Director discusses national security threats

by SOURCE Federal Bureau of Investigation

Washington DC—In a Spy Chat Live event, FBI director Christopher Wray participated in a wide-ranging discussion with International Spy Museum executive director Chris Costa about national security threats facing the United States and what the FBI is doing to combat them. The event was held before a live audience at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C., as well as live-streamed to online viewers.

Among the biggest threats Wray emphasized at the event was the counterintelligence threat from the Chinese Communist Party.

“I’ve been very vocal since early in my tenure that there is no country, underline no country, that represents a broader, more severe counterintelligence threat to the United States than the People’s Republic of China,” Wray said.

Key to the FBI’s ability to continue to keep Americans safe from these threats, including terrorism, espionage, and cyber attacks, Wray said, is the renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“702 authority is vital, absolutely vital, not important, not nice-to-have,vital,” Wray said, explaining that Section 702 is the authority that allows the intelligence community to conduct targeted surveillance of non-U.S. persons located abroad in national security investigations.

The government uses the information collected under Section 702 to protect the United States and its allies from hostile foreign adversaries, including terrorists, spies, and malicious foreign nation-state cyber actors.

Allowing Section 702 to expire, “would, in my view, be an act of unilateral disarmament in the face of the Chinese Communist Party,” Wray said.

Asked by a member of the audience about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the FBI’s work, Wray outlined three categories of impacts, which he said affect both the FBI’s offense and defense against the threats we face.

“We’re doing all kinds of things to try to figure out how we can responsibly use AI to go after the bad guys,” Wray said.

On defense, he said, the FBI is focusing on “the way in which AI is enhancing or enabling bad guys to be more effective in the threats that they pose.”

The third impact of AI he described is “the ways in which our foreign adversaries, especially the Chinese, are trying to steal our AI.”

He noted that the United States leads the world in AI development and that approximately 18 of the 20 most successful AI companies in the world are American.

“Needless to say,” Wray said, “that puts a gigantic bullseye on them from the Chinese government.”

While the FBI is excited about the possible benefits AI can provide, “at the moment we’re primarily focused on how we can help protect people from the ways that AI is going to be misused and is already being misused,” he said.

The event concluded with Wray answering a question from a group of high school students who were watching the event online: What advice would he give those who aspire to work for the FBI?

“We’re always recruiting,” said Wray, who earlier in the evening highlighted the quality and number of applicants to the FBI. For example, the number of Americans applying to be special agents has tripled the pace from when Wray began his tenure in 2017, reaching the highest levels in about a decade.

One of the best ways to get your foot in the door to the FBI, Wray noted, is the FBI’s Honors Intern Program, which is accepting applicants until Sept. 20 for the summer of 2024. 

While he is often asked if there is a particular course of study or job that would increase an applicant’s chances of being accepted into the FBI, Wray said, “It’s far more important that we have people who have good critical reasoning skills, good personal skills, and impeccable integrity. And if you focus on those things, that’s far more important to a path to the FBI than what major you choose or what summer job you have.

“I will say that there’s no better place to work. To have as your job to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution is a pretty incredible thing.”