In the News

Christopher Wray, the Unartful Dodger

Wall Street Journal: Editorial Board

House Republicans did too much grandstanding at Wednesday’s hearing with Christopher Wray, and the FBI director bobbed and weaved like the lawyer he is. But credit to Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson for zeroing in on FBI censorship of social media.

Mr. Johnson asked about the July 4 ruling by federal Judge Terry Doughty that the government “seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’” At issue was the FBI’s role in suppressing social-media posts on everything from lockdowns and Covid vaccines to the Hunter Biden laptop.

The judge found that this government intervention violated the First Amendment, and he issued a preliminary injunction barring the FBI and other federal actors from communicating with social-media platforms about content. When Mr. Johnson brought up the FBI’s role, Mr. Wray said the bureau’s concern was stopping “disinformation.”

Mr. Johnson then asked him to define disinformation. Mr. Wray declined but said the bureau’s focus is only on “malign foreign disinformation.” Mr. Johnson corrected him. “That’s not accurate,” he said. “You need to read this court opinion because you’re in charge of enforcing it.”

Mr. Wray pushed back. “What I would say is the FBI is not in the business of moderating content or causing any social media company to suppress or censor.” Mr. Johnson then pointed out, rightly, that this “is not what the court has found.”

It’s difficult to square Mr. Wray’s claims about the FBI with Judge Doughty’s finding that the bureau was part of “a massive effort to suppress disfavored conservative speech.” Mr. Wray’s unpersuasive answers on critical questions about FBI behavior will contribute to the erosion of trust in the country’s premier law enforcement agency.

His equivocation may also have unfortunate policy consequences in Congress—perhaps in reduced funding for the FBI or, more dangerously, in failure to reauthorize the government’s Section 702 surveillance authority. Americans deserve better than what Mr. Wray gave them Wednesday.