QAnon conspiracy theorists potentially capable of violence are a cause of concern for the FBI, Christopher A. Wray, the bureau’s director, testified before members of the House and Senate this week.
“We’re not investigating the theory in its own right,” Mr. Wray said Thursday about QAnon. “But when it gets wrapped up in a violent criminal act, it’s something that we look at very seriously.”
Mr. Wray, whom former President Trump appointed FBI director in 2017, made the remarks while testifying in a hearing on worldwide threats held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Speaking a day earlier during a similar hearing in the Senate, Mr. Wray said the FBI plans to release an unclassified assessment “very shortly” concerning QAnon and the threat its adherents pose.
“We understand QAnon to be more of a reference to a complex conspiracy theory, or set of complex conspiracy theories, largely promoted online, which has sort of morphed into more of a movement,” Mr. Wray explained during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats Wednesday. Those theories include groundless claims about Mr. Trump fighting satanic pedophiles, among others.
Mr. Wray added that the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, such as anxiety, social isolation and financial hardship, “all exacerbate people’s vulnerability” to those conspiracy theories.
“And we are concerned about the potential that those things can lead to violence,” Mr. Wray said. “And where it is an inspiration for federal crime, we are going to aggressively pursue it.”
Testifying before members of the House committee later, Mr. Wray said the FBI is not investigating QAnon itself but considers it to be “something that in some instances may be an inspiration for violent attacks.”
Indeed, at least five “self-identified QAnon adherents” have been arrested on charges related to the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, Mr. Wray said Wednesday.