In response to questions from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Wray suggested the bureau’s hands were tied by Justice Department policy that requires a “proper predication” before being able to scan social media. The FBI, he said, cannot go out and monitor social media “just in case.”
That answer is deeply unsatisfying. There were acts of violence and widely reported threats of more in the run-up to Jan. 6. FBI internal rules would have permitted an assessment of those dangers. The FBI, along with other agencies, routinely takes actions to prepare for highly sensitive events such as the Jan. 6 certification of the electoral college results.
Indeed, although Wray did not mention this to lawmakers, the FBI’s role in preparing for such events allows the bureau, in accordance with the attorney general’s guidelines, to engage in “proactively surfing the Internet to find publicly accessible websites and services” through which the “promotion of terrorist crimes is openly taking place.”