Two months into his tenure as director of the FBI, Christopher Wray said Sunday his immediate priority is to bring “a sense of calm and stability” to the bureau.
“In a society sometimes fixated to a fault on results, I’m somebody who’s a big believer in the importance of integrity of process, and that’s part of how I am hoping to sort of steady the ship,” Wray said in a speech before police officials in Philadelphia.
Wray, who was handpicked by President Donald Trump in June after a month of scandal following the firing of the former FBI director, James Comey, did not mention his predecessor by name or the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
But in his speech, he described a work ethic that might prevent further controversies such as those that involved Comey, whose handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation drew criticism.
“Staying laser-focused on the mission and on the work itself — day in, day out, left foot, right foot, grinding away, following the rules, following the law, following the guidelines, trying to make sure that we’re doing the right thing but in the right way, treating everybody with respect,” Wray said. “That is the approach that I intend to pursue: steady, rock solid, dependable.”
“As my wife and kids would tell you, I’m anything but glamorous,” he said.
Wray, who headed the Justice Department’s criminal division under President George W. Bush before entering private practice as an attorney in Atlanta, said he “could not be more fired up to be back” working in law enforcement.
“Still in learning mode” — he visited 11 FBI field offices across the country in his first 11 weeks — and in “the process of determining my own long-term priorities,” Wray spoke Sunday about the importance of partnerships with local police and gave an overview of a spate of threats on the FBI’s radar, including homegrown extremism, violent crime and the opioid crisis.
“This may be the most difficult stretch in your career,” Wray said. “The threats that we face keep accumulating. They’re complex, they’re varied.”
Wray also devoted time and some of his strongest language to the problem law enforcement faces in dealing with encryption technology on mobile devices, an issue brought to prominence as a priority of Comey’s.
In the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the FBI has been unable to access content from 6,900 mobile devices despite having the proper legal authority to do so, Wray said.
“This is a gigantic problem, and it’s an urgent problem, because as horrifying as 6,900 in 11 months sounds, it’s going to be a lot worse than that in just a couple of years if we don’t come up with some responsible solution,” Wray said.
“I’m open to all ideas,” he added.