"Well that's not the term I would use", Wray said when asked if FBI agents are engaged in spying when conducting investigations against suspected terrorists or other criminals. "Lots of people have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity. Part of the investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes. To me, the key question is making sure it's done by the book".
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director said he personally does not have any evidence the FBI conducted illegal surveillance into any campaigns in the 2016 US presidential election.
Wray continued on saying that the FBI had secured a number of relevant warrants for its counter surveillance investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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In April, US Attorney General William Barr told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that spying occurred on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
The FBI has been criticised about opening a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 that led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate allegations of Trump-Russia collusion.
Mueller concluded at the end of the two-year investigation that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia.
Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the US political system, saying the allegations were made up to excuse the election loss of Trump's opponent as well as to deflect public attention from actual instances of election fraud and corruption.
Best Defence Against Foreign Influence Threats Includes Offensive Response
"I think the best part of a defence against a foreign intelligence threat like malign foreign influence includes an offensive capability", Wray said when asked about what options exist to deter foreign interference in US elections.
Wray further elaborated that he would get into details about the FBI’s methods to counter foreign interference in a closed hearing.
Moreover, Wray said he expects foreign influence campaigns in the United States to continue in the 2020 elections.
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The FBI director also said US government agencies are now better cooperating with social media companies to identify and combat foreign influence campaigns on their platforms.
Cybersecurity threats have grown exponentially and that the FBI is in serious need of data analytical tools and cybersecurity tools to address the problem, Wray added.