tv FBI Director James Comey Oversight Hearing Testimony CSPAN December 10, 2015 11:20pm-2:13am EST
american history tv, always weekend, every weekend, only on c-span3. fbi director james comey testified before the senate judiciary committee yesterday. he discussed the san bernardino, california, shootings and released new information about the suspects. the director also touched on several challenges facing the fbi including data encryption and ability of isis to create foreign passports. this is about 2 hours and 50 minutes. director comey, we welcome you and thank you for coming. the fbi's mission is to protect us from most dangerous threat facing our nation. the deadly attacks in paris last month and california last week confirm that radical islamic terrorism continues to be such a threat regardless of whether that's politically correct or
convenient for our president. isis is a determined enemy, executing a plan to gain and hold territory, enrich itself, inspire followers worldwide and launch deadly attacks against the west, and the american people are very worried. not just about terrorism, but about our president's inability or unwillingness to rally the country, to lead our international partners to develop a credible strategy to destroy isis, and to execute that strategy. we are now paying a price for that weakness. at almost every turn, events have proven the president wrong about isis. in august 2012, he drew a red line warning the assad regime not to use chemical weapons in syria. but the president backed down after assad gassed his own
people and isis blossomed in the chaos that followed. january 2012, the president referred to isis as a jv or junior varsity. it promptly spent the next six months concurring territory across syria and iraq. in august that same day, our president conceded that he didn't have a strategy to defeat isis. a year and a half later he remains without a coherent one. even former secretary clinton admitted other day that we're not winning the fight. the president has been hoping that isis will go away because its existence doesn't fit a preferred political narrative. but hope is not strategy. hope is not a plan. and hope is not action. and all the while the drum beat of attacks on the united states
continued. in may, there was an attack on a convention center in texas. in june, police were forced to shoot a knife wielding isis supporter on the streets of boston. in july, we had the attack on military facilities, chattanooga. director comey as of october reported the fbi was engaged in 900 active domestic investigations against suspected isis-inspired operatives and other radicalized extremists. and he estimated that approximately 250 americans have left the united states and travelled to syria to fight with isis or tried to do so. none the less, in november, the president assured that isis was contained. but the very next day, it inflicted the deadliest islamic terrorist attack in europe in over a decade, a coordinated assault across paris that killed 130 and injured over 350. a few weeks later, in san
bernardino, two of its apparent supporters executed the deadliest such attack on the homeland since september the 11th. unfortunately, our president has responded to this crisis by trying to divide us and distract us. in fact, he is doubling down in this strategy. after reports suggested that one of the paris terrorists possessed a syrian passport and entered europe as a refugee, many expressed concern about the procedures used to screen refugees coming to the united states from syria. director comey expressed similar concerns in october. he warned that there are gaps in the information we have to vet people coming out of a war zone. and he warned that letting anyone coming to the united states carries some risk. we can point to the brothers who
bombed boston marathon as an example of terrorists who were granted asylum here. our president responded to the concerns expressed by many americans by mocking them for being afraid of orphans and widows. events continue to prove our president's spectacularly wrong. as it turns out, women are radical islamist terrorists, too, apparently to the president's surprise. we now know that miss malik, one of the san bernardino attackers, arrived in the united states on a fiancee visa. this is another example of the failure of the screening process for those entering the united states. our government apparently didn't catch the false address in pakistan that she listed on her application. to top it all off, earlier this week we learned that the national center has identified individuals with ties to terrorists in syria who are attempting to enter the united
states through the refugee program. i guess that was one intelligence report the administration couldn't shade to fit its preferred conclusions. now it always bears repeating, legitimately so, that islam is not our enemy. radical islamist terrorists are our enemy, however. the vast majority of muslims in this country and around the world are non-violent and law abiding. we all should oppose in no uncertain terms any violence or intimidation against muslims for practicing their religion. but i fear one of the reasons for the regrettable backlash against muslims in this country is the public's frustration with the president's repeated failure to acknowledge the actual nature
of the threat that we face, his reluctance to utter the words radical islamic terrorism. our president has also concluded to divide us, deride, and distract us with the issue of gun control. to the president, radical islamic terrorism is never to blame. terrorists aren't deterred by gun control. strict european gun control laws did not stop the paris attack. california's assault weapon ban didn't stop san bernardino's massacre. now the obama administration argues that allowing foreigners to buy guns who enter the united states through the visa waiver program is a problem. i agree. but at the same time, the administration's apparently -- the administration apparently is fine with allowing refugees,
asylum seekers and people on deferred action and other non-citizens who are not legal permanent residents to buy guns. that makes no sense, with a few exceptions, we need to prevent all these people from buying guns. the administration's current fixation on guns and the visa waiver program can be explained though because it's another area where the administration's actions have made americans less safe. in fact, an opinion from obama's justice department required the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms to change its policies to prevent persons arriving from visa waiver countries to buy guns and the administration's remove the longstanding requirement that non-citizens, at least establish residency for 90 days in the state where they want to purchase guns. these 90 days could be crucial in a terrorism investigation. so when we address the issue of foreigners in the united states
buying guns, we need to be comprehensive about it, not just clean up the mess that this administration created. finally, our friends on the other side of the aisle have attempted to divide us, deride us and distract us with proposals to deny the right to purchase firearms to those on various terror watch lists including no fly list. the incident in california and the terrorists connected with it were apparently not on any terrorist watch list. so such a proposal wouldn't have stopped that attack. in addition, the president's claim that, quote, people we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the united states and buy a firearm and there's nothing we can do to stop them, end of quote, just isn't true. the fbi is notified when somebody on the no fly list attempts to purchase a gun and can take steps to ensure that a
gun doesn't fall into the wrong hands. so the president and others have been misleading the american people on that matter. but the more fundamental point is, while these lists are useful in keeping us safe, they are the result of the executive branch's unilateral decision to put people on them without any notice or opportunity to be heard. as a result, they can be unreliable. and it isn't just constitutional to continue to condition a fundamental right to keep and bear arms on an administrative list that lacks that kind of due process. we couldn't consider conditioning any other constitutional right such as freedom of speech or religion on unreasonable searches and seizures on such a process. that's why it is so surprising that this president, a former constitutional law professor, and so many of his political party would support a scheme.
the fact is, law enforcement hasn't raised gun purchases by people on terrorist watch lists as a huge problem. i know director comey knows how to tell us when you have to confront a serious obstacle in keeping us safe. at our hearing in july, we heard of the talk from director comey about going dark, a problem in the increase use of encrypted testimony. i hope i have the support of the director in strengthening the whistle-blower law for the fbi. i also have questions about the fbi's investigation into former secretary clinton's e-mail arrangement.
the fbi's potential role in facilitating ransom payments, its use the spyware and on going efforts that correct injustices that result from flawed forensic work. i apologize for a longer statement. but i also think that these are things that we don't discuss enough, and we have the opportunity today to discuss them. now it is senator leahy's turn. please, take all the time you need. i know you will anyway. >> the federal bureau of investigation as we know is entrusted with enormous responsibility, not only
enforcing our laws but protecting the nation. no matter what the threat. no matter what the motivation of those threatening us, the fbi is told, keep us safe. on any given day, the fbi agents around the country investigating cases involving not only terrorism but violent crime, gangs, cybercrime, identity theft, fraud, human tracking, hate crime, child exploitations. and they know there's no simple answer. for example, when the greatest terrorist attacks in this country by timothy mcveigh happened, none of us said after that, well, we have to exclude people who served in the military or people of timothy mcveigh's religion. instead, we went and found out what he had done and how we might stop others from doing the same thing. the events of the past six months have underscored the varied nature of the threats the fbi faces.
this past june, nine african-american church goers were murdered by a white supremacist during a bible study in charleston. the day after thanksgiving, three individuals, including a police officer, were shot to death inside a woman's health clinic in colorado springs. last week, 14 county workers in san bernardino were murdered in a shooting rampage. none of these seem related. all of them had different causes and motivations among those shooting. the director may not be able to share all the details about these investigations today, but i believe we can agree there's one common motivating factor behind each of these heinous crimes, and that's hateful extremism. the churchgoers who were
murdered, the women -- the people in the women's health clinic and people in san bernardino, hateful extremism coming from different directions. so i think it reminds us to be vigilant against all forms of violent extremism. i would hope that nobody underestimates the incredible difficult job of protecting the country from terrorists' threats. we can try to put all the blame on any one person. that's fine. but it's not one person. it's all of us. we have to support the law enforcement intelligence officials who work to protect our nation by giving them the tools and resources they need to do their job effectively. as we have heard from many law enforcement officials, we have to continue the very hard work sometimes of building trust in our communities among neighbors
and with law enforcement so we can all share the responsibility of keeping our communities safe. at the same time, i wish we would all categorically reject the divisive rhetoric of fear that only serves to undermine. us as a nation. we know what happens when we succumb to the politics of fear and lose sight of our fundamental american values. fear is what drove the government to violate the constitution and imprison thousands of americans of japanese decent during world war ii. fear is what fuelled to jest fication of torture by the cia, which director comey, you objected to when you were at the bush justice department and i applaud you for that. i know the director reminds all
of his new agents that the rhetoric of fear led j. edgar hoover to target martin luther king jr. and the others during the 1960s. if we give in to this sort of fear, then that way the terrorists and extremists win. they want us to be afraid. they want us to be a nation divided. groups like isis, for example, actively promote the narrative around the world that muslims are not welcome in the united states. certainly some of the, what i call, reprehensible and unconstitutional comments by some allow them to spread that false notion around the world. when there is talk about rounding up all muslim americans or creating a registry based on religious beliefs or shutting our borders to all muslims, that's a sort of xenophobic hateful rhetoric that plays into our enemy's hands.
it also demeans us as a democratic nation founded on the principals of freedom, equality and liberty. we americans are better than that. let's not -- let's not succumb to fear and give an image that is not the great country that brought my grandparents and my great grandparents here. we're a courageous and strong country. our strength comes from our commitment to the morals and principals that keep our country great and a beacon of democracy to the rest of the world. the senate at its best can be the conscience of the nation. recent events demand that we start trying to be at our very best. we're not afraid of terrorists. we should not let our country be defined by irresponsible fear
mongering. we should continue the committee's bipartisan oversight of the fbi in other areas. three years ago the fbi learned the flawed microscopic hair comparison analysis was used in thousands of criminal prosecutions. now, frankly, i'm not satisfied by the fbi's efforts to even notify those defendants who might be affected by faulty evidence. the fbi should be sending agents out to gather the relevant information. the lives of potentially innocent americans, including some on death row, depend on this. in addition, i will continue to work with senator grassley to ensure that whistle-blowers at the fbi are afforded adequate protection. i thank director comey for coming before the committee today. i have known the director for years. i know he shares my respect for the constitution and my faith in
american people that we can rise above the divisive rhetoric of fear, because we're americans. we should be better than that. and i believe we are. thank you. >> since this is an oversight hearing, i would like to swear. do you -- let me start over. do you -- let me start over again. do you affirm that the testimony you are about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? thank you. i assume the director of the fbi needs no introduction but i would like to read a short introduction. it's a pleasure to introduce you to the committee. director comey became the director of the fbi 2013. you served as deputy general and u.s. attorney in new york and an assistant u.s. attorney in virginia. he is a graduate of william & mary and the university of chicago law school. welcome.
proceed with your testimony, however long you want to take. >> thank you, mr. chairman, members of the committee, it's good to be back before you. as every member of this in the knows, the fbi has a very broad array of responsibilities to address a staggering array of threats that face our country in terrorism and counterintelligence and in criminal matters. the key to us doing that well is the great people of the fbi. and i so appreciate your support for them. they are the magic of the fbi. the best part of my job is to get to know those people and to watch them work. and so i'm very grateful for the support of this committee for those good folks. what i thought i would do is start with our top priority, which is counter terrorism and tell you a little bit more about how we're approaching the attack
in san bernardino. the members of this committee know very well that the terrorist threat we face today comes at us from a number of groups most prominently today from the group that calls itself the islamic state. the threat from the islamic state has three dimensions. one, they aspire to send operatives to attack the united states and its allies. second, they aspire to attract people to come to the so-called caliphate to fight and achieve glory somehow from being in that savage place. last, where they can't send or attract, inspire, direct, they hope to radicalize in their home and to kill innocent people on behalf of these terrorist groups. in paris, we saw one dimension of that threat, which was the sending of operatives to attack and kill innocent people. in san bernardino we saw last week a different dimension, which is the home grown radical extremist, radicalizing in place in order to kill innocent people on behalf of a foreign terrorist organization, to claim a foreign terrorist organization and try to give it credit for acts of violence. to find home grown violent
extremists, to find those radicalizing being inspired by terrorist groups is a very, very hard thing. all of you know from overseeing our work, we work at it every single day. we use all the lawful tools that you have given us on behalf of the american people. critical to our finding those people who are radicalizing in their homes is tips from the community. we have worked very, very hard to develop good relationships in communities all across the country, especially in muslim communities where we have terrific relationships. those good people so often tell us when they see something that doesn't make sense. we are very grateful for that help. we also want those folks to know that one of our responsibilities is to investigate civil rights cases and hate crimes. we want people to know if you think someone is terrorizing you or threatening you based on your national origin or religion, please tell us so we can inve investigate that. we're all in this together. san bernardino involved two killers who were radicalized for quite a long time before their attack. in fact, our investigation to
date, which i can only say so much about at this point, indicates that they were actually radicalized before they started courting or dating each other online. online as late as -- as early as the end of 2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and then married and lived together in the united states. we also believe they were inspired by foreign terrorist organizations. we're working very lard to understand exactly their association and the source of their inspiration. we're also working very hard to understand whether there was anybody else involved with assisting them, with supporting them, with equipping them. we're working very, very hard to understand, did they have other plans either for that day or earlier, and that work continues. critical to that work is the support we get from state and local law enforcement through our joint terrorism task forces. those 100 or so task forces are the backbone of this country's counterterrorism response.
we are extremely grateful for our help from state and local law enforcement. if you needed any confirmation of the quality and talent of the people in local law enforcement, saw is that day in san bernardino, when highly professional officers stopped what might have been more tragedy, more violence. as you mentioned, mr. chairman, i want to give you a brief report in my opening about where we are with respect to the challenge of encryption to our hardest work, to our criminal work. we have had good conversations with the folks in the tech sector and different parts of this great country of ours. those conversations have convinced me of two things which are both good news. the first is, we care about the same things. the tech companies and the fbi and everybody else involved in this discussion both care about safety on the internet. we understand that encryption is a very important part of being
secure on the internet. we also all care about public safety. we also all see a collision between those things right now. we see that encryption is getting in the way of our ability to have court orders effective to gather information we need in our most important work. we all agree we have to figure out whether we can maximize both of those values. safety and security on the internet and public safety. that's good news. we're not at war. we care about the same things. the second piece of good news is all the conversations have actually convinced me, it's not a technical issue. there are plenty there are lots of folks who have said over the last year or so, we're going to break the internet, have unacceptable insecurity if we try to get to a place where court orders are complied with. i think it's not a technical issue. there are plenty of companies today that provide secure services to their customers and still comply with court orders. there are folks who make good phone and are able to unlock them. the makers of phones that can't be unlocked, a year ago they could be unlocked. i don't think it's a technical issue. people also i think better understand today the government
doesn't want to back door. the government hopes to get to a place where if a judge issues an order, the company figures out how to supply the information to the judge and figures out on its own what would be the best way do that. the government shouldn't be telling people how to operate their systems. we are in a good place in terms of what we understand about our values. we realize it's not a technical issue. it's a business model question. lots of good people have designed their systems and their devices so that judges' orders cannot be complied with. the question we have to ask is, should they change their business model? that's a very, very hard question. lots of implications to that. we have to wrestle well it because of what's at stake. i'm limited what i can say about paris and about san bernardino. but let me give you a recent example. in may, when two terrorists attempted to kill a whole lot of people in garland, texas and were stopped by the action of great local law enforcement,
again, that morning before one of those terrorists left to try and commit mass murder, he exchanged 109 messages with an overseas terrorist. we have no idea what he said because those messages were encrypted. to this day i can't tell you what he said with that terrorist 109 times the morning of that attack. that is a big problem. we have to grapple with it. i very much appreciate this committee's support for grappling with the hard questions around this. we must resolve the collision of those two values. then i will finish, mr. chairman, i apologize for running over my time, with a word to the folks who may be watching us at home. i know and the members of this committee know how unsettling seeing this violence in paris and in san bernardino is to the good people of this country. my hope is that they will not allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear but instead to channel that fear into something healthy, which is an awareness of your surroundings.
in case after case after case we see that when someone radicalized, somebody saw something, either online or in a school or at home, and didn't tell us about it. we hope that what people will do is not imagine these savages of isil or of al qaeda as something bigger than they are, not imagine them in the shadows. that's exactly what these savages want. instead, be aware of your surroundings. if he see something, tell us. we investigate in secret so we do not smear innocent people. we will not race next door and bang on your neighbor's door. if no harm was there, no harm will be done. but if it was something, we may be able to stop them -- something significant. my request of the american people is, don't let these savages paralyze you. if you see something that seems out of place, tell one of us. thanks to the work of this committee, we are better organized today than we were on september 11th. if you tell a police officer, if you tell a deputy sheriff you saw something that doesn't make sense, we will get it to the right place. we will check it out. we will see whether it was something.
you, i hope, will go on with your lives. i pay us to do counterterrorism. we're not perfect. we are good at this. we cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by what these people are hoping to achieve. that's what i hope the american people will take from the unsettling experience of watching what goes on in san bernardino and paris. with that, i apologize for going over my time. i look forward to our questioning. >> no need to apologize for going over your time. your reputation in both republican and democrat administrations is to call it like it is. the american people are lucky to have a person like you particularly because you have a ten-year term to really do your job right. director comey, earlier this week we learned that the national counterterrorism center has identified individuals with ties to terrorists in syria who are attempting to enter the united states through the
refugee program. you have acknowledged that there are gaps in the information that we -- in screening syrian refugees. but isn't it true that it isn't -- it's not just a lack of information that we have to worry about with people coming from syria, after all isis controls a large part of the country, including former syrian government offices and facilities, presumably it has the personal information of many innocent syrians, it has virtually unlimited funds. so now my question. are you concerned that isis has the ability to create fraudulent passports or other identification documents for its operatives that has a practical -- that's a practical matter it would be almost impossible to detect? >> yes, mr. chairman, the intelligence community is concerned that they have the
ability -- the capability to manufacture fraudulent passports, which is a concern in any setting. >> next point dealing with terrorists and the purchase of firearms, last week our president stated that there are have is who can't get on planes but they can go to a gun shop and buy a firearm and, quote -- he said nothing we can do to stop them. but -- and correct me if i'm wrong -- the fbi is notified when someone on the terrorist watch list attempts to purchase a firearm and a nix check is requested. the fbi has multiple avenues that they can pursue. these are some of these avenues. delay the firearms transaction and if the person is actually a terrorist, the fbi can arrest
them for any crime for which there is probable cause, in addition, the fbi can intervene and directly confront the individual. the fbi can also put the suspect on what's called around the clock surveillance. my question, aren't these some of the tools available to the fbi to stop a suspected terrorist from buying a gun? >> mr. chairman, you are right, there are a variety of things that we do when we are notified that someone on our known or suspected terrorist database is attempting to buy a firearm. the fbi is alerted when that triggered. and then we do investigation to understand, are there disqualifiers that we're aware that was could stop the transaction? if the transaction goes through, the agents who are assigned to that case, to that subject, are alerted so they can investigate.
>> i thank you very much for that clarification. so there are then actually many things that can be done, done right now, to stop someone on a no fly list from buying a gun and then that leads me to say that our president is misrepresenting the facts and misleading the american people on that point. next question, in july you testified before this committee about going dark. you have already commented on some of this, but i want to be more specific. and members from both political parties expressed serious concerns about the use of strong encryption by terrorists and criminals. i followed up with questions for the record. and i asked for data about the scope of the problem. at that time, the administration declined to ask for legislative solution. and i asked for time to work --
the administration asked for time to work with technology companies. but the attacks in paris and california have generated increased alarm about the problem. so question, when is the fbi going to respond to my questions relating to that hearing? that's not the most important part i'm trying to bring out here. could you update us about what is known about the role encryption may have played in these attacks? i know you have already said that you are limited in what you can say. but whatever you can tell us, do it. and finally, what is the state of your conversations with the technology companies to address that problem? you may have expressed that in your opening statement. the last part. >> thank you, mr. chairman. at your request and the request of other senators, we are collecting data concerning the ways in which encryption is affecting our ability to implement court orders for data in motion, that is e-mails or phone calls, and data at rest that is sitting on devices.
i don't know exactly when i'm going to get that to you. that work is in progress. it will show it's a significant& impact and growing across our work, terrorism and criminal cases. with respect to our conversations with the -- first of all, the second piece, with respect to its role in cases, i don't want to talk about paris yet or san bernardino, because we're doing a lot of work with respect to those now. there's no doubt that the use of encryption is part of terrorist trade craft now, because they understand the problems we have getting court orders to be effective when they are using these mobile messaging apps especially that are end to end encrypted. we see themt talking about that all over the world. it's a feature of isil's trade craft. last, the conversations with the companies have been good. like i said, they have made clear to me that we're not at war with each other. we care about the same things. it's also made clear to me that it's really not a technological problem. we're not going to break the internet or expose us to
tremendous insecurities of different kinds by requiring -- getting to a place where companies comply with court order because lots of good companies do today. it's a business model question. good people have made a decision to design products and sell products where court orders are ineffective. i'm not impugning their motives. i understand they see it as a competitive issue or they think it's the right thing to do. the question we have to ask ourselves is, is there a way to get folks to change their business model so the judges' orders will be complied with? if that can't be done voluntarily, what are the other alternatives? these conversations continue within the executive branch and with our private sector partners. >> i could start another question but it would take too long to answer. i think i will go to senator leahy so we can kind of keep on time here. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i just want to follow up on a question that senator grassley asked you about the fbi being notified if somebody on a no fly
list or that type of list was buying a weapon. if they buy it at a gun show where there's no reporting, you are not notified, are you? >> that's correct. >> and if they buy it on an internet sale, you are not notified, are you? >> correct. >> and even if they go to a gun dealer who has to notify you, but there's not a lot you can do about it, is that correct? >> unless, as i said, we find some disqualifier under the law. if we don't find one of those things, there's nothing we can do to stop it. >> so the president's statement, somebody on a no fly list or on the watch list can go and buy weapons in the united states is correct? >> there's no prohibition connected to the no fly list, that's correct. >> thank you very much. i wanted to make sure that was clear.
you talked -- right after you were confirmed you spoke about the detrimental impact of sequestration, a hiring freeze on criminal and counterterrorism investigation. i happen to agree very much with what you said. but i understand you are still in the process of trying to place all the agents loss due to sequestration, is that correct? >> that's correct. we're still trying to dig out of that hole. >> so when you can finally hire, you have to train them, then you have to get them into investigations. so this sequestration -- i don't want to put words in your mouth. but is that having a long-term affect on the fbi's ability to fight crime and terrorism? >> yes. >> thank you. and what would be the impact on the fbi and congress could not come to an agreement on an omnibus appropriation bill and pass another long-term spending resolution?
>> well, if we return to the impact of sequestration that were kicking in when i started this job, it would be a disaster because we're just digging out of the hole. to return to a place where we have to ration gas and shut down quantico and choose which people to interview based on how much gasoline we have in our tanks, that doesn't make any sense to me. it would be a big, big deal. >> without going into it here, some of the worse case scenarios you described to me privately and they are chilling. now we've had a lot of talk about our refugees. i want to clarify a few facts. refugee program presents the longest and most complicated path for entry into the united states, and refugees do not get to pick which country they are sent to. they are vetted more intensely than any other category of
traveller. the vetting is conducted before any refugee can get on an airplane to come here. the process can take years. that's why i agree with former national security leaders like general petraeus and secretary hagel and general scocoff that wrote to congress that turning our backs on refugees would be contrary to us being open and would undermine our combating terrorism. along with the secretary of homeland security and the director of national intelligence, each and every refugee application would be reviewed. is that really feasible? >> first of all, with the intention for me to do it personally, that would be very, very hard. but even as i understood the ask, it was could i certify to there being no risk associated with an individual. again, the bureau doesn't take
positions on ledge lakes and we don't get involved in policy decisions. that practically would be impossible. >> so it would make our refugee program impossible also? >> logically, if someone could only come in the country if i were to certify to that, it would. >> thank you. we often hear from law enforcement the hateful and ignorant anti-immigrant talk harms the ability of law enforcement to do its job. we hear some say we should close our borders to all people of a certain religious faith or track people because they have certain religious beliefs. i worry these kind of proposals feed what are the real lies that isis spreads, that the u.s. is anti-muslim and they use that as a tool to recruit new members, is that correct? >> the notion that the u.s. is anti-muslim is part of isil's
narrative and able's narrative and other terrorist groups. >> thank you. earlier this year, this committee in a bipartisan fashion approved a sentencing reform bill that reduces, doesn't eliminate but reduces mandatory minimum sentences. i've said often times publically i would like to see an end to all mandatory minimums, but it's a good step in reforming our a good step in reforming our criminal justice system. captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 captioning performed by vitac their support for this compromise bill. do you agree that it strikes a reasonable balance? >> well, senator, as you know, we don't take positions on legislation. because i spent my career as a
prosecutor, it's an irarea of interest of mine. i read the bill. my reaction was it's reasonable the things that are discussed in there. i have found mandatory minimums -- i have found mandatory minimums to be an important part of making some of the most important cases i was involved with. but i think that the reform, as i understand it, seems reasonable to me. >> the fraternal order of police has strongly opposed a provision to this. we don't have one in the bipartisan bill, which was negotiated, republicans and democrats. they say such a provision in this bill -- doesn't mean we can't look at mention rit -- do any views? >> i don't. i know it's a subject of interest. i don't know it well enough.
i don't know enough to say. >> lastly, i keep pushing for the bullet proof vest partnership bill which senator campbell of colorado and i started. you have the resources to equip your agents with body armor. would you agree that it's really important that local law enforcement have body armor? >> very much. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator leahy, you probably asked the right question and the director answered it right. but also, the director answered my question right about whether the president was misleading. and that's because in the president's televised address -- i think it was vetted -- stated that someone on the no fly list could walk into a gun store and buy a gun and there was nothing
that could be done about it. so the president said nothing about going to a gun show or the internet to buy a gun. the director agreed with what i said about that at that time. now, the order is going to be -- >> mr. chairman, i want to make sure that i wasn't heard to be saying i think the president was misleading. i'm not trying to take shots at anybody. i was trying to answer the questions about what are our capabilities in that regard. >> thank you very much. i made the statement. you didn't make it. the order at the fall of the gavel is going to be gram and lee. after, hatch, flake, purdue and sessions. and then i will have senator leahy tell me who the next democrat will be. >> that would be feinstein. >> senator feinstein after senator graham. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to echo what the chairman said about your service as fbi
director. i think we're lucky to have you the. if i buy a gun on the internet, is it delivered to my home? >> if you buy a gun on the internet? >> if i try to buy a gun on the internet, where do i pick it up? >> i assume it's shipped to you. but i don't know for sure, actually. >> okay. let's find out the answer to that. okay. do you agree with the following statement? there are more terrorist organizations with men, equipment and safe havens along with desire to attack the american homeland any time since 9/11? >> i agree. >> do you agree the budget cuts that congress has imposed in the past has reduced your ability to defend this nation? >> i agree. >> do you believe that the budget cuts that will go back into affect in two years will dramatically harm your ability and your agent's' ability to
defend this country if sequestration kicks back in? >> i agree. >> thank you. do you agree that rhetoric coming from political candidates running for president wanting to shut america down based on someone's religion empowers the enemy? >> i'm trying to avoid taking shots at anyone, as i said. >> just strike presidential candidates and put a widget. >> i do believe that our ability to get cooperation in the united states, which is my primary responsibility, our primary responsibility, depends upon people trusting us and having a level of comfort with us. and estrangement getsus. and estrangement gets in the way of that. >> do you agree with me that if you're a soldier, diplomat, or agent serving in the mid east right now can put you in jeopardy? >> people who know better than i
have said that, so i credit that. >> was the woman shooter in san bernardino radicalized before she came to america? >> it looks like she was. so far the -- what data we have collected, the intelligence suggests she was before she connected with the other killer and came here. >> is there any evidence that this marriage was arranged by a terrorist organization or terrorist operative, or was it just a meeting on the internet? >> i don't know the answer to that yet. >> do you agree if it was arranged by a terrorist operative organization that is a game changer? >> it would be a very, very important thing to know. that's why we are working so hard to understand it. >> that's the biggest focus i think of how they could arrange a marriage of two like-minded individuals using the visa system to get into the country. >> isil.
is it their goal to strike the american homeland. >> one of them, yes. >> it's not their only goal but it is one of their goals. is that correct? >> that's correct. >> do you believe isil cells are already here in america? >> i don't have reason to believe that. it's something that we constantly look for. >> do you have any doubt they are trying to create one in they don't have one today. >> no. they are trying to do two things. they are trying to motivate people already in the united states to become killers on their behalf. and they would very much like to be the leader in the global jihad, accepted people here to conduct attacks. it is that second piece we have not seen yet. >> that's what you have to guard against every day. they have to be right only once. you have to be right every day. in that's right. and the less resources you have and the longer it takes you to find out what's going on, if you can't listen to the conversations constitutionally appropriate way then the enemy has an advantage over you,
correct? >> correct. >> is it fair to say they wake up every day and lock up ways to think about hitting us here? >> some of them do for sure. >> is it fair to say the paris attack was a very sophisticated well-planned attack that came from syria? >> yes. >> is it fair to say that those people who planned the terrorist attack would hit us here at home if they could? >> yes. >> how many countries does isil have a presence in? >> sitting here, i can't give you a precise count. >> more than syria and iraq? >> oh, certainly. >> i think there are a couple thousand now in libya that took gadhafi's hometown. >> they claim branches in more than five. between 5 and 10. the question whether they have a presence is something we're focused on here. but it's more than five. >> can you give us any time period you think isil will be destroyed? >> i cannot.
>> can you think of any means that we should take off the table that's constitutional in terms of fighting isil? is there anything you want to take off the table in terms of fighting isil as long as it meets our constitutional requirements? >> well, i think i'm only qualified to speak about the world that the fbi sits in. and we use all lawful tools that congress gives us to try to meet this threat. so i would not take any tool off the table that is lawful. >> right. and when it comes to tools, you're using all the ones you have because this is a very consequential fight? >> yes. >> what do you think the likelihood of another 9/11 against the homeland will be if we don't destroy the caliphate in syria? and iraq in the next year? >> that's certainly a hard question for me to answer. their ability to have a safe
haven from which to gather resources people plan and plot increases their risk of their ability to mount a sophisticated attack against the home land. >> so the best strategy would be, at least in the short-term, they're large, they're rich, then entrenched, is to make them small, poor, and on the run. would that be a good approach to isil? >> that makes sense. my understanding is that is the aim. >> so it fair to say that other countries want to help america in this fight and we do not need to go it alone? >> certainly dealing with the fbi, we have tremendous cooperation. >> which country has the most gun control laws, united states or france? >> i don't know. >> would you check into is that? >> sure. >> because i just want everybody to know that gun control is a legitimate debate here at home. it is not part of a strategy to destroy isil. that the laws in fans are very
robust, but terrorists got the weapons. don't mix the two. thank you very much. >> mr. feinstein? >> thank you very much, senator hatch. welcome, director comey. thank you for your good work. i was just reading a report "isis in america," program on extremism at george washington. they say 71 individuals have been arrested on charges related to the islamic state since march of 2014. and 56 of them this year alone. is that correct? >> i don't know whether the precise numbers are right. but roughly that strikes me as correct. >> okay. the last time you were here you mentioned that you have an investigation going in every fbi field office in the country. is that correct today? >> yes. >> okay. i wanted to ask you -- i was at home and i was watching on
television when i saw press and others going through the apartment of the couple in san bernardino that committed this terrible act. and i was appalled that it wasn't taped off. because from an intelligence point of view, it immediately compromised any future intelligence gathering from any trace materials or anything else. how did that happen? >> yeah. a lot of folks i think found that confusing. that is our -- what i believe great criminal justice system in action in part. the way it works is we get a search warrant. it allows us to enter someone's residence. our experts and agents were in that residence for 24 hours and combed through it and took everything that we could take under the search warrant and that was appropriate to take and recorded that which we needed to record. once we have exhausted that examination, we board the place up, make it secure. we have to post under the law an inventory of what was taken.
that's part of american law. and then leave the residence. that part makes good sense to me. the part i can't explain is why the landlord for the place allowed the boards to be pried off and for folks to go through. >> wasn't it important enough to have some law enforcement officer there to see that didn't happen? after all, 14 people were killed is and 21 were injured. it seems to me that protecting that scene is really important. so i hope that there is some procedure whereby that doesn't happen again. >> well, the judgment of the investigators and our forensic experts was we were done with that scene. there was nothing else to be gained from that scene, which is why it was boarded up. and then the inventory was left. what happened next was strange and struck me as strange on the tv that the landlord allowed the
media to go through. you we had done our work in a careful, responsible way. 24 hours is a long -- >> does it go back to local police jurisdiction? >> no. it goes back to the owner and lawful owner of the residence. >> regardless whether somebody wants to come back and look for some. >> if there is a need to continue to have access, we will put up crime scene tape, post a guard on it. but if we're done with someone's residence that we have searched, under the law we return it and we post an inventory inside as to what was taken. >> oh, boy. well, maybe we can talk a little bit about that. because from an intelligence point of view, i could see things in an investigation that would crop up that you might want to come back and look behind the picture frame on the wall because there is some message behind the picture that
you don't know about when you went through the apartment initially. or some document. so it just doesn't seem to me to be smart. but let me go on. with respect to encryption, senator burr and i on intelligence are working on that issue. i can tell you that when i went and visited with the chief counsels of the big tech companies in my state about trying to get a bomb-making portfolio, 15 pages off the internet, this is the bomb that goes through a magnotometer. i pointed out it had been tested. and there was no interest in taking it down. one company said, twitter, if we find something, we take it down. but we don't report it.
in the intelligence bill which passed the senate, but this was taken out in a need to pass the bill by unanimous consent, we also had legislation that said that if you find terrorist information, you must report it to law enforcement. would you support that? >> i know the administration and justice department is formulating a view on that. so that's for them to do. operationally, it wouldn't have any bad impact on the fbi. and so i guess i have to wait -- >> the fbi wouldn't want law enforcement to know what's being said on the internet that is terrorist related or has complicity to commit an act -- i should say conspiracy to commit an act? >> the more we know, the better. >> i would think so. >> but i'm not in a position to offer a view on whether the justice department will support the legislation itself i guess is what i'm trying to say.
>> okay. fine. with respect to what you said on encryption, you don't want a back door, you don't want keys, it seems to me the probable cause warrant is the best process. you said here today enough to indicate that you would support that? >> i'm not following. >> the legislation which enabled a warrant with probable cause to be able to look into annen crypted which which you said told you is possible.
>> the discipline is station decided not to seek legislation now. but i also notice there continues to be conversations inside the legislation. >> i'm going to seek legislation if nobody else is. and i know senator burr thinks somewhat similarly. i'm very concerned about it. because when i met with high-tech, what they told me is there are parts now when you talked to us about the dark web, which i listened very carefully, that they cannot un encrypt. and i give you the names of companies that told me. i have a concern playstation which my grandchildren might use and a predator on the other end talk to go them and it's all en
crypted. i think there is reason to have the ability with a court order. and if you have cause to believe that criminality may be going on to be able to get into that. i suspect what happened in the aftermath of snowden, particularly europe got very conservative with respect to encryption. and companies back away. now, that's changing with paris and god forbid what might happen in the future. i think the world is really changing in terms of people wanting the protection and wanting law enforcement if there is conspiracy going on over the internet that, that encryption ought to be able to be pierced. do you agree? >> i agree. i would very much like to get to a world where if a judge issues
an issue, companies comply with it. unlock a device. i would very much like to see that. >> thank you very much. thank you, senator. >> thank you, senator feinstein. director comey, thank you for your leadership. i believe you're a person that's well qualified for this job and understand the serious of your role and the experience to do it well. you struggle with the term mass incarceration because it conveys a sense people are locked uppen masse. isn't it amazingly true we know
over 95% of criminal defendants plead guilty. >> the days of trial seem to be a bygone. >> it say testament of good solid cases that are brought. >> at least in part that's driving it. >> i think so too. now, since i was prosecuting, maybe since you were prosecuting, the citizen guidelines the prosecutors don't have to charge the offense. it has reduced the guidelines that were in their power to do so. senator durbin and i worked together on legislation that reduced the penalties for crack cocaine rather significantly. more than a lot of people understand.
and now we are considering additional reform and sentencing. you said, i thought wisely, you suppressed concern about the increase in violent crime and murders around the country. instead, it would property you to be, quote, thoughtful about criminal justice reform proposals and noted, quote, we have hit historic lows in violent crime recently. and if we let it slide pack, we will need to explain to those who come after us, what we did or didn't do to let that happen." would you explain the trends in crime and punishment and why you shared those words? >> what i was getting at, senator, is our world with respect to violent crime is a world that was hard to imagine 25 years ago. and a whole lot of hard work went into getting us to
historically peaceful america. a big part of that was law enforcement's work. and i believe every sentencing i ever went to in a way was a tragedy because a life was being wasted. but that work had to be done to protect those neighborhoods. what i was urging folks to do is i think harry truman said the only thing new is the history you don't know. for folks just to remember we used to be in a very different place. there are reasonable reforms we can put into place. i wouldn't want to do anything without understanding the history that lets it slide back to that place. and i was saying that in a worrisome spike in homicide in over 30 of the nation's top 50 cities that's occurred this year. that's hard to explain. but it is very worrisome. and i was simply sounding an alarm saying we have to talk about this because we have gotten to a great place in this country. and this is worrisome and it
drives us to need to be even more thoughtful how we change our criminal justice system. >> well said. i was there when the crime rate was high. i have seen it decline as a prosecutor and subsequent to my time. and we made real progress. i have a chart that shows the federal prison population and how it has been developing. i hope my colleagues will look at this. because we have the perception that federal prison population is surging. but it peaked around 2013. so it's been declining steadily ever since. according to the bureau of prisons they project the population in federal prison this year to drop by nearly 15,000 additionally. so we're just not on a trend, a mass incarceration in surging federal prison population. what about state prison? there's many, many more in state prison than in federal prison. maybe 10 times or more.
let's see what's happening in the state system. we have seen a dramatic decrease in pents in states. and part of it is budget driven. people then begin to develop theories to reducing prison population based on budgets. and a lot of people always doubted the value of prison. so we have seen a substantial decrease in state prisons. and i think that will continue. so i guess -- since we know there is a pretty high recidivism rate for prisoners, and i'm not trying to put you in a big argument here, but the fact is the more people that are released from prison, aren't they likely -- aren't we likely to see an increase in the crime because the recidivism rate remains high? >> i'm not an expert. as you said, the logic of it
would say, yes, given the recidivism rate, which is one of the things that's exciting about the legislation mr. grassle talked about. but the math would say sure. >> here the association of assistant united states attorneys wrote us a letter and said this. every incremental weakening questioning plans to further reduce sentencing. every weakening of those mandatory minimum penalties will have a corresponding impact on the ability to successfully investigate and prosecute drug trafficking. the current proposal will significantly weaken the mandatory penalties and significantly deprive law enforcement and prosecutors of the tools they need to successfully address drug
trafficking. now, you said you could accept the changes. that's a statement worthy of serious evaluation. would you agree? >> sure. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i've been told by staff that senator whitehouse is next. >> then i will go next. welcome, director comey. the entitle you just said was exciting. i thank you. i want to talk about botnets. and the other is to follow up on the concerns about encryption of communications. botnets first. senator graham and i have a bill that tries to enhance the department's authority to pursue civil remedies to allow the department of justice to pull
down botnets. one low the legal that they are engaging in fraud or wiretapping before the department can-can go and pull them down. my sense is that a botnet is essentially like a weed. there is no such thing as a good botnet. they are either actively doing evil things or a latent mechanism for doing evil things later on. and a more rigorous effort to root them out of the internet and create better hygiene against botnets on the internet would be a great thing. when i had a vote organized on that. there were various machinations that prevented the botnet provision from coming to a vote. behind that were some statements
that i'm astonished by. but basically some botnets are did and we should protect them out there. i see you looking very surprised. let me ask you, could you react to that? do you think i'm in the right place on this, that a botnet is either latent or active menace on the internet and we should be active live taking them down? i had a facial reaction because i don't know of a good botnet. it is like an army of zombies. >> thank you very much. i appreciate it. i'm glad we're on the same wave net. with respect to encryption, we talk about it often as a technical question. and let me be the first to say, i don't want a government back door either. nobody wants a government back door. as you say, when it's the business model of a particular can company to disable its own
ability to comply with a properly authorized subpoena or search warrant under our laws, that's a very different proposition. and it is that proposition i want to speak to. and i would like to ask you to talk about two things. the first is from the fbi's perspective, what do you think are going to be the worst and most dangerous consequences of that encryption propagating and criminal use of it or terrorist use of it, and since it is a leadership organization with la enforcement, what do you think regular police departments and law enforcement officials around the country are most likely to see as the hazards of this encryption of their efforts to protect the public?
first fbi. >> from the fbi's perspective, we are increasing seeing and will inevitably see entirely that criminals and terrorists and spies have an unparalleled ability to can communicate with each other world wise. increasingly, we are una able to see what they say. which gives us a terrible disadvantage against us. in the olden days it was hard tore communicate with each other. today they have a tremendous ability. we have not kept pace. it's going in the wrong direction. so our ability to root out all kinds of criminal actors is steadily being impaired. that's the problem. state and local law enforcement, the impact is almost entirely devices that cannot be opened with a search warrant. and i do very much agree. sit a business model choice. the folks today selling those phones a year ago their phones didn't have the capability.
hearing anybody say i'm not buying the phones. they're insecure. there are good motivations behind that. but we have to talk about them. they are encountering kids missing cases, drug cases, a brick to them that hold all the evidence that might tell them where a kidnapping is or find out where a drug gang is operating. less the data and motion problem for the state and local. but increasingly they cannot reach the evidence that a judge would otherwise authorize them to get. >> that's very compelling testimony. and i can share with you that the chief of staff is said to me one of the things that keeps him up at nights is this encryption problem. my concern is if these companies already made the decision that
it's their business model to prevent law enforcement from using subpoenas and search warrants in the traditional way, then they have a business decision for doing it. if that is their position, how is talk to go them going to change that? where is the leverage point? what is the administration's process for trying to solve this problem? >> yeah. i don't know that there is one that will flip it from one side to the tore. i think all businesses are making tradeoff decisions. at least in part what has motivated some of the countries to switch to this default encryption is they believe, i'm not questioning their good faith belief, that it is a competitive imperative. that customers want this. and so the conversations are useful because i think he can show there is tremendous harm associated with this. and the customers increasingly see that. my hope is they will see that
calculus differently and the customers will say i'll keep using your phone even if you would allow a judge to issue an order to unlock it in a terror case. >> if you could show that but for the phone having been turned into a brick as a result of the company business practices and be protected from search warrants and subpoenas. a child could not have been rescued who otherwise could have been. and there is a fatality that has resulted. i presume they would see that as great publicity for their choice. >> they do care about public safety. these are good people. the conversations have helped them understand the darkness we see. good people spend all day long worrying about things i worry about. but, wow, there is really a real life impact to this.
we are trying to find terrorist needles in a hey stack. when we find them it goes. where that will lead, i don't know yet. >> if we can help in any way, please call on us. >> before you go, it will be the other senator from minnesota. the reason i took time to do that. i'm going up to budget to ask can a question. so i hope everybody will observe the seven-minute rule. >> thank you, mr. chairman. as the other senator from utah, i'm happy to comply. thanks for all you do to keep us safe. there has been some discussion, a little bit of confusion about the usa freedom act. in part, this has been
precipitated by some of the discussions going along with the presidential election cycle that is in full tilt now. to clarify, i have just a few questions about the usa freedom act and how it operates. it doesn't prohibit the government to gain access is. >> correct. >> it allows the government to get telephone records connected to any terrorist investigation. such if they want to gather data connected to a particular phone number it believes is connected to a terrorist organization, the government could get that? >> correct. >> the usa freedom act does not affect in any way the government's ability to gain access to any meta data that either originated as to a phone call outside the united states or originated here and was direct today outside the united states.
>> did it precipitate the san bernardino act? >> i don't want to talk about specific techniques we are using on that attack. i guess, senator, i need not to talk about it in the context of that. >> i would note it is significant that only four days prior to the attack, the government had access to all the records that it had access to. but it had access to for years prior to the passage of usa freedom act because there was a six-month moratorium. and i personally consider that highly unlikely. some say mathematically impossible that it had any difference there. several the government can still investigate the san pwaoerpb dino attack by going after records of the individuals suspected to be involved in that attack? >> sure. >> thank you. i want to talk about this encryption issue.
i was pleased to hear you say and i hope i understood you correctly, you are not pushing for legislation that would mandate tech companies to put a back door to develop a back door and make that available? >> correct. >> what you are saying, as i understand it, some companies, many companies, could choose voluntarily on law enforcement of a warrant in helping to gain access. >> those are the conversations we have been having. would they have to develop their own back door they could use internally? >> i don't know if that context what back door means. they would have to figure out how consistent with their security requirements they could comply with the judge's order as a lot of companies do today. under our system, what is the best way to comply with the judge's order. >> okay. let's suppose that we have companies doing that. perhaps some, perhaps all.
perhaps they are doing it because they want to do it. or perhaps at some point assuming congress were to pass requiring them to require a back door to unlock the encryption. if u.s. technology companies started doing that, perhaps some, perhaps most, perhaps all, that wouldn't necessarily end the going dark problem, would it? wouldn't we still have technology companies located outside the united states still manufacturing devices that wouldn't be subject to that requirement or wouldn't be subject to the same thing that would be convincing american companies to do that. >> that's right. devices manufactured in other places might be different. and communication services from providers outside the united states might be different. which is what makes this such a
hard problem. a big piece has to be international. >> right. so even assuming congress were to enact the use of a back door, the availability of a back door, a de-encryption key, if you will, it would still not solve the problem because there would be foreign manufacturers. it also occurs to me, assuming all u.s. produced devices had a back door key of sorts, it's my understanding that it is still possible to design an app. that there are people all over this country and other places throughout the world with relative ease could design an application to be used on a smartphone, for instance, or perhaps on a computer that could provide encryption that couldn't be unlocked through an encryption key made by a manufacturer of the device in question. is that your understanding?
>> my understanding is the same. with respect to a device, if the manufacturer were able to, as they were, a year ago to unlock on a judge's order the device there may still be apps on the phone that are stronglien kreuplted. so the content in that particular app would not be available once you unlock the phone. >> correct. so if u.s. manufacturers were to start developing this back door key and they used it, they had it, they made it available to law enforcement under appropriate circumstances, presumably those determined to go dark could and would start using an app that would itself not be judge the being opened by that same key. >> yeah. i hate to keep doing this to you. i struggle with the term back door key. a year ago the manufacturers of the leading phones of the united states could unlock them if the judge ordered it. i don't know whether that
involved a key, software. but you're right. if we return to that world, the sophisticated user could still figure out how to use something like true crypt to protect other information on that device. there is no way we solve the entire problem. encryption is always going to be available to the sophisticated user. the problem we face post snowden, it moved from being the sophisticated bad guy to default. so it is affecting every criminal investigation. i agree. there is no way to solve this problem. >> the big chunk is u.s. manufacturers notwithstanding the fact we still would have the risk associated with apps that couldn't be opened by the same methods you're describing. >> you mentioned the international aspect of it.
part of the solution will involve an international settle of norms somehow. our partners in europe face the same problems we do. they are very interested in having the rule of law of nations figure out what should the rules of the road be with respect to encryption. >> okay. i see my time has expired. one of the reasons i asked the question, one thing that i think we ought to be cognizant of is we ought not put u.s. manufacturers in a position where they would be punished relative to other manufacturers if me saw a drop in sales because people preferred other products and we have to remember the limits on what we can do legislatively. if we were to mandate that, it wouldn't necessarily fix the problem. i see my time has expired. i believe senator durbin is next in the batting lineup. >> thank you very much, senator lee. thank you, director comey, for being here. i would like to speak to you for
a moment about the gun issue and terrorism. i want if you believe that terrorist organizations around the world are aware of american gun laws? >> as i sit here -- i assume that they are. there is probably some specific but i assume they are. >> al qaeda spokesman kadan, american born, said in a 2011 video, and i quote, america is absolutely a wash with easily attainable firearms. you can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come can away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely not having to show an identification card. so what are you waiting for? that's what his quote was. while they are not readily available for civilian use,
semiautomatic are and. there are reports that the san bernardino people were trying to convert to is automatic. >> they attempted to convert or did convert them successful isly. i can't gives you the answer sitting here. >> those who would do us harm know it is easy to obtain firearms and weapons under our current set of laws. i'd like to ask you a question based on your opening statement. and i think i understand what you said. you have found a public -- some type of utterance by the two killers that they were dedicated to jihad many years ago. and i want to ask whether that statement was made prior to the granting of a fiance visa to the
wife. >> yes. and prior to the rise of isil. >> and do you see any weakness in our system when it comes to visas or vie an say visas, that information was not known before she was granted access to america? >> i don't know enough to say. >> we are discussing visa waiver programs now. and how we can change them to make them better. roughly 60 million foreign visitors come to the united states each year. 20 million are from the 38 countries where a visa is not necessary. one of the things being discussed is to require a biometric examination for investigation before the visa waiver traveler boards the airplane. do you have any thoughts on whether that would help to make us safer? >> i haven't thought enough
about it to make a decision. >> i know you will. you present your fingerprints so they can be checked against the information systems in europe and the united states. is there a good exchange of information between european allies and the united states when it comes to such things as the fingerprints of suspected terrorists and known criminals? >> it is good. it has gotten a lot better in the last two years. and there is still room to improve yet. >> i hope you can. i think it's very important. let me ask you the question. i want to make sure it is clear in my mind. if someone on the no-fly list walks into is a licensed firearms dealer in the united states that in and of itself is not prohibition of that person buying a firearm? >> correct. >> so even if that person is suspected to be terrorist, they could purchase the firearm and leave with it though your agents may follow them, investigate
them or keep an eye on them because of that purchase? >> that is correct. we have three days to review the background. and so a hit -- if someone walks in and they are on the no-fly list, we have three days to find out whether there is some prohibition that allows us to stop the transaction under the law. if not, they will walk out with a gun if the dealer allows it. >> the fact that they are on the no-fly list is not sufficient basis to deny the sale. >> that's correct. >> i would like to bring this closer to home in terms of gun violence in my state. we recently traced the crime guns that were seized in the most violent sections of chicago. and we found that 40% of those crime guns were coming into chicago from gun shows in
northwest indiana where there was no requirement for a background check before the sale was made. of course it's not just firearms. it's ammunition as well. and we have ample evidence those who were engaged in this gun violence make the short trip over the border to indiana, secure their weaponry and ammunition and come back and kill people in chicago. what more can we do? we brought up the issue. and i won't engage you on it because i think you know the debate, about extending background checks to gun shows and internet the sales. what more can we go with this knowledge, though, these guns crossing state borders into the city of chicago and pwhaoeg used in the commission of a crime? >> well, under the current legal regime, we, especially our colleagues at atf, try to understand are there strong purchasers in that, gun show participants who know they are selling to felons or prohibited persons and trying to make trafficking cases based on that.
that is sort of the focus of trying to stop bad guys from getting guns at gun shows. >> is there any surveillance of these gun shows to see if there are out of state license plates or anything of that nature? >> i think if there is a predicated investigation of a particular dealer within the gun show, there is appropriate surveillance. but i'm not aware of surveillance generally of gun shows. >> the last statement, our chairman suggested he would be open to the notion of prohibiting foreigners in the united states on visa waiver program to purchase firearms. that is a provision i'm offering. i would just say for the record i hope i can work with the chairman and get his support in making sure that this hoop hole is closed. thank you, mr. chairman. >> on the visa waiver program and guns, what i was trying to say is i want to go further than
that. senator blake. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director comey. encryption has been talked about some. but let me talk about some of the other full srerblts we have and difficulties tracking information. i think we have discussed maybe this before. but the other ways for potential terrorists or terrorists to communicate here it's obviously not just e-mail, it's not just text messages. and i ask some that are familiar with the field if you had to bet to communicate that you didn't want anybody to follow it, how would you do it. some say, well, get on an app or a game, words with friends or some other game. and in the comment section or there is a way to communicate within that. that is probably -- there's no way to use encryption right now
for that. but it is just in the realm of a lot of data, a lot of communication, a lot out there. is that something that concerning to the fbi? what are we doing without revealing sources and methods and everything else, to deal with that situation? >> thank you, senator. i don't want to say too much about it because i don't want the bad guys to get ideas they don't already have. but we have seen a number of cases in which subjects of investigations have communicated through gaming channels. either through more live action games or sometimes through app games on devices. sometimes those do involve encryption. they aren crypted in the gaming channel which makes it hard to intercept with a court order as anotheren crypted channel. it is increasingly a feature of our work i guess is what i'll say. >> thank you. we have seen high profile data breaches with omb.
what is the fbi doing to ensure that we don't fall victim -- a lot of information held by the fbi is extremely sensitive. are we taking the measures we need to and how can congress help to make sure the data is secure? >> we worry about this every day. we try not to be overconfident. i think we have very good systems. but we can't be satisfied. as good as your system might be, if human being have access to it, there is a vulnerability there. especially since snowden stepped up our game to make sure we understand the potential insider threat. we focus from a technological perspective and human vulnerable perblt is the best headliner i can give you. >> you've mentioned in your testimony that one of the areas of focus is focus on corruption at the border. can can you give us an idea what you are doing to combat that?
>> all our field offices along the mexican border have robust squads and efforts going on there. because any time you have human paoegs in a role where there's tremendous amounts of bad money there is a risk of people being compromised. it worked from the gulf to the pacific ocean by all our field offices. we work in partnership with dhs. a lot of focus is on the corruption in the border control workforce, for example. we have built a pretty effective relationship there. >> back to the visa situation. k-1 visa has come under scrutiny now. vetting refugees, for example, because of lack of information about their background. if that's true in syria, it may be doubly true in south sudan or in somalia or elsewhere.
so we have to rely heavily on interviews and assessments by field staff. do we use lie detector tests to try to vet whatever information is given? what do we have now and what else can we do in that regard if there is a lack of information or data to check what they say against. >> dhs would be better qualified than i. they don't use -- they don't have data to vet somebody against. you can see if they can detect perception. i don't know it well enough to tell you what particular tools they are considered using. >> you mentioned -- i think we have all season professionalism of the state and local officials dealing with the situation.
for example, in san bernardino. that is not always the case elsewhere in the country where we have local officials who maybe need training or expertise. what is the fbi doing to ensure our local partners are doing what they can to identify or to prevent or deal with these tragedies when they occur? >> with respect to terrorism attacks in. >> yes. >> well, the bedrock is our joint terrorism task forces. and the relationships we have built with state fusion centers to make sure we give our local partners what they crave, which is good information about what the threat is, how they might check it out, and good training on how to respond when there is an incident. we have invested a tremendous amount of effort and money trying to make sure we equip local state and local law enforcement we produced a video called the coming storm which is
chilling but extraordinarily valuable that through real life movie actors shows how to respond to an attack. in that case on a community college. the best way to org yourself, and the best way to respond. i have heard great 2350ed back. we have made tens of thousands of companies of this. every university, police force should have it. anybody responsible for protecting a community should have it and look at it. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for having the hearing, you and senator leahy and an admirer of the men and women who work in the fbi. i think you do a great job. none of these are intended to impugn the hard work and integrity of all of you. look, we in new york, praise god after 9d/11 haven't had a successful terrorist incident. we have had a few in the country
now. it is because of the hard work of your folks and others on the joint task forces that you mentioned, including the nypd, who do a great job as well. here are my questions. in your testimony this morning you told us the san bernardino attackers were communicating online about jihad for some time. so this raises to big questions which i would like to pursue. the first is how come we didn't know about these communications before the attacks? the second is is how did she get a visa. how did someone pass a visa test when they were kphaoublgting about jihad before, no questions asked. let's go to the first one. first, how do we know when terrorists are communicating online. and how does it sometimes get missed? in general this will cause great
consternation to the american people. here we have someone talking about jihad, two people, for a couple of years. and i always -- you know, i would -- i think most americans have the assumption we're on top of things like this. >> and i can only answer it in general. i don't want to talk yet, if i could, senator, about the particular case. >> okay. so is let's take a hypothetical. someone is talking jihad over and over again online. do we know of it in most cases? and what do we do about it? >> we will only know about it if it's a private communication and not posting on a public forum or facing social media site. if it's private, whether electronic or by mail, we will only know about it if it is some reason to believe it is going on that allowed us to get permission from a judge to intercept those communications. that's where the community comes in. if folks tell us, i think this guy is up to no good, we can start to look at it and use our
lawful tools. i know senators know this. but we don't monitor. we shouldn't. >> what about nonamerican citizens talking to american citizens. >> again, that is governed by the rule of law in the united states. so we have to have bred indication. the fbi or intelligence agencies to be able to enter is september the communications of an american whether they are communicating in the united states or overseas. >> okay. and in this case was there any public -- okay. let me ask more generally. say there is some public posting on a facebook page or something like that. where either an american citizen or nonamerican citizen communicating with an american citizen communicating jihad several times, what do we do about it? >> we often know about it because of a source of ours, or a community member tells us about it, or an undercover. we can jump on it -- >> do we have enough people monitoring these things so when
it is public we know about it if no informant or neighbor has told us? >> the answer is certainly not given the size of the communication of networks we're talking about. millions and millions of people talk to go each other and making facebook moposts. >> i would imagine on public postings, we have computers, for instance, that stop child pornography with a certain image that's on there. couldn't we get computers that spit out to us who publicly, and we don't know if these communications were public or private. you haven't said and i'm not asking you to do that in this particular case. couldn't we get a computer to spit out somebody who is talking about jihad, bombing, you know, some words like this repeatedly and to ava right of people? >> i want to be careful what i talk about in open setting. but there are tools, but they are limited in a way you would want them to be. >> i see. >> the united states government, unlike some other deposits in
the world, does not monitor the enter is net. >> final question, could we be doing more in these types of situations? >> we could always be doing more. >> is resources a problem? >> resources is a -- i believe -- if we paid you unlimited money, you know, we're not going to do that. but we could give you considerably more, would you be able in more frequent cases when publicly these mentioned to be able to pursue them more thorough thoroughly? >> maybe is the answer. >> i would like to get a classified briefing from you or others on the details of this because it concerns me. second, the visa program. not visa waiver. so let's take a hypothetical. a nonamerican citizen has communicated online and used publicly. or now privately we could intercept them but it's hard. and used, you know, inflammatory
words, language, intention. they come here on eye visa. how often do we catch them? >> i don't think i could answer that sitting here. i don't know enough about -- i can't answer sitting here. >> do you think we should know that? >> i'm sure somebody does. we could get you an answer in terms of numbers. >> after this hearing today, every american will be asking the question, how did this this woman come in on a fiancee visa, 1k or k-1. >> can k-1. >> if she was talking publicly, again, i won't get into privately in the classified briefing, about jihad. not this woman. sorry. how could a woman strike this and use the word a. or man. hypothetical. >> assuming they are talking
about it publicly on an internet forum. >> yes. shouldn't that be somehow tied in to our visa program? >> it's part of the visa vetting process. >> yes. >> yeah. i can't give you a good answer sitting here. >> but shouldn't it be? >> i don't know enough to say. because i don't know exactly what investment would have to be made to do that work and what would be the payoff on the other side. >> got it. again, i'll pursue this with you further both classified and non. and i thank you. my time is now up. >> thank you, mr. director. if the fbi had a telephone number from a known foreign terrorist and there were people in the united states making phone calls to that known number, there are procedures in place through the nsa and other agencies to check against that known terrorist number to see if
there are telephone calls by americans to that number. isn't that correct? >> correct. >> and it doesn't involve any content at that point, correct? >> correct. >> congress just voted in the presence and signed into law a piece of legislation that prohibits the national security agency from maintaining the pluck telephone records. does that -- does that develop entail greater risk or otherwise limit the tools available to the fbi to be able to discover those sorts of communications? >> i don't know yet. because the usa freedom act framework is sufficiently new that i can't give you high confidence answer on its effect compared to what we used to have. in theory it should work as well or better than what we used to have. but i don't know yet. >> so it could entail more risk or no more risk? >> correct. >> you can't say? >> i just don't know at this
point. >> okay. i was shocked, as i bet a lot of other people were, particularly about your testimony with regard to encryption and its impact on the garland shooting in my home state of texas. 109 encrypted messages that still today the fbi cannot gain access to; is that correct? >> correct. >> and the only way you would be able to gain access to that, again, is not because you're monitoring private messages. it would be you would go to court and show cause, meet the legal standard in order to get a court order to then give you access to those records? >> correct. >> and you said there are telecommunications, there are phone companies, or i should say manufacturers who are marketing their encryption as a way to gain market share in america, to advertise that these are private conversation that not even courts can order access to. >> i think they're device
manufacturers who include that in their description of why their products should be used. >> and you said encryption is part of terrorist trade craft, correct. >> that's for sure. >> to me that's a staggering situation, because it still persists today, correct? >> oh, yes. and growing. >> and so while we are all horrified and repelled by what we saw in san bernardino and what we saw in paris, there could well be similar communications, not in those cases, but in other cases going on today. and the fbi wouldn't be able to gain access to those communications between terrorists, even with a court order? >> that's correct. and strongly encrypted, end to end encrypted, if a judge issues an order, and we interprcept it it's still encrypted and unreadable. >> is that a danger to the american people? does that increase the risk of
terrorist attacks that could go undetect detectedetected before occurs? >> i do, which is why we've been talking about the over the last few years so much. >> i appreciate you making this important point. it concerns me a lot, that congress has not acted to do anything to give you the tools that you need. i appreciate the way you've tried to discuss this with the various manufacturers and other intents involved, but it strikes me as if they're gaining market share by advertising their encryption and saying that not even the federal government in a terrorist investigation can gain access to it, that that's a real problem. and so i think you said you hoped to get to a place where the companies can comply with the court order. but do you think it would be useful for the congress to actually try to do something about this, or should we just wait for the voluntary
compliance by the industry? >> i think it would be useful, as congress has done, for congress to try to drive this conversation, to draw people into it to figure out, so what can we do. because i don't want to hurt american business. but i also have a responsibility to try and protect the american people. and all of us care about the same thing. so i appreciate congress trying to drive this conversation. >> i think you're testimony here today will help do that. i think it's surprised and shocked a lot of people. i want to close with this line of questioning, director comey. we're at a point in our nation's history where the public doesn't trust government. i think a pew poll indicated less than 20% of americans say they trust their government most of the time. and unfortunately, many americans have lost faith in our national institutions, including our justice system. and i know how much you care about that and how much you've dedicated your life to making sure that people can trust law
enforcement and our justice system. that faith is endangered when attempts are made to pervert it in favor of the powerful who would like to create different rules for those who rule. i know this is a sensitive matter and i'm not going to ask you about the content, but i know the fbi is currently investigating the private e-mail server of the former secretary of state. and it's troubled me, and i know others, when some people have attempted to disparage or otherwise predict the outcome of the ongoing fbi investigation. i know the president himself said that we don't get an impression that there was a purposely efforts to hide something or squirrel away information. does the president get briefings on ongoing investigations by the fbi like this? >> no. >> so he would have no way of knowing what the status of the fbi investigation is? >> certainly not from briefings from the fbi. >> i know a former senior official at the fbi and the current president of the law
enforcement legal defense fund told "the new york times" that injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the fbi's mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the justice department will take the president's signal and will not bring a case. but i just want to ask you to perhaps repeat something you said earlier, when you said that people at the fbi, including you, don't give a rip about politics. is that your position? >> that is true through and through the fbi. >> so for politicians of whatever level, whether it's the president of the united states or members of congress or anybody else trying to lobby or intimidate or influence an investigation by the fbi, that does not work, at least under your leadership? >> it doesn't matter. i don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but it doesn't matter what anybody thinks or feels about our work. we're competent, we're honest, and we're independent. we're going to do or work the
right way. and we wecare only about the facts. that's who we are. >> that's certainly consistent with the way you've conducted yourself i think in your public life. and i think that will help restore in some small part people's confidence that there are people trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. so thank you very much. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, and thank you, director comey, for being here. i really appreciate it. one of the things that we haven't gone into as much is the online recruiting of terrorists. minnesota, as you know, has been very aggressive, our fbi and our local law enforcement, our u.s. attorney, andy lugar, in going after cases of people who have been recruited, much of it online, not all of it, but much of it, to join isis or before that, al shabaab. i've seen this recruiting techniques myself. your agents have shown them to
me. and i wondered what is being done about that. and it may have played a role, i know the investigation is still going on into the tragic shooting in san bernardino, but is this an emerging threat, what can be done? there has been discussion about getting these companies to take down these sites as much as possible. talk about a little bit about that. >> thank you, senator. isis has endeavored to send people here. i've also tried to inspire people to kill on their behalf. they send a message in a very slick way that resonates with troubled souls or older people who have struggled in some way, or kids. it is a very saeductive message
because it's buzzing all day long, that these people can consume this. their goal is to draw people into this closed circle online which they're constantly bombarded with, this is the way to meaning, this is the way to meaning. that shapes a troubled mind. we are making sure we're aggressively investigating that to find those who are on into path, potentially radicalizing, and to work with other folks to find kids who might be vulnerable to it, not just to their poisonous message but all kinds of poisonous messages that inspire people to violence. we're about to come out with something called "don't be a puppet," i'm no judge of what's cool but i'm told it's cool, almost like an online game for schools that kids learn, this is the way they come after you and here's how he resist it. those are the two ways we try to attack it. >> very good. as you know, we have one of the
sort of pilot projects on the countering violent extremism group. it's been used with our muslim community, which we're very proud of in minnesota, which has been working to make sure kids don't get involved with this in the first place. i encourage the work you're doing and we hope you do more. we hope to get more funding out of this budget for projects to fight islamic extremism. i heard you bring up law enforcement in your initial statement, you think they have enough resources. we're trying to increase funding there. could you talk about that. >> our state and local partners are strapped across the country, coming out of the painful cuts they've endured over the last eight years. so they are still contributing their stars to our task forces. but i know what it costs them, because they're short handed
across the country. i've traveled to our field offices, i've been to them all once, now i'm halfway through going to them a second time. i hear this over and over again, they're asked to do more and more with less. they're trying to do better community policing. that's very hard when officers are covering twice the territory they used to cover. they don't have time to get out of their cars and meet people. so it is a constant theme i hear from our partners. >> thank you. and i wanted to add, a lot of my colleagues have asked you about encryption. and i know you were here before and talked about efforts to try to work with the phone companies. i thought your testimony was very interesting today when you talked about the fact that some of us suspect it may not really be a technological issue as much as it is a business model issue. so if that is all the case, what has been done to improve it since that time? has there really been changes, except for discussions with the phone companies? you said in answer to one of the
questions that a good chunk of it could be resolved. how would we resolve that? is it just simply the international norms you talked about, where you would have agreement between countries to where our court orders, their court orders could be followed? i'm trying to get to a solution here. i keep waiting for the next ticking time bomb where our law enforcement isn't able to access this. as you know, it's not just terrorism investigations. cy vance is making this a crusade. i remember as a prosecutor, sitting in on wiretaps, the old days when people were using land lines or less sophisticated cellphones, and it was a major part of our investigations. >> i think a big part of the problem can be solved if folks who are currently producing and selling devices that can't be unlocked by judges' orders or communications that can't be
intercepted by judges' orders were to change their business model in this respect. not to give us a key. i don't want a key. i don't want to tell them how to do their business. but figure out how they can change their business model so they can comply with judges' orders. the folks making the phones today, they were doing that a year ago and nobody said their devices were unsecure so we ought not to buy them. and so i'm hopeful, i'm an optimist, i hope people now that they consider how big the threat is, will consider those changes. it's not going to solve the entire problem. i agree very much that you don't want to just chase the problem overshore. there does have to be an international component to this. it's actually not a technical problem. we've chosen to operate our business this way, for good reasons. but we should stop saying you're going to break the internet if we do this. you should figure out, if a
judge says there's something in your house the nation needs to be safe, you figure out how to come out of the house. use a window, use a door, use a slot, whatever keeps your house day. we should get to a place where when a judge says this is necessary, you're able to comply. >> you're talking about court orders and you're talking about an international normal, given that the world has united against isil and this kind of other terrorist evil, so some way that we can find international agreement on when this information is given to pursue these very important investigations. >> yes. i think reasonable people have said that should be a part of it. i think they're right. >> great. thank you very much. >> mr. director, we're really happy to have you here today. i want to personally express my gratitude for the work you're doing, the work you have done in the past, and for the good way you approach law enforcement in this country. you're doing a great job. last week's tragedy in san bernardino was the worst
terrorist attack on american soil since 9/11. the shooters claimed allegiance to isis. isis has called them its followers. i think it's important to call this attack what it is. do you agree with me that this was an act of terrorism? >> yes. >> do you agree that it appears this terrorist attack was at least inspired by isis? >> we're still sorting that out, senator. it was definitely claimed by the killers at or about the time of the killing that they were doing this isil then has embraced them as followers. >> it's pretty hard not to say isis had something to do with it. >> isil inspiration may well have been part of this. but these two killers were starting to radicalized towards mart mart mart martyrdom and jihad as early as 2013, really before isil became the global jihad leader that it
is. >> the attorney general stated her, quote, greatest fear, unquote, was the possibility that it could lead to "anne of green gables" at this-musl this-miscellaneothis -- could lead to an anti-muslim rhetoric. my greatest fear is more attacks and more dead americans. if we were to put it this way, what would be your greatest fear after last week's terrorist attack? >> my fear, which is not new, it's been a feature of my work since i started this job, is what don't we know, what can't we see. in that is the particular challenge of those radicalizing online, consuming propaganda, and trying to stay beneath our radar. this confirms to us what we've said all along. the reason we've had cases in all 50 states is a very real concern that people are radicalizing in a way that's hard to see. that inability to see is my
biggest worry. >> i share that. let me just say this. i would like to follow up on senator lee's line of questions regarding the so-called dark problem. i have two questions. first, with respect to control of encrypted data, u.s. tech companies do not want to be the middle man between law enforcement and technology customers. how do you reconcile this concern with the needs of law enforcement, and have you considered alternatives that would meet the needs of law enforcement but not put the united states tech companies in the awkward position of middleman? >> i'm not sure i know exactly what they mean by middleman. i don't want anybody to be the middleman for law enforcement. but everybody in the united states has, i believe, an obligation to endeavor to comply with judicial orders in criminal investigations. you're you're a bank, you run a sandwich shop, you run a
technology company. i don't want anybody to be a middleman but i want everybody to comply with judges' orders. >> u.s. tech companies are the no the only businesses that offer encryption to customers. other countries offer it as well. if we require u.s. tech companies to provide decryption keys, won't users simply look to technologies from other non-u.s. companies to conduct their activities? how do you respond to that concern? >> that's a serious concern. first of all, i don't want anyone to supply encryption keys. but if we went to a place where american companies were required to figure out a way to comply with judicial orders, they do make a serious argument that that would chase our business overseas. i'm not in a position to evaluate that argument. a little part of me is skeptical that people would stop buying the great phones we make in this country because a judge might order access to it. but i'm not really an expert on
that. so i do think a part of this has been on international compact of some sort. none of us want to hurt american business. at the same time, there are costs to being an american business, right? you can't pollute. you can't employ children. there are certain things we've decided as a country we want to govern ourselves this way. so in a way i think we have to figure out what's right for america first and then try to figure out how to reduce the harm that might come competitively. >> i would like to return to the issue of rampant dna. i introduced bipartisan investigation with senators feinstein, lee, and jigillibran. they're fully automated instruments that can be placed in booking stations and develop a dna profile from a cheek swab and compare the results against existing profiles in less than two hours.
now, my bill, the rapid dna act of 2015, would allow law enforcement officials using fbi-approved rapid dna instruments to upload profiles generated by such devices to the fbi's combined dna index system and perform database comparisons. director comey, you've spoken in the past about rapid dna and how this technology will help law enforcement. do you believe that rapid dna technology is important? how will it impact law enforcement? and do you believe congress should pass legislation authorizing its use within standards and guidelines promulgated by your agency? >> that authority that's in your bill would help us change the world in a very, very exciting way that allow us in booking stations around the country, if someone's arrested, to know instantly or near instantly whether that person is the
rapist that's been on the loose in that community before they get away, or to clear somebody that they're not the person. it's very exciting. we're very grateful that we're going to have the statutory authorization if that passes to connect that dna technology to the national dna database. >> thank you. my bill will not affect when or under what circumstances law enforcement collects dna samples. these decisions would be governed by state or other federal law. what it will do is affect where samples are processed and how quickly they're processed. now, mr. director, what would you say to individuals who may be concerned that rapid dna technology would raise privacy concerns and what would you say to individuals who may be concerned that this technology could affect the integrity of fbi's combined dna index system or cotus?
my bill would comply with fbi standards and procedures. >> you said it well, senator. folks need to understand, this isn't about collecting dna from more people. it's about the dna that's collected when someone is arrested, being able to be analyzed much more quickly, that can show us in some cases this is the wrong person or can show us in some cases this is someone we have to be very worried about. that is good for our justice system as a whole. you're exactly right, the national database, the cotus database is the gold standard. this legislation does not water down the standards that are applied before a dna result can be pressed against that database. we're still going to have high standards. we're still going to require that this is the gold standard for identification in the united states. >> thank you, sir. senator franken is next. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director comey, first i would like to thank you for appearing today. it's good to see you again. and you do a great job.
i think all the members of this committee greagree. before i ask my questions, i want to extend my thanks to you, the bureau, your ages, for assisting in the civil rights investigation surrounding the death of jamar clark in minneapolis. i supported the decision of mayor hodges and police chief hartow to call for an independent investigation. in my view, a full, thorough, and transparent accounting of the facts is necessary to get to the bottom of what happened in that tragic event and to restore trust between the north side community and the police and law enforcement. so i want to commend the fbi agents involved for their professionalism and for their commitment to seeking justice.
i wanted to just -- a lot of things have been discussed in this committee, including the going dark, the encryption issue. i just want to make sure that i have clarity on this, and maybe help other people clarify it for them. basically, tell me if i heard you right, that a terrorist in the united states could -- that there is a sort of distinction between -- there are two distinct but related concerns law enforcement has about encryption. the concern that information sought by law enforcement is on an encrypted device, we're talking about the phone, and the concern that the information might exist within an encrypted app on that phone.
and so some of these apps are available freely online, and add an extra layer of encryption. can you speak to the bureau's concerns related to these issues? you're basically saying that there's sort of two layers, and if you get rid of the first layer, you'll have more -- i mean, you'll obviously be -- it will be a great deal more people that won't be caught up or that won't have that encryption? is that what you're saying? >> i think encryption has always been available, always been available to the sophisticated user, always, for decades. what changed over the last two years is encryption went from available to being the default. and so now, with some of the leading phones in the united
states, that phone is encrypted by default. so if we recover it at a crime scene, with a judge's search warrant order, we can't open it. >> and i know you're not asking for a key, you're asking for the company to be able to follow the judge's order. >> which two years ago they could do it and did it routinely. i think their devices were still considered pretty secure. but you're exactly right. there may still be within that device, especially for sophisticated users, other encryption tools that are on particular apps or there's actually something -- too complicated. >> can we get some data on this? the last time this committee looked at this, we had deputy attorney general yates, and i asked her for more information on the scope of law enforcement's concern. because i know a lot of this is about just normal crime and not about terrorism. and i think what you're suggesting is that a terrorist might be able to get that app,
and that's why -- that foreign app, and that's why we need an international agreement on this, right? >> yes. exactly right. this is mostly a local law enforcement issue. but we are gathering the data that you asked for. and i'll have to get back to you on exactly what we're going to get it to you. >> and i know you've mentioned it. i want to make sure i'm clear on something else from this testimony. i'm just sort of reviewing the whole day for myself. i understand if someone on a terrorist watch list tries to buy a gun through a licensed dealer, the fbi is alerted. >> correct. >> and it can delay the sale for three days? >> under the law we're allowed up to three case. >> 0 so -- okay. but ultimately, do you have legal authority to deny the sale? >> not unless there's another prohibiter under the law, a felon or mental defective. >> at least you have that three days. >> yes.
>> if someone on a terrorist watch list -- this is someone on a terrorist watch list, in three days, if there's no other indicator, they can get their gun. that to me is a problem. now, if someone on a terrorist watch list tries to buy a begun online or at a gun show, no one is legally required to notify the fbi? >> i believe that's correct, yes. >> okay. so i have that correct. so to fix this, if we're talking about keeping guns out of the hands of people, of terrorists, and presumably people on the no-watch list are there for a reason, or maybe there's a false positive, but it seemed to me that we would have to be doing both. if we're really interested in keeping the guns from
terrorists, we would have to enforce both, say you can't sell a gun to someone, there has to be three days or some kind of look at that person, and also, the gun -- the gun sale, the sale at a gun show, the gun show loophole would have to be solved t too? i mean, in other words, if we're worried about guns falling in the hands of people on terrorist watch lists, we also have to close up the gun show loophole as well as cleaning up this loophole, which is the terrorist watch loophole. i mean, in other words, this is a reason to do both.
let me put it this way. you don't have to answer. this is the reason to do both. okay. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director, we're lucky to have you. thank you for the sacrifice you make in doing what you do. i'm glad you're on the wall. i would like to go back and clear up, just to make sure you understood the testimony as well. i applaud the fbi for being the first to call this an act of terrorism. >> thank you. >> not that i want it to be an act of terrorism, of course. but you guys looked at the facts and said the american public needs to know the facts. thank you. i haven't heard it connected directly to isis. i know in this environment you may not be able to talk about that, and if so that's fine. do we know that this was directly connected to isis influence in the u.s.? >> there was some indication that they were at least in part inspired by isil, so yes.
we're trying to sort out what other contributions might there have been to their motivation. we may never fully sort it out, because human motivation is hard. but at least in part we see an isil inspiration. >> you may not want to comment on this either, and i apologize for asking this direct question, but for the american people, in the past, the fbi has been a stalwart in helping to protect the american people over time. in the past, on your watch, are you aware of planned attempts to have actually been preempted by the fbi that we may never know about? >> yes, many. >> okay. thank you. and speaking to the increase in the latest spate of isis attacks, is their planning getting better, are their tactics getting better? i know the malik and farook team bought their weapons through a neighbor. my question is, is there a network issue here, are the networks growing in the u.s.?
>> we're looking at -- obviously in san bernardino to see was there anybody else involved in assisting them. and so separate from san bernardino, we have not seen this, we have not seen isil cells or networks in the united states. so far as we can tell, they have not succeeded in penetrating our borders with their operatives. that's an aspiration of theirs, we have to worry about it all day, every day. but what they're doing is motivating small groups of people to commit murder on their behalf. that's the crowdsourcing that we're dealing with. >> do we actually have cases where through the resettlement, 2200 or so people who have come in so far, we're trying to bring another 10,000 in the first phase of this, have we actually had cases where we identified isis adherence in that first group? >> not to my knowledge. >> are you aware that canada is
increasing their syrian refugee acceptance rate from less than 5,000 to over 25,000, the latest number i saw before, and the border we have with canada, we don't talk about that border much, is the fbi paying attention to that relative to what we need to do? to me that vetting in canada is just as important as our own investigate here with our k-1 and our visa waiver program. >> and they get that. the head of the rcmp is a friend and colleague of mine. he called me to tell me their government had made that decision and to explain and to encourage us to work together to vet those people. >> and what changes would you like to see in the k-walk? with malik, was she actually given an interview in the k-walk process? do we know that? >> i don't know well enough to say at this point. i know the process requires it. we're still trying to fully understand exactly all of her contacts. >> are there changes you would like to see, the fbi would like to see in the k-wa1 program or e
visa waiver program? >> i don't know enough to say as a result of this case. >> the last thing, very quickly, in the trans-pacific partnership, there is language in there that would prevent national laws being implemented in countries that would require manufacturers to provide access to products, encryption technologies. some critics think that would limit our own ability to provide legislation that would give you a solution to the potential go-dark solution. does the fbi have a point of view on that yet? >> we don't. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, director. >> senator blumenthal, then senator koonz. if you can stand me for seven more minutes, i have a second round of questions. >> thanks, mr. chairman. and thank you, director comey, for your excellent work and your great service to our country. thank you to your family.
and most of the especially to your wife, patrice, who has done so much for the children of connecticut, and now for others around our country. i've just come from -- >> from iowa, too. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for that correction. i've just come from a hearing at the armed services committee, where secretary carter was testifying. and i want to first make the point that we often thank our men and women in uniform, which i do readily and repeatedly, and i do again now, but i also want to thank the very brave men and women who work under your command and enforce our laws and keep us safe, as well as law enforcement men and women around the country, police at every
level, and are in a sense also at war. in fact secretary carter said, and i'm quoting, talking about isil, "the reality is we are at war. that's how our troops feel about it, because they're taking the fight to isil every day, applying the might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known." do you feel that we are at war also within our borders against forces of terror that are linked to those forces abroad, that our men and women in uniform are fighting? >> very much, senator. and our people feel that passionately. our people are tired. we are working very, very hard. they're working very, very hard. but what motivates them is, these people want to kill our people. we are at war with these people. so stopping them is what -- is the reason we do this work. >> and the president
well-identified this new phase that perhaps is an old phase in larger scale, the phase of isil and isis reaching outside the theaters were they have fought so far, reaching into this country. you've referred to crowdsourcing as the san bernardino experience, and outsourcing that threat to new recruits, to home-grown radicals, may be part of the threat here. but you would agree that we face a war every bit as dire and dangerous here at home as we do abroad? >> yes. the threat obviously and the density of these savages is less here in the united states. but the nature of it is very similar. >> and i know that you've responded about the importance
of cooperation in terms of information and other kinds of assistance that is provided by members of the muslim community. just as cooperation and support is essential from nations that have a majority of muslims abroad in our fight against isis and isil, they are our natural allies and friends and partners in this fight against extremist terrorism and violence abroad. and i want to ask you about some of the statements that are made about closing borders and about religious tests at our borders, other kinds of tests that in my view are unconstitutional, but also strike me as unwise because we need that cooperation. are the statements themselves potentially inhibiting that kind
of cooperation and support and help that we need? >> thank you, senator. i don't want to comment on anybody's statements. but i can make i think the point that you're interested in. isil is trying to recruit in muslim communities. they're trying to motivate people who may be of the muslim faith who are unmoored in some way to become part of their poisonous endeavor. the people who so often tell us about people like that are other muslims who help us. so we've worked so hard over the last 15 years to build relationships of trust that allow us to find out who might be trouble and to stop it. that's in everybody's interest. and anything that gets in the way, that erodes that relationship of trust, is not a good thing. >> and muslims who live in our nation are fellow americans, many of them, equally interested in preventing threats and violence as anyone of any religion. >> our experience, what's
wonderful about this country is we're incredibly diverse. they're part of that diverse polyglot. they helove this country, that' why they help us when there is a killer in their midst. as i said in the beginning, we're all in this together. we need each other. >> i applaud your very clear and emphatic, unequivical statement about that point. i want to shift to another terrorist act, at least one that strikes terror, not of the same motivation, but involving the apparent racist motivated violence in charleston. the fbi background system known
as n.i.x. was applied in the case of dylann roof's purchase, but only too late to prevent him from buying the gun, the 72-hour loophole that i have tried to close enabled him to walk away with a gun he sought to purchase, thanks to that loophole, after the 72-hour period, since the background check was not completed, but would have precluded him from buying a gun, he was enabled to have that firearm. gun retailers have sold 15,729 guns in the last five years to individuals who were not legally allowed to purchase them. and about five months ago, i think you commissioned a study that was to last 30 days, to examine how dylann roof was able to buy that gun. i think that report would help
us in congress to understand what went wrong and how to fix it, and most especially, if the 72-hour loophole enabled him to buy that gun, as appears to be from the facts that we've been told so far. the report would be very helpful. so my question is, can you update us as to the status of that report? >> certainly, senator. and we would be happy to get you a detailed briefing on it, because the work was done, as i asked, in 30 days. it did two things. it confirmed the facts as we understood them close to the murders in charleston, that there was a mistake made by our processing clerks that was compounded by a mistake in the records of the south carolina jurisdiction where the prohibiter came from. that confirmed what we knew. what it most importantly told us is how can we get better. the law is what the law is. we have three days to process these thousands and thousands and thousands of them.
so we're working on a number of things to get better. one, to improve the records by our state and locals, to improve our technology, and our resources. the number of gun purchases continues to climb. it's climbed dramatically in the last week. we have to make sure we have enough folks, if all we have is three days, to do that. those are the three buckets, better records, better technical, and more importantly, more human beings on the phones to process them more quickly. >> so resources are really important, resources in technology, resources in people, and resources in records that you depend on because many of them come from state and local authorities as well. >> correct. >> my time has expired. this whole area is tremendously important. i want to thank you for being here today and just to clarify, racial and religious supremacists often use
terrorist-type tactics, even though we would not call them terrorists today. but i appreciate the attention you're giving to the potentially white supremacist motivated acts of violence in that church in charleston. thank you. >> thank you, chairman grassley, and thank you for your service, director comey. i was pleased to see in your testimony before the committee a focus on the violence reduction network, a department of justice initiative that is truly helping a group of now ten smaller cities like my hometown of wilmington, delaware, that have seen a dramatic rise in violent crime and homicides. we are sadly on track for a record year in shootings and homicides. i'm grateful for your and the fbi's focus on providing technical resources to help state and local law enforcement deal with this rise in violent
crime in a few cities and to learn from the policing examples of other communities and federal agencies that have real knowledge about how to better deploy investigatory resources. so tell me, if you would, how we can better support valuable programs like the vrn, and how in your view it's been most effective in connecting fbi resources to cities like wilmingt wilmington, delaware. >> i'll start with the effectiveness point first. i think what makes it special is, we bring together in a place like wilmington everybody who cares about this issue or might have a specialty that's useful. what we can bring to bear is our understanding of technology and our analytic resources, so we help a local jurisdiction understand what is the pattern, what is the trend, and what are the pieces of information that we can lawfully gather that would be useful in focusing on, because it's almost always small groups of predators, finding
them and ripping them out of the community. it's not rocket science. but it often brings rocket scientists to the fight in a really important way. i think the way you can support it is, as you just did, talking about its value and making sure that appropriators and others understand that when the department talks about about this, it's making a difference. >> thank you. i am an appropriator on the relevant subcommittee and have advocated for it with the hea d of omb and the attorney general. i would be grateful for any other advice from you on how to sustain it, make it more effective. certainly the work to reduce violent crime is far from over in my hometown and other cities around the country. hopefully we'll sustain this program until we see some significant reduction in violent crime. i would like to mention another issue, if i could, about cyber security. the senate recently passed the cybersecurity sharing information act, which permits dhs to scrub personally identifying information it receives from private entities,
but only after it secures the approval of a number of agency heads, including yourself in your role as director of the fbi. have you had communications with other agencies yet about how this process will work? are you committed to ensuring that dhs could conduct a robust scrubbing of personally identifying information? >> i have not had any conversations about that. but the second part is easy. we'll do everything possible to make sure it works, and works the way congress designed it. >> thank you. i urge you to engage in those conversations. i think this process is going to move relatively quickly, or so i hope. in october, president obama secured from president xi of china a striking landmark admission that china had been engaged in economic espionage, cyber attacks, something you've testified about here before, and a commitment that those attacks would end. yet press reports suggest that literally a day after president xi's visit, chinese cyberattacks
resumed. has a fbi detected any change in chinese cyber espionage behavior following president xi's promise? and how do you think we should address this challenge? >> it's too early to say. we're watching it very, very carefully. given the long-tail nature of chinese cyber espionage and theft, i'm not sure that i would expect a change even if one was going to happen that would be visible yet. so we're watching this space very carefully. we've had good conversations with our chinese counterparts. i've told them -- i don't mean to be rude, but the fbi director is paid to be skeptical, i'm deeply skeptical. and so we will have to watch and see what the facts show us. but i can't say yet. >> i think it's deeply disturbing and hostile behavior that we need to continue to be engaged. i've heard from far too many american companies that they've
lost vital both economic secrets and from some federal agencies that they've lost vital national security secrets. and i appreciate your hard work on this. last, i'm the ranking member of the oversight subcommittee, and last month we held a hearing at which dekalb county's police chief who is himself a 30-year law enforcement veteran testified that the notion that there is a so-called ferguson effect is of no real significance. i was struck at that hearing, which chairman cruz called under the title "a war on police," that hearing actually produced no evidence that there is any meaningful, organized war on police. and as the co-chair of the senate law enforcement caucus, i know that law enforcement faces real challenges, nationally, every day. but i see little evidence to suggest that these issues stem from the calls of some in the civil rights community for greater accountability. in fact my experience at the local level was that police officers are some of the
greatest advocates for account the because it makes them more effective police officers. is it your view that the protection of american civil rights is inconsistent with policing and officer safety or is it fundamentally in harmony? >> they're fundamentally in harmony. scrutiny is good for everybody. >> thank you. it's my view that in a democracy, the enormous power we give to law enforcement and the very high expectations we have for them are only strengthened by accountability that then produces community engagement, community support. the agency i was fortunate enough to be closely associated with for a decade really was an early national leader in community policing and did i think an outstanding job as winning the trust of our community and thus being effective at policing. i think there's a lot of work to go in terms of accountability and engagement and protecting civil rights. i appreciate your response on all four of the questions i've asked today and i'm grateful for
your service. thank you, director. >> thank you, senator. >> i've got three questions i would like to ask, and then i assume everybody's asked questions once, that nobody will come back. i want to start by underlining what senator cornyn said about the clinton e-mail investigation. almost a thousand e-mails contained classified information, were stored in the non-government server system. a former i.t. specialist has avoided this committee's questions. there might come a time when the committee refers the matter to the department of justice for prosecution of some of the individuals involved. as you know, no matter what the
fbi finds, the political appointee at the justice department will ultimately make the decision whether or not to prosecute. that's why some have called for a special counsel to be appointed for an independent decision. my question is, if the fbi refers to the matter to the justice department, but the justice department refuses to prosecute, the public will not learn the facts that the fbi independent inquiry established. would there be a process but which you would inform the public of what the fbi learned and what you will do if the decision not to prosecute appears to be improperly influenced by political considerations? >> mr. chairman, i'm not comfortable answering a question about what might happen in that particular matter. i think it's important that i make sure i'm -- i'm making sure it has the right resources, the
right people, and it's done in an expeditious, fair, and competent way. i don't want to speculating and down that road, if i could. >> could i remind you that in the anthrax case, after the person that was suspected committed suicide, that the fbi did make that investigation public? so wouldn't there be a precedent for you making your investigation public? >> there's a variety of precedents for an investigation, describing some or all of it to the public. i just don't want to speculate on this particular investigation. >> okay. state department officials, along the same line, state department officials have informed my staff that the fbi has seized or taken possession of the state department computer used by the witness who was asserting the fifth amendment to this committee. there has also been a public report that the fbi has taken
possession of state department e-mail servers. is that correct? has the fbi seized or taken possession of these state department computers? >> i can't comment on that, given that it's an ongoing matter. >> i'm not really asking you -- i'm just asking you, do you have these tools available. >> if i were to answer, i would be answering about what evidence we've gathered in an investigation. >> okay. >> i can assure you -- >> you don't need to go any further. i trust you. the american people rely upon you to investigate potential criminal conduct, and in the course of that conduct, politics cannot interfere with your responsibilities. in a "60 minutes" interview, president obama declared in a question about secretary clinton's use of a private server, quote, i can tell you
this is not a situation in which america's national security was endangered, end of quote. how can you assure the american people that you will not let the white house influence the fbi's inquiry? >> i hope the american people know the fbi well enough, and the nature and character of this organization, as i've said many times, we don't give a rip about politics. anybody's view about an investigation they're not involved in is irrelevant. we care about trying to find out what is true in an honest and independent way. i promise you, that's the way we conduct ourselves. >> okay. now i would like to discuss whistle blowers and the second of at least three questions i would like to ask you. in your confirmation hearing, you expressed strong support for whistle blowers and the need for them to feel free to raise their concerns up the chain of command. fbi policy encourages employees
to report wrongdoing to their supervisors. first question, do you support legal protections for fbi employees who follow fbi's own policies and report wrongdoing to their supervisors? if not, why not? >> i do, very much. >> okay. under current law, fbi agents have no legal protection for reporting wrongdoing to their supervisors. do you see any justification for not fixing that problem? >> i think it's very, very important that we create the safe zones that all of our people need to raise concerns that they might have. and so that is the way i not only talk, that's the way i walk at the fbi. and i know that we're having conversations about are there additional protections we can offer. i think there might be sensible ways to do that. i have some small concerns. i want to make sure that we don't create a system where, to get too deep in the weeds here,
an fbi agent or fbi employee can report not just fraud, waste, and abuse, but can get wh whistleblowing protection for bad management. that's a huge range of things. but i'm open to try and improve the way we approach it. as i've said, i have tried to really walk this talk by the people i've met with, the way i've given out awards in the fbi. i will continue to try and work with you to try and improve that. >> you've spoken repeatedly about isis's sophisticated use of the internet to lure americans to syria and to inspire tactics in the united states. this is very concerning, and i know you speak from your heart on that. other than addressing the problem by encryption, are there any other tools that would help the fbi identify and monitor
terrorists online? more specifically, can you explain the electronics communications are and how congress accidentally limited the fbi's ability to obtain them or the drafting error, would fixing this problem be helpful for your counterterrorism investigations? >> it would be enormously helpful. there is essentially a typo in the law that was passed a number of years ago that requires us to get records, ordinary transaction records that we could get in most contexts with a non-court order, because it doesn't involve content of any kind, to get those records. nobody i know of thinks that that's necessary.
it would save us a tremendous number of work hours if we can fix that, without any compromise to anyone's civil liberties or civil rights. anybody who's stared at this says that's a mistake and we should fix that. >> this will be my last question. you heard my concerns about non-citizens who are not legally permanent residents buying and possessing guns in this country. if you were the me to ask this, i'm not going to ask this other question. let me go to this question. in regard to your last response, you said you tried to walk the talk on this. why hasn't the fbi imposed discipline in any of some cases that i've been investigating, what message does it send to fbi employees and the fbi fails to hold retaliators accountable for the question? that will be my last question.
>> there's a good question and hard question. i believe we do try hard to hold retaliators accountable. now, often, if people know we're coming for them, they'll retire on us and leave government service, which is a challenge for us. but it is not just that enforcement that matters. it's how do we act, how do we conduct ourselves. and i don't want to brag on myself, but i will for a second. we have annual directors awards. and at the end of the directors awards this year, i gave an award to recognize somebody for blowing the whistle on misconduct. i want back to the podium and says, this matters, the reason i'm saving this one for last is, this matters. when an organization dedicated to finding the truth in american life, we have to make sure we're open to seeing the truth about ourselves. so, look, we're not perfect and i think we can benefit from working with you to get better but i believe we have sent the message this matters.
>> listen, you've been here a long time. i thank you for the time you've given us. maybe some members will submit questions for answer in writing. i may even do that myself. i hope you'll respond appropriately and as quickly as you can. thank you very much for your service. >> thank you, senator. presidency. sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span 3. on the next washington journal former congressman and transportation secretary ray lahood talking about his book seeking bipartisanship which chronicles his career in politics. then a look at the $1 trillion spending bill in congress with niels lesniewski. washington journal live every morning on c-span and join the conversation on facebook and twitter. book tv has 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors
every weekend on c-span 2. saturday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern on after words, nurse and "new york times" columnist theresa brown discusses her book "the shift, one nurse, 12 hours, four patients lives" which gives readers her firsthand account of patient care and safety. >> health care is only going to get more and more complex. and we're just going to need better and better nurses then to meet all those complex needs. so thinking about how to keep us strong and healthy and encouraging that is huge. i don't think -- we give lip service to that but we don't really emphasize it. >> on sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. eastern -- >> politics, which i've been part of all my life was not so
different from the world of petty, criminals, robbers and racketeers but guys and less obvious to see. in fact for 25 years in my career i looked at america as an idea. i've defended american principles, the american dream, the american founding. and i looked at american politics as a debate. the republicans believe in liberty. the democrats believe in equality. republicans want equality of rights. democrats want equality of outcomes. now it is the point of view of the criminal underclass that this way of looking at american politics is complete and total nonsense. >> dineshd'souza looks at america and american politics. sunday night at 7:30 p.m. eastern former democratic
presidential candidate and author lawrence lessig talks about his experience running for president and campaign finance. the central theme of his book "republic lost the corruption of equality and the steps to end it." >> we're supposed to have a democracy where we as citizens are equal participants but members of congress spend 30% to 70% of their time raising money. they can't help but be more focused and concerned with tints of that tiny fraction of the 1%. so that's a system where this basic equality is denied. >> watch book tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 2. following the terrorist attacks in paris and san bernardino, california, the u.s. visa waiver program is under review by congress. in a senate homeland security hearing a former director of the program along with officials from customs and border protection and the