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FBI opening new China investigations every 10 hours, Director Wray tells Congress

Director Christopher Wray spoke at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance Summit in Washington (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Flickr)
September 17, 2020

FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress Thursday that his agency is opening up a new investigation of Chinese-linked threats “every 10 hours.”

Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee that the FBI has more than 2,000 counterintelligence investigations on China, which he said forms “by far the biggest chunk of our counterintelligence portfolio.” Wray said, “We are opening a new Chinese counterintelligence investigation about every 10 hours.”

“The scope and scale of this threat is really breathtaking,” Wray added.

The FBI director said that China’s theft of U.S. research and intellectual property has a perverse effect, because much of it is taxpayer-funded, and China’s extensive efforts to steal the information could be seen as advancing China on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime.

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Wray’s testimony before Congress on Thursday reiterates remarks he made about China in June. Wray said at the time that there has been “about a 1,300% increase in terms of economic espionage investigations with a Chinese nexus from about a decade ago.”

Asked on Thursday how Congress can help the FBI stop the Chinese threats, Wray said, “We need as many resources as we can to help everybody tackle it but it’s not just a government problem, we need to work with the private sector, you mentioned the academic sector. I will tell you I’m very encouraged by the response we’ve gotten from both the private sector and frankly the academic sector; lately I think people in this country are starting to wake up to the threat and voluntarily taking appropriate measures.”

The FBI director said some universities are still slow to realize the Chinese threats they face, but more are becoming responsive to the potential research theft.

Wray provided his testimony on Thursday as part of an annual hearing on threats to the U.S. including from overseas sources like China, Russia as well as domestic sources.

Wray did say Russia is also active in efforts to undermine U.S. institutions, including the upcoming U.S. election.

His assessment comes after a U.S. intelligence report indicated China, Iran and Russia are all actively involved in efforts to undermine the U.S. elections, with Russian preferring to undermine Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, while China and Iran preferring to undermine President Donald Trump.

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, in a recent interview with CNN, said he views China as a more aggressive threat to the U.S. election than Russia. Barr did not provide CNN with many specifics on the Chinese election threats he saw, but said he came to the conclusion based on his review of relevant intelligence documents.