray proposed (with my comments in italics):

  • First, we are modifying our processes under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), both for initial applications and renewals, to enhance accuracy and completeness. Please notice the use of the words “enhance accuracy and completeness.” Enhancing sounds like window-dressing.
  • The FBI is a field-based law enforcement organization, and the vast majority of our investigations should continue to be worked by our field offices. Moving forward, in the very rare instance when FBI Headquarters runs a sensitive investigation, we are requiring prior approval by the FBI Deputy Director and consultation with the Assistant Director in Charge or Special Agent in Charge of the affected field offices. For some reason, I am not reassured by Wray’s requiring high-level directors to approve Headquarters’ running a “sensitive investigation.” We’ve already seen that many of those people are not trustworthy.
  • Many FBI investigations rely on human sources, but the investigative value derived from CHS-provided information rests in part on the CHS’s credibility, which demands rigorous assessment of the source. [CHS is a Confidential Human Source.] “Rigorous assessments” have been required in the FBI previously. I suspect that this requirement will also be compromised, depending on the agenda of investigators.
  • Fourth, I am establishing new protocols for the FBI’s participation in Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)-led counterintelligence transition briefings (i.e., strategic intelligence briefings) provided to presidential nominees. The FBI’s role in these briefings should be for national security purposes and not for investigative purposes. So they’re adding another level of bureaucracy. That always has successful outcomes.
  • Fifth, I am mandating a specialized, semiannual training requirement for FBI personnel at all levels who handle FISA and CHS matters. My only response is, another training program? Good grief.

I suspect I’m not the only person who is not just skeptical but cynical about the promise of these proposals. We have already seen people intentionally ignore or bypass strict FBI requirements for their own nefarious purposes, with little or no accountability. Christopher Wray, who has done nothing but soft-pedal his responses to criticisms of his department lacks the credibility and intensity of a person who must be called to make drastic changes. If he seriously wants to restore the credibility and performance of the FBI, he will have to do much, much more. Maybe the Barr/Durham report will provide the impetus to Wray’s making critical and hard-hitting decisions. Even then, how does a person change a culture that has become so infested with malfeasance and arrogance?

In closing, Director Wray wrote the following:

Finally, we will review the performance and conduct of certain FBI employees who were referenced in the Report’s recommendations — including managers, supervisors, and senior officials at the time. The FBI will take appropriate disciplinary action where warranted. Notably, many of the employees described in the report are no longer employed at the FBI.

The root problems I referred to in my opening are lack of accountability and hard-hitting solutions. The only satisfactory action will be to fire those who remain, Director Wray.

Then maybe I will believe you are serious about transforming the FBI, restoring its credibility and reassuring the country that you mean business.

There are 51 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We’ve always exaggerated the importance and integrity of the FBI.  It started with a radio program  when I was a kid.  JEH was the head then.  It was powerful, we all loved it and JEH as well.   It’s my understanding they played media politics as well ever since, carefully pick cases that work to that end. I’m not in the loop, haven’t made a study, my only experience is that in our larger embassies we had FBI representatives whom I didn’t pay attention to because they didn’t do much that I could notice.  Has there been a serious study of the role they play and who would play it in their absence? 

    • #31
  2. carcat74 Member
    carcat74
    @carcat74

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    David Carroll (View Comment):
    It would be tough job and the personal would need the guts to resist pressure and be able to swim upstream.

    That might have potential for FISA applications, but does the target even know he or she is a target? Or do they learn they’ve become a target after the application is approved? What about all the actions that were malfeasance outside of the FISA applications? Who can we trust to check those? I’m really glad you’re taking a shot at a solution, @davidcarroll; it just upsets me that we have to do it at all. Maybe we just need to regularly turn over our bureaucrats so they don’t assume they have a lifetime job, no matter what they do.

    Politicians, and more importantly, the embedded bureaucrats, need to treated like a baby with diarrhea—CHANGED OFTEN!!!

    • #32
  3. carcat74 Member
    carcat74
    @carcat74

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):

    Sorry, but I just don’t want my law enforcement officials sporting game show host hairstyles:

    Image result for christopher wray"

    Image result for bob eubanks"

    One does wonder how much money Wray spends on his appearance?

    • #33
  4. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    What existed before FISA was a select group that approved everything.  They consisted of Sec of State, the Science Advisor and I believe the National Security Advisor.  Basically they didnt approve of anything that they didnt want to see reported in the papers, cause they knew their heads would be chopped off and politically out of a job.

    This was replaced by judges who fear no political cost and like most judges cant be fired for a bad decision.  Feel any safer?

    I think the counterintelligence division and mandate needs to be removed from the FBI and given over to a new agency similar to Britains MI5.  The outlook of police officers which most FBI agents are, is not one you want to have running agents.  MI5 agents are concerned with the defense of the realm and treat there operations that way.  FBI agents are police officers and concerned with clearance rates and successful prosecutions and getting the perp put in prison.  They treat everyone like suspects that they need to put in jail.

    In my view the security of the USA has been best handled by the CIA, which except for its Directors tends to be apolitical.  The actions of the CIA in the report are limited but seem to be honest and trying to protect Carter Page.

    • #34
  5. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I Walton (View Comment):
    We’ve always exaggerated the importance and integrity of the FBI. It started with a radio program when I was a kid. JEH was the head then. It was powerful, we all loved it and JEH as well.

    That’s when it started. There were actually two radio programs, ‘This is Your FBI’ and “The FBI in Peace and War’. I enjoyed listening to those programs before there was TV. A big difference was you had to use your imagination. In the late fifties, my best friend from high school went to work at the FBI in the Identification Division. I went to Washington to live and temporarily shared an apartment with him. Without having a job lined up, I applied where he worked at the FBI. In the meantime I took a job right away as a bank teller. Later, I got an offer of a job from the FBI but having learned from my friend how the Bureau operated under Hoover and Tolson, I decided it was not for me. Just as well.

    • #35
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I Walton (View Comment):

    We’ve always exaggerated the importance and integrity of the FBI. It started with a radio program when I was a kid. JEH was the head then. It was powerful, we all loved it and JEH as well. It’s my understanding they played media politics as well ever since, carefully pick cases that work to that end. I’m not in the loop, haven’t made a study, my only experience is that in our larger embassies we had FBI representatives whom I didn’t pay attention to because they didn’t do much that I could notice. Has there been a serious study of the role they play and who would play it in their absence?

    A year ago when I was watching some noir movies from the late 40s or so on YouTube I found some of the old films meant to puff up the FBI. I had to laugh at the similarities to the films that the KGB sponsored in the 70s and onward that were meant to build up the reputation of the KGB among Russians.  Some of the latter are quite good, and some are just hack work.  

    • #36
  7. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Timely apropos post Susan. 

    FISA Judge Rosemary Collyer now declassed letter kinda puts the spotlight on and calls on the carpet our illustrious “public servant ” FBI Director Christopher Wray..

     

    From her letter via CTH:

    “The Supplemental Letter identified the ….blacked out…as the USGA and provided additional information on the mater, some of which responded to specific requests made by the Court connerning the conduct of the FBI OGC attorney ( Kevin Clinesmith) and the nature of Page’s prior reporting relationship. The United Staes noted, however, that not all of the detailed  findings  of the OIG regarding those issues were contained in the letter and the full OIG’s report, which was still being finalized, would be provided to the Court. To date, the Court has not received any part of that report in any form. The United States also noted that a separate Rule 13 letter describing other information of which it had become aware as a result of the OIG investigation was being prepared. 

    In light of the United States obligation to inform the Court of the facts and circumstances relevant to any misstatement or omission of material fact contained dina submission tot he Court immediately upon  discovery, it is hereby ORDERED than any subsequent notice to the Court  concerning additional facts and circumstances reportable under Rule 13(a)  that were discovered as a result of the OIG investigation  (whether in the form of  the full OIG report  or a separate Rule 12 (a) letter to the Court) be accompanied by an explanation of any delay between the conclusion of the OIG’s investigation and the Court’s receipt of the required reporting.

    It is further ORDERED that by written submission on or before December 20, (yesterday) the United States shall:

    (1) Identify all other matters currently or previously before this Court that involved the participation of the OGC  attorney ( Kevin Clinesmith) whose conduct was described in the Preliminary Letter and Supplemental Letter;

    (2) Describe any steps taken or to be taken by the Department of Justice or FBI to verify that the United States submissions in those matters completely and fully described the material facts and circumstances; and

    (3) Advise whether the conduct of the FBI OGC attorney ( Kevin Clinesmith) has been referred to the appropriate bar association(s) for investigation or possible disciplinary action.

    Entered this 5th day of December,2019″

    Rosemary M. Collyer, Judge, United States FISA Court

    From Sundance at CTH:

    “Judge Collyer has three questions/orders and instructs the DOJ: (1) to inform the court of what previous FISA applications Kevin Clinesmith was involved in; (2) inform the court what steps have been taken to review the potential of those applications to also contain fraudulent information; and (3) inform the court what the hell they did to punish this gross behavior from the FBI Office of Legal Counsel.”

    Director Wray was supposed to have responded YESTERDAY. WONDER WHEN WE WILL HEAR ABOUT HIS RESPONSE?

    • #37
  8. Sweezle Member
    Sweezle
    @Sweezle

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):

    Sorry, but I just don’t want my law enforcement officials sporting game show host hairstyles:

    Ouch!!!

    • #38
  9. EDISONPARKS Member
    EDISONPARKS
    @user_54742

    Sweezle (View Comment):

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):

    Sorry, but I just don’t want my law enforcement officials sporting game show host hairstyles:

    Ouch!!!

    Of course given I’m bald(balding?) my bias may be showing.

    • #39
  10. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    This was replaced by judges who fear no political cost and like most judges cant be fired for a bad decision. Feel any safer?

    Initially I felt assured by the Judge Collyer reprimand, but after reading Kimberly Strassels’s editorial (“FISA Court Owes Some Answers”) in WSJ,  it looks to me like an attempt to misdirect. I think FISC is complicit, and they ought to prepare their own plan for maintaining integrity to the Congress’ House Intelligence Committee by January 31st (a date I made up that is after Jan. 10). HIC oversees the FISA . Even though currently chaired by the Dems (Schiff), anything still must be shared with minority members. The point is the FISC doesn’t oversee the FBI, the Congress does.

    • #40
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Ray Kujawa (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    This was replaced by judges who fear no political cost and like most judges cant be fired for a bad decision. Feel any safer?

    Initially I felt assured by the Judge Collyer reprimand, but after reading Kimberly Strassels’s editorial (“FISA Court Owes Some Answers”) in WSJ, it looks to me like an attempt to misdirect. I think FISC is complicit, and they ought to prepare their own plan for maintaining integrity to the Congress’ House Intelligence Committee by January 31st (a date I made up that is after Jan. 10). HIC oversees the FISA . Even though currently chaired by the Dems (Schiff), anything still must be shared with minority members. The point is the FISC doesn’t oversee the FBI, the Congress does.

    I agree, Ray. The whole thing smells. 

    • #41
  12. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    I’d expect the agency’s top officials to be the most partisan because those are who politicians appoint and interact with. They already bear responsibility for politically sensitive investigations; absolutely for investigation of a presidential campaign.

    Oversight and training are not the points of failure. Lack of accountability is the problem. Codify and enforce punishment of abuse.

    Correct.

    Firing, demotion, disbarment and prosecution will result in instant improvement. Training is clearly not needed—these people already understand the system in great detail which is how they got around it.

    And what is the incentive for FISA judges to improve the process?  Didn’t the complete absence of useful intel and reliance on the same suspect predicate materials maybe make approval the third time for spying on Carter Page at least a tad tougher?

    Wray could have implemented at very different, much more concise policy of reform: “We all know what proper procedure is. Fail to follow it and you are fired. If you mislead, you will be prosecuted.”

    • #42
  13. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The FBI has always been prett fierce about promoting its image. That is the true legacy of Hoover.

    My father was a DOJ attorney in the 1960s. I recall him looking up from a newspaper and out of the blue declaring that Sen. Eugene McCarthy is the cleanest politician in America. This seemed to diverge from what I perceived as his political preferences at the time so I asked what made him say that.

    ”McCarthy said that J. Edgar Hoover has run the Bureau for too long and that if elected he would demand Hoover’s resignation. No other politician has dared to do that.”

    ”That makes him the cleanest?”

    ”No. what makes him the cleanest is that he called for the removal of Hoover almost a month ago and absolutely no dirt about him has appeared in the newspapers.”

    • #43
  14. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    I’d expect the agency’s top officials to be the most partisan because those are who politicians appoint and interact with. They already bear responsibility for politically sensitive investigations; absolutely for investigation of a presidential campaign.

    Oversight and training are not the points of failure. Lack of accountability is the problem. Codify and enforce punishment of abuse.

    Correct.

    Firing, demotion, disbarment and prosecution will result in instant improvement. Training is clearly not needed—these people already understand the system in great detail which is how they got around it.

    And what is the incentive for FISA judges to improve the process? Didn’t the complete absence of useful intel and reliance on the same suspect predicate materials maybe make approval the third time for spying on Carter Page at least a tad tougher?

    Wray could have implemented at very different, much more concise policy of reform: “We all know what proper procedure is. Fail to follow it and you are fired. If you mislead, you will be prosecuted.”

    These are cases where plea deals might be of value. Incarceration itself might not add much to the effectiveness of punishment but a record of a federal felony conviction plus disbarment for those who are lawyers could. Use the techniques they applied to Mike Flynn.

    • #44
  15. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The FBI has always been prett fierce about promoting its image. That is the true legacy of Hoover.

    My father was a DOJ attorney in the 1960s. I recall him looking up from a newspaper and out of the blue declaring that Sen. Eugene McCarthy is the cleanest politician in America. This seemed to diverge from what I perceived as his political preferences at the time so I asked what made him say that.

    ”McCarthy said that J. Edgar Hoover has run the Bureau for too long and that if elected he would demand Hoover’s resignation. No other politician has dared to do that.”

    ”That makes him the cleanest.”

    ”No. what makes him the cleanest is that he called for the removal of Hoover almost a month ago and absolutely no dirt about him has appeared in the newspapers.”

     

    I think this comment says a lot about Donald Trump.

    • #45
  16. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The FBI has always been prett fierce about promoting its image. That is the true legacy of Hoover.

    My father was a DOJ attorney in the 1960s. I recall him looking up from a newspaper and out of the blue declaring that Sen. Eugene McCarthy is the cleanest politician in America. This seemed to diverge from what I perceived as his political preferences at the time so I asked what made him say that.

    ”McCarthy said that J. Edgar Hoover has run the Bureau for too long and that if elected he would demand Hoover’s resignation. No other politician has dared to do that.”

    ”That makes him the cleanest.”

    ”No. what makes him the cleanest is that he called for the removal of Hoover almost a month ago and absolutely no dirt about him has appeared in the newspapers.”

     

    I think this comment says a lot about Donald Trump.

    I think so. When Mueller was appointed I thought Trump was toast. The collusion charge was always nonsense but giving people like Andrew Weissman a blank check to go through every detail of your life and then recharacterize it any way they want in order to fashion a prosecution means that you are in trouble. It is impressive that after all this from openly hostile intel and law enforcement agencies, an independent counsel and an impeachment inquiry, there is nothing they can pin on him.

    • #46
  17. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The FBI has always been prett fierce about promoting its image. That is the true legacy of Hoover.

    My father was a DOJ attorney in the 1960s. I recall him looking up from a newspaper and out of the blue declaring that Sen. Eugene McCarthy is the cleanest politician in America. This seemed to diverge from what I perceived as his political preferences at the time so I asked what made him say that.

    ”McCarthy said that J. Edgar Hoover has run the Bureau for too long and that if elected he would demand Hoover’s resignation. No other politician has dared to do that.”

    ”That makes him the cleanest.”

    ”No. what makes him the cleanest is that he called for the removal of Hoover almost a month ago and absolutely no dirt about him has appeared in the newspapers.”

     

    I think this comment says a lot about Donald Trump.

    I think so. When Mueller was appointed I thought Trump was toast. The collusion charge was always nonsense but giving people like Andrew Weissman a blank check to go through every detail of your life and then recharacterize it any way they want in order to fashion a prosecution means that you are in trouble. It is impressive that after all this from openly hostile intel and law enforcement agencies, an independent counsel and an impeachment inquiry, there is nothing they can pin on him.

    Campaign finance laws and lying to federal law enforcement are areas designed, in my opinion, to give law enforcement the latitude to control those who are inclined to operate on a clean slate. It creates a bad environment for political conflict to be turned into acts stigmatized as criminal where there is no criminal intent. 

    • #47
  18. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The FBI has always been prett fierce about promoting its image. That is the true legacy of Hoover.

    My father was a DOJ attorney in the 1960s. I recall him looking up from a newspaper and out of the blue declaring that Sen. Eugene McCarthy is the cleanest politician in America. This seemed to diverge from what I perceived as his political preferences at the time so I asked what made him say that.

    ”McCarthy said that J. Edgar Hoover has run the Bureau for too long and that if elected he would demand Hoover’s resignation. No other politician has dared to do that.”

    ”That makes him the cleanest.”

    ”No. what makes him the cleanest is that he called for the removal of Hoover almost a month ago and absolutely no dirt about him has appeared in the newspapers.”

     

    I think this comment says a lot about Donald Trump.

    Like the people who are convinced that if they could just get their hands on Trumps tax returns, then they’d finally have him.

    Ummm…the IRS has had his tax returns for years.  Never found anything to charge him with.  What makes these people think the IRS hasn’t had motivation to “find something” on Trump from far before he started running for President?

     

    • #48
  19. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The FBI has always been prett fierce about promoting its image. That is the true legacy of Hoover.

    My father was a DOJ attorney in the 1960s. I recall him looking up from a newspaper and out of the blue declaring that Sen. Eugene McCarthy is the cleanest politician in America. This seemed to diverge from what I perceived as his political preferences at the time so I asked what made him say that.

    ”McCarthy said that J. Edgar Hoover has run the Bureau for too long and that if elected he would demand Hoover’s resignation. No other politician has dared to do that.”

    ”That makes him the cleanest.”

    ”No. what makes him the cleanest is that he called for the removal of Hoover almost a month ago and absolutely no dirt about him has appeared in the newspapers.”

     

    I think this comment says a lot about Donald Trump.

    Like the people who are convinced that if they could just get their hands on Trumps tax returns, then they’d finally have him.

    Ummm…the IRS has had his tax returns for years. Never found anything to charge him with. What makes these people think the IRS hasn’t had motivation to “find something” on Trump from far before he started running for President?

     

    It is obvious but they get very motivated by what Trump won’t do. I don’t support release of tax returns by anyone because there is the IRS. I might support a review of the IRS.

    • #49
  20. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    What makes these people think the IRS hasn’t had motivation to “find something” on Trump from far before he started running for President?

    They want the details of Trump’s business deals, so they can misconstrue to their heart’s desire.

    • #50
  21. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Unsk (View Comment):

    What makes these people think the IRS hasn’t had motivation to “find something” on Trump from far before he started running for President?

    They want the details of Trump’s business deals, so they can misconstrue to their heart’s desire.

    It’s got to be quite a trick to deliver just the right case to justify tax return release in order to proceed in some criminal charge. Fishing won’t make that case.

    • #51
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.