Always classy, Trump has announced his choice for FBI Director in a tweet
I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2017
Wray isn’t a household name, even among civil liberty advocates, so we’re still researching those details.
Here’s what we’ve got so far (6/7/2017):
Wray is a litigation partner at King & Spalding, and served as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division at DOJ from 2003 – 2005. That’s a position that requires Senate confirmation, so we’ll be reviewing his confirmation hearing for clues to how he’ll approach the job of top cop. His time at DOJ coincided with Comey (who was Deputy Attorney General) and Mueller (who was FBI Director).
Heavy.com reports that “He was willing to resign along with Comey and Mueller in 2004, during Comey’s showdown with the White House over the plan to renew the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program while then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized.”
He also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Patriot Act in 2003.
Marcy Wheeler notes that “Wray was on the border of a lot of torture decisions in 2004 — the ACLU database of torture documents is full of entirely redacted documents involving him.” And that “Wray was involved in one of the noted field trips to Gitmo to watch torture.”
Wheeler also points out that “Wray provided inappropriate briefings to John Ashcroft about what Ashcroft’s buddies had said during FBI interviews.” That’s not a great sign. It demonstrates that “Wray is likely to ensure that highers up never see any consequences for their actions. And he sure seems likely to keep Trump in the loop on the investigation of Trump.”
That syncs with the way that Wray described his current law firm.”We’re more known for calmly and quietly diffusing a crisis or making matters go quietly away and keeping things in the middle of the road.” It’s also of note that Wray was Governor Chris Christie’s personal lawyer in the notorious “Bridgegate” scandal (Christie got off while three of his top aides were convicted of federal crimes).
Human Rights First researcher Scott Johnston looked into Wray’s connections to the torture programs while he was Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General and then Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department, positions he held from 2001-2003 and 2003-2005 respectively. He writes in an email that “Based on my research, I would characterize his involvement with the programs as limited but significant.” He notes that
Wray’s name appears in 29 different FOIA documents included by the ACLU in the Torture Database. I read what was available of all of these documents, which are heavily—if not completely—redacted. What is a certainty from the information available is that Wray has in-depth knowledge as to abuses committed by both CIA and DOD interrogators. As one excerpt demonstrates (with “ineffectiveness” being a euphemism for “torture”):
David Nahmias [editors note: quoted in the released documents] said pretty much everyone involved in terrorism at Department of Justice — including Bruce Swartz, Laura Parsky, Alice Fisher, David Nahmias, Christopher Wray, Michael Chertoff, Larry Thompson, Jim Comey, Stuart Levey at a later point, John Ashcroft and some of his senior staff, and Arthur M. Cummings and John S. Pistole and Robert S. Mueller, III — were aware of concerns about the ineffectiveness of Department of Defense interrogations. Concern about this ineffectiveness
generally, as well as concerns about effectiveness of interrogations of specific detainees, were “a repeated issue during my entire time at Justice.”
In another tantalizing piece, “At some point, Department of Justice took the position that [REDACTED]… Christopher Wray… John Ashcroft… Robert S. Mueller, III were involved in the discussion of this strategy.”
In general, it appears that the DOJ (including Wray) was aware of gross abuses by DOD interrogators for quite some time (as further elaborated by reporting in the Miami Herald), but considered themselves
incapable of intervening becau se, “investigations [were] being conducted by the Defense Department and that the Justice Department [was] awaiting a referral, if any, from the Defense Department.” Although the DOJ was waiting on the DOD to begin any MEJA investigations into their conduct, they apparently were already investigating CIA abuses. Wray was at least privy to these investigations, if not personally involved. One document demonstrates that crimes at Abu Ghraib potentially implicating both the CIA and DOD were referred to the DOJ by the CIA, and Wray—as head of the Criminal Division—was the one who received this request. Wray also appears to have followed up on the referral personally with a letter to the DOD.
Finally, a few additional facts worth knowing:
-An FBI document entitled Detainee Interviews (Abusive Interrogation Issues) has Wray’s name handwritten at the top.
-The Torture Database contains a fully redacted email sent by Wray entitled ICITAP-Iraq.
-Wray was included in a delegation (along with Alberto Gonzalez) to visit Gitmo in September 2002.
-In a 2008 hearing in the House Judiciary Subcommittee, John Yoo
mentions that Wray was one of the individuals that received a copy of a torture memo
Carol Rosenberg, whose reporting on Guantanamo for the Miami Herald has been invaluable provides this insight:
President Donald Trump’s choice for FBI director was notified months before the public knew about the death of a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004, and was at the very least on the fringes of discussions on the legality of military interrogation techniques in 2003, documents from Wray’s time in the post- 9/11 Bush administration show.
Read the whole article here.
And Ron Paul (former member of Congress and candidate for President) issued the following statement:
The United States Constitution makes no provision for a national police force. Unfortunately, Congress is unlikely to dismantle the FBI any time soon, so the best we can hope for is an FBI Director committed to ensuring the bureau does not violate our constitutionally-protected rights.
Christopher Wray’s work on the Bush Administration’s torture program, and his history of defending the PATRIOT Act, suggests he does not understand the limits placed on the government by the Constitution, the philosophy of individual liberty that forms the basis of our system of government, and even basic human decency.