Christopher Wray, who was nominated Wednesday by President Donald Trump to become the next FBI director, has a history of taking a hard line on prosecuting Islamic terror cells in our nation’s capital.
In 2003, Wray was part of a team that busted 11 members of a Virginia jihad network. The arrested members would later be convicted of belonging to a sophisticated terror cell that supported Islamic militant groups al-Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terror organization.
At the time, Wray was serving as acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. His no-nonsense approach when it came to Islamic terror was reflected in media reports following the arrests of the suspected terrorists.
“We will vigorously prosecute anyone who plans to fight against Americans and to provide support to our terrorist enemies," Wray said after evidence surfaced that two of the members of the terror cell — Randall Royer of Washington, D.C., and Masoud Khan of Gaithersburg, Md. — were plotting to join al-Qaida in Afghanistan to fight U.S. troops. As part of a plea deal, Royer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while Khan received a life sentence.
Other members of the Virginia group gained “entry to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, where they trained in the use of various weapons,” the Department of Justice said.
Wray and his team succeeded in breaking up the D.C.-area jihadi network, with nine of the 11 members convicted on multiple counts.
“When individuals meet in the shadows of our nation's capital to prepare for violent jihad, we will take action," the now-FBI director nominee promised at the time.
The Washington Post reported that authorities alleged the men “trained in military tactics during paintball games in Northern Virginia -- training the government now contends was to prepare them to fight U.S. troops.”
In 2004, Wray appeared before the Senate to testify on the aggressive strategy his Justice Department was pursuing against Islamic terror.
“We have broken up violent jihad cells across the country,” Wray said. “We cannot and will not limit our role to a reactive one, simply picking up the pieces after terrorist attacks. In other words, we are playing strong offense, not just defense, through aggressive investigation, comprehensive intelligence gathering, and real-time analysis of data.”
With the current climate of countless “known-wolves” involved in U.S. counterterror investigations, which are now open in all 50 states, Wray’s aggressive record on aspiring terrorists may serve him well as President Trump’s next FBI director.
Wray graduated from Yale Law School in 1992 and went on to clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit. In 2003, he was nominated (and later unanimously confirmed by the Senate) by former President George W. Bush to serve on the DOJ Criminal Division, serving as an assistant attorney general until 2005. Following his government service, Wray moved on to a career in private practice.
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.
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