Senator Lankford Questions FBI Director on Background Checks and Growing Transnational Criminal Organizations

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WASHINGTON, DC – During an Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray about the department’s work to be more expeditious when completing background checks for nominations and administration staff, and the FBI’s efforts to work with DHS and the US Attorney’s office to stop transnational criminal organizations.


(2:42-4:09) Senator Lankford: The background checks have been a constant issue about trying to raise the number of background checks and the speed of those. The FBI is obviously very involved helping with that process. Can you help us understand better what can be done better to not only up the speed but to give your agents more time to be able to work on transnational criminal organizations and crimes against children and so many other things that you do rather than so much time on the background checks? Is there a better way to do it?

Director Wray: I think we are all frustrated at the pace. We have to be thorough. We have to be careful. I think one of the challenges is that we deal with when we are running searches we are fundamentally, as the FBI, a field-deployed organization. So, it’s not just that there can be one place centrally headquartered where we’d have all that information. People could be more, nominees could probably be faster in getting us paperwork. You know, because that’s where we start. But there are a lot of different ways in which lots of us have to do more. We have looked at things, we do things like look at retired agents sometimes come back as contractors because they have some of that judgment and experience. Obviously, all of that requires resources, but that’s another way we are trying to deal with that. 

(4:10-5:41) Senator Lankford: Let me switch over to transnational criminal organizations and try to see the focus you’ve had and the cooperation with the US Attorneys at this point because that requires a tremendous amount of coordination with all areas of DHS, with all areas of…FBI, US Attorneys. What are you seeing at this point in the transnational criminal organizations?

Director Wray: Well I think transnational criminal organizations are maybe one of the least talked about but yet most pervasive threat we have to deal with. We not just see it in the obvious such as drug trafficking and all kind of violent crime but even the things that might not be as obvious to the American people. Of course, they are involved in human trafficking. I’ve seen reporting about them relying on intellectual property theft, of all kinds of things, to raise revenue. So pretty much any area of violation of that the subcommittee can think about, transnational criminal organizations are in them. …we are seeing that more and more. One of the strengths that the FBI brings to the table over the course of its entire 110-year history is the focus on organized crime, dismantling enterprises, going after not just the people but taking apart their infrastructure, taking away their money… so it is something that I think we are going to have to put even more focus on and capture the global, cross-border dynamics. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to technology and the cross-border dimensions as the trends that I would most cite to you on that.