The FBI is opening a new counterintelligence probe of Chinese-linked threats “every 10 hours,” bureau Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Thursday, underscoring the threat Beijing poses to U.S. interests.
Overall the FBI has more than 2,000 counterintelligence investigations on China, which is “by far the biggest chunk” of the bureau’s counterintelligence work, Mr. Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee.
“The scope and scale off this threat is really breathtaking, he told the House Homeland Security Committee.
He was testifying as part of an annual hearing on threats to the U.S.
He said Russia is “very active” in trying to influence the election through social media and other discord-sowing means, but the intelligence community has not seen attempts to hack the elections infrastructure like it did in 2016.
Mr. Wray said Russia’s efforts are “primarily to denigrate Vice President [Joseph R.] Biden and what the Russians see as an anti-Russia establishment” in Washington.
Mr. Wray was joined at the hearing by National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller. There was an empty seat left for acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who declined to appear, citing a tradition that officials who have a pending nomination before the Senate don’t testify outside of the confirmation process.
Committee Chair Bennie G. Thompson said Mr. Wolf had agreed to appear, but withdrew that commitment after he was officially nominated earlier this month. The Mississippi Democrat issued a subpoena last week to try to force Mr. Wolf to testify, but he didn’t show.
“That he would refuse to come before the committee after committing to do so should appall every member of this committee,” Mr. Thompson said.
Homeland Security had offered to have the No. 2 official at the department, Ken Cuccinelli, appear instead. Mr. Thompson did not accept that offer.
Mr. Cuccinelli then publicly released his testimony he would have delivered.
One reason Democrats wanted Mr. Wolf to appear was to pursue questions about the danger posed by white supremacists.
Republicans, meanwhile, wanted to hear about the dangers from left-wing organizations they characterized as “Antifa.”
Without Mr. Wolf in attendance, those questions went to Mr. Wray, who said the FBI sees violence from a wide range of ideologies.
But he pushed back against suggestions from both sides that organizations are pulling the strings.
“Much of the violence we’re seeing it does not appear to be organized or attributed to any one particular group or movement,” he said.