Adam Schiff Presses FBI on Reviewing Social Media for Future Threats to Capitol

US Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, listens during a committee hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 15, 2021. (Photo by Al Drago / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
AL DRAGO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Thursday at a hearing on worldwide threats pressed Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray on if there were “legal constraints” on gleaning intelligence from social media for future threats to the Capitol.

“It appears that probably some of the best intelligence prior to January 6th was open source,” Schiff said. “What is the bureau’s policy in terms of your ability to review social media when it’s appropriate to do it when it’s not appropriate to do it. Do you have a clear policy on that, and are there legal constraints as well that preclude you from getting the intelligence that you need?”

Wray responded that the FBI does not “simply patrol social media, looking for problems.” However, he said the FBI does get tips from social media companies and members of the public. “If we have the appropriate predication, we follow up on those,” he said.

Schiff then asked if, in the absence of those tips, there was a “proactive effort” to determine the ongoing threat to the Capitol.

Wray said with specific events, there are “certain algorithms and things that we can run that are targeted towards a specific event and a specific threat to a specific event,” and in those situations, the FBI can be “more proactive in running different kinds of queries and searches, looking for indications of trouble, but not kind of in a more broad and open ended way.”

Schiff again asked Wray whether there is an “ongoing effort to identify additional threats to the [Capitol] building through social media,” or if it is “constrained by your ability to review social media?”

Wray said “there’s certainly an ongoing effort to be on the lookout for threats to the Capitol and state capitals, the government officials, etc.”

Although Wray said the ongoing effort does not consist of “just kind of randomly wandering through social media looking for problems,” he said the agency has confidential human sources, relationships with social media companies, and “an avalanche of tips that come in from the public to both our field offices and [National Threat Operations Center].”

“There’s all kinds of leads, assessments, preliminary inquiries and full field investigations that flow out of those, all of which may be geared towards getting in front of and anticipating any kind of threat to the Capitol or to state capitals,” he said.

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