Saturday, July 15, 2023

Turley: Wray's playing Americans for chumps -- so what will Congress do about it?


And not just Catholics either. Con-law professor Jonathan Turley angrily — well, angrily for Turley — ripped FBI director Christopher Wray for his prevarications to Congress as his agency and the Department of Justice stumble through a series of scandals. Wray offered only a “false appearance of contrition and substance” in a “maddening” performance, dodging questions about Hunter Biden, the censorship regime in which the FBI played a central role, and more.

“He could have answered some of these questions,” Turley told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade. “He just chose not to” (via Mediaite):

Turley’s frustration spilled out into his blog this morning as well. Focusing on Wray’s responses to questions about FBI censorship on social media, Turley accused Wray of an “obviously false” response:

Despite the near total lack of substance, Wray did make one surprising denial. He insisted that the FBI does not engage in censorship efforts, focuses only on “foreign disinformation,” and does not pressure companies to censor others. Those denials are not only directly contradicted by the recent 155 opinion of a federal court and the Twitter Files, but a new release from the Twitter Files and journalist Matt Taibbi.

Wray said that “…The FBI is not in the business of moderating content, or causing any social media company to suppress or censor.” He then added that these companies are not under any pressure in making their own decisions whether the censor people or groups flagged by the FBI.

The statement is obviously false. The FBI maintained a large operation of agents actively seeking the censorship of thousands, as discussed in my prior testimony.

The 155-page memorandum from Judge Terry Doughty accompanying his injunction too, and more officially than from Turley’s testimony alone. But just a day earlier, Matt Taibbi released more of his trove of Twitter Files documents that showed the scope and the fervor in which the FBI under Wray conducted its “Censorship Enterprise,” as Taibbi dubbed it. Taibbi had been withholding these due to a dispute with Elon Musk, but decided that the Missouri v Biden case was too important to let these documents remain out of sight any longer:

On June 11, 2020: a senior FBI official in Washington emailed the FBI’s San Francisco office, asking about three accounts: @deepnotion2, @go_trump_2019, and @thePOTUSBox, and to advise of any “actions taken.” The FBI agent in San Francisco passed the note to a Twitter lawyer. The next day, Twitter responded: “We have suspended the accounts.”

From FBI whim in DC to Bay Area Twitter suspension, the sequence took about 24 hours. It wasn’t written as a direct order, but subsequent events showed it might as well have been.

Though a senior Twitter lawyer in that case ordered the accounts suspended, a technical issue left them still up two weeks later, triggering a “WTF?” email from the original FBI man …

Translation: we sent a letter two weeks ago, why [expletives deleted] are these accounts still up? Also, while you’re cleaning up that mess, could you send us a new list of “linked” accounts for “lead purposes”?

Click over to Racket to see the screencaps of the originals from Taibbi. Then-exec Yoel Roth responded by offering a groveling apology, followed by a request for the FBI to share its insight into why these accounts were problematic in the first place. “We don’t at this time have clear indication that they are foreign in origin,” Roth told FBI investigator Elvis Chan, and noted that one came back as Canadian, not Russian. They suspended the account anyway, at which Taibbi marvels:

Roth then asked, in the gentlest language possible, if the FBI could possibly share with Twitter why those accounts needed to come down, since “we don’t at this time have clear indication that they’re foreign.” If “we zapped the account, now could you send us the reason?” isn’t good enough to convince people of the nature of this relationship, I don’t know what would be.

Read through all of Taibbi’s review of this material, which reveals a robust, aggressive, and intentional program of censorship. Are we to believe that the director of the FBI never knew about this effort? And are we to believe that, having had this exposed months ago in the Twitter Files reports, Wray still can’t provide answers as to why the FBI ran a censorship effort aimed at the speech of Americans on social media?

Come on, man.

However, all of that prompts another question, which Turley asks in this same segment:

I mean, the thing is Congress has to make a decision here. You know, they just went through an entire hearing where they were given nothing. He was far more detailed when Eric Swalwell asked him about the FBI family day.

With that, he just held forth at length. But when he was asked about censorship, he gives answers that seem rather obviously false. He said that the FBI focused on foreign disinformation. That’s just not true. I mean, we have the emails. At some point, you are treating the public like chumps. …

So the question is, what is Congress going to do about it. They have a very serious censorship scandal. You have 155 page opinion from this court. You have the Twitter Files that you just mentioned. There’s ample evidence to show that what the director said yesterday does not comport with the truth. So the question is what is Congress going to do about it?

The Weaponization of Government subcommittee has started to build evidence for some action. In Wray’s case, the only substantive option would have to be impeachment, but the chances of removal in the Senate range between zero and YGBKM. The long game would be to continue to publish this material and the ways in which this administration in particular have weaponized government into an authoritarian Big Brother, and then put that issue to the voters. It may not be satisfying, but patience and thoroughness will pay off better in the long run than stunt votes and the premature finality they provide.