FBI Director Christopher Wray, testifying to Congress Tuesday, said that he would not describe the bureau’s traditional surveillance as “spying” — indicating a possible split with Attorney General William Barr on his controversial use of the term to describe intelligence-gathering during the Russia probe.
“That’s not the term I would use,” Wray told lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee when asked if FBI agents engage in “spying” when they follow FBI policies and procedures. “Lots of people have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes, and to me the key question is making sure that it’s done by the book, consistent with our lawful authorities.”
Both Barr and President Trump have alleged, in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, that the bureau engaged in spying against Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr said in a hearing last month. “The question is whether it was adequately predicated. …Spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”
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