In May, following President Trump’s dismissal of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey, over a dozen candidates under consideration for the vacant position had been mentioned by current and former government and intelligence officials. CAIR profiled those candidates’ positions on the interconnected issues of refugee resettlement, domestic spying, torture of prisoners, rendition, federal watch-lists, and racial and religious profiling.
Considered a dark horse by many, on June 7 Trump officially nominated Christopher A. Wray to be director of the FBI. Wray is the former assistant attorney general who oversaw the Justice Department’s Criminal Division under President George W. Bush and many of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) operations immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
CAIR holds reservations over Wray’s unconstitutional order of a “communications blackout” of the DOJ, FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Services’ (INS) mass arrest of Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants following the September 11 attacks.
Along with many other civil and human rights organizations, CAIR is also reminding the Senate Judiciary Committee, responsible for Wray’s confirmation to FBI Director, that he misled the Committee in 2004 over the extent of his, and the DOJ’s, awareness of torture occurring at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The extent of Wray’s interaction with, and draft review of, the Bush Administration’s now defunct “Torture Memo” remains unclear.
Unconstitutional “Communications Block” of September 11 Detainees
The DOJ Office of the Inspector General’s report “The September 11 Detainees,” states that as principal associate deputy attorney general, Wray directed the “communications blackout” of the DOJ, FBI and INS’ detention of 762 out-of-status Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants arrested as persons of interest in the terrorist attacks. CAIR notes that the majority of these immigrants were found to have no ties to terrorism.
Following the mass detention of these immigrants, Wray directed the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to not “be in a hurry” in providing detainees with access to communication. This unconstitutional order resulted in numerous detainees being unable to notify their families of their arrest or communicate with an attorney for periods ranging from, “8 to 10 days,” “the first few weeks,” or “until mid-October 2001,” per the report.
Many of the leads that resulted in the detention of these immigrants were based on discriminatory religious and ethnic profiling and were meritless suspicion. The report notes that many “leads that resulted in an alien’s arrest on immigration charges were quite general in nature, such as a landlord reporting suspicious activity by an Arab tenant.”
The report also found that, “the FBI and INS in New York City did little to distinguish [between] the aliens arrested as the subjects of [Sept. 11 investigation] leads” or those for whom there was evidence of ties to terrorism, “from those encountered coincidentally…with no indication of any ties to terrorism.”
Lee Gelernt, who heads the American Civil Liberties Unions’ (ACLU) Program on Access to the Courts, told the Daily Beast that, “the government repeatedly told the courts in the aftermath of September 11 that it was not necessary to provide public access to the detainees because the detainees had full access to the outside world.” However, “that turned out to be false, as the Justice Department’s own internal investigation revealed.”
Many of those detained at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center were held in “23-hours-a-day solitary confinement” and endured “strip searches, sleep deprivation, beatings and other abuses and [were] denied the ability to practice their religion,” according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the detainees.
Connection to Bush-Era Torture Programs and Misleading of the Senate Judiciary Committee
As assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, Wray was “notified early about the ongoing Central Intelligence Agency investigation of abuse at Abu Ghraib,” according to the Miami Herald. “Notably, he was alerted to the suspected homicide of a captive who came to be known as the iceman because of lurid, leaked photos showing the corpse of Manadel al-Jamadi packed in ice.”
Wray was notified of the suspected homicide in a February 2004 Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] memo titled “Possible Violations of Federal Law.” Yet three months later in May, Wray testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that his “principal awareness of the abuse” was “through the news media.”
During that Committee hearing, Wray made no attempt to mention the CIA memo when asked by the Committee’s Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), “What actions has the Department of Justice taken with respect to investigating and possibly prosecuting criminal conduct by American civilians at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or at any of the other places where the administration has evidence, and the administration does have evidence, of other torture that has not been made public yet? What actions have you taken?”
Wray’s lack of transparency during the hearing prompted Leahy to write a letter to then Attorney General Ashcroft complaining that Wray provided a “less than a complete and truthful answer,” personally noting that “I am concerned about this,” below his signature.
CAIR Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Seek Clarification
CAIR publicly urges the Senate Judiciary Committee to seek answers from Wray over the extent of his involvement in the unconstitutional “communications blackout” on the secret detention of hundreds of innocent Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants following the September 11 attacks.
Wray should be questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee if, as the Trump Administration’s FBI Director, he would ever again support such a roundup of people inside the U.S. or any unconstitutional communications blackout.
CAIR also requests that the Committee press Wray about his involvement in the drafting and review of the Bush Administration’s “Torture Memo,” the possibility of his authorizing or knowledge of torture, or conversely, the possibility of putting a stop to the practice, and the possibility of persecuting those who committed acts of torture.