Christopher A. Wray
Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Military Academy at West Point
West Point, New York
March 4, 2024

Director Wray's Remarks at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

FBI Director Christopher Wray addresses cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point during a Commandant's Hour lecture on March 4, 2024. U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen/USMA Public Affairs Office.
FBI Director Christopher Wray addresses cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point during a Commandant's Hour lecture on March 4, 2024. U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen/USMA Public Affairs Office.

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Steve, and thank you all for the warm welcome.

I hope that video helped wake everyone up after lunch.

I get to speak with a whole bunch of different groups in this job, which is great, but I’ve been really looking forward to the chance to meet with all of you, in particular.

I consider it an honor to be able to participate in your Commandant’s Hour.

I’ve always had a ton of respect for all of you and the commitment you’ve made, and after walking around this morning and seeing all that you get done in a day, that respect has gone through the roof. You are our country’s future leaders, and from what I’ve seen today, I know we’re in good hands 

FBI Director Christopher Wray, Associate Deputy Director Brian Turner, and Assistant Director Catherine Milhoan pose for a group photo with the West Point Corps of Cadets on the steps of Washington Hall at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York on March 4, 2024.  U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen/USMA Public Affairs Office.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, Associate Deputy Director Brian Turner, and Assistant Director Catherine Milhoan pose for a group photo with the West Point Corps of Cadets on the steps of Washington Hall at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York on March 4, 2024. U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen/USMA Public Affairs Office.

Ways We Work Together 

One of the things that’s struck me in this job is how much the FBI and the Army, along with the rest of our armed forces, lean on each other. Although we encounter different risks and have different responsibilities, I think people would be surprised by how often we partner up.

Over the past two decades we’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder to find, apprehend, and prosecute foreign terrorists. We’ve teamed up on the trials in Guantanamo Bay. We’re collaborating on emerging technology at the Army Futures Command—where our current FBI detailee is himself a West Point grad. We’re even fighting crime together with the Joint Interagency Task Force, South, out of Key West, where the FBI contributes to more than half of the prosecutions coming from the work detecting the illicit trafficking of drugs, people, and weapons.

We’re serving alongside you in posts around the world in our more than 100 legal attaché and liaison offices.

We’re working together on mission areas as diverse as hostage rescue, human intelligence, and special warfare.

We have DOD [Department of Defense] representatives, including military officers, working shoulder-to-shoulder with FBI agents and analysts on our national counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber investigative task forces. 

So for the 104 members of the West Point Class of 2024 who selected cyber or military intelligence on Branch Night, we’ll be working together real soon.

I even have senior reps from DIA [the Defense Intelligence Agency] and NSA [National Security Agency] sitting in my meeting with the top FBI executives every morning.

The reality is: No matter which Army career branch you’ve been assigned to, there’s a good chance you’ll end up partnering with the FBI. But beyond the places where our folks’ paths may cross with yours, our missions share a few key elements, and it’s those common themes that I want to spend the next few minutes talking about before we get into whatever’s on your mind.

Innovation / Emerging Tech 

The first is the importance of innovation in staying ahead of the threats we tackle.

Technology is constantly evolving in ways that both expand the battle surface and provide new avenues for taking the fight to our adversaries.

Cyber is probably the most obvious example.

When I was your age, the idea that one of DOD's unified combatant commands would be dedicated to protecting cyberspace would have sounded like science fiction. Now, I talk to Gen. [Timothy D.] Haugh, who leads USCYBERCOM [U.S. Cyber Command], and Gen. [Paul M.] Nakasone before him, just about every other week.

Even within that mission set, we’ve worked together across government to innovate—moving from a defensive mindset to one that’s more offensive. That means coordinating with our partners on joint, sequenced operations designed to maximize impact on our adversaries.

I’m talking about things like Operation Medusa, a joint, sequenced operation that included using sophisticated technical means to force Snake—the Russian FSB’s [Federal Security Service's] most sophisticated malware—to effectively cannibalize itself. We took down Snake in over 50 countries, with the help of our U.S. and more than half a dozen foreign partners.

Another example: the year-and-a-half-long campaign we waged—with our European partners—to hack the hackers of Hive, a ransomware group targeting hospitals, schools, and emergency services, whose servers and websites we seized and shut down, and whose victims we saved from tens of millions in ransom payments by using our access to decrypt their networks.

And just a few weeks ago, we announced Operation Dying Ember, where we worked with our U.S.—and, again, worldwide—law enforcement partners to run a court-authorized technical operation to kick the Russian GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate] off well over 1,000 home and small business routers and lock the door behind them, killing the GRU’s access to a botnet it was piggybacking to run cyber operations against countries around the world, including America and its allies in Europe.

But changes in technology aren’t just about expanding the battle surface. Emerging technology also impacts the way both the FBI and our armed forces tackle existing threats—both in terms of opportunities and risks.

In this job—and maybe you can relate to this—whenever I learn about some new technology, I find myself thinking, “Wow, we can do that?!” And then, when I stop to think about it a little more, I’m like, “Oh brother: They can do that, too."

Advances in AI [artificial intelligence]—and generative AI, in particular—are a good example. We’re all, of course, exploring how AI can advance our mission by making us more efficient, helping us triage and process data, and enhancing our ability to detect threats. But maybe even more importantly, we’re focused on understanding and stopping all the bad things our adversaries can do with AI.

Across nearly every category of threat we deal with, we’re seeing our adversaries researching and now beginning to employ AI to make themselves more dangerous. Terrorists are using AI to access dangerous bomb-making information, and write more convincing propaganda. Hackers are using AI to identify new vulnerabilities and write better malicious code to exploit them. It’s making amateur hackers competent and competent hackers advanced by helping them blend in and suggesting code they might not otherwise have been able to write.

There’s a lot of AI-enhanced or -enabled danger for us to battle already, and more coming down the road—all of which highlights the importance, for both the FBI and our nation’s military, of innovation: finding new ways to be more efficient, more agile, and more resilient to prepare ourselves for five, 10, 20 years down the road. 

Maintain Focus  

Another common feature of our work is kind of the flip side of keeping up with evolving threats, and that’s the importance of never losing focus or taking our eye off the ball when it comes to existing threats.

It’s long been the case that the public and the media are quick to declare one threat over and gone, while they obsess over whatever’s shiny and new. But one thing I’ve learned from the different jobs I’ve held in government is that what’s old is often new again, and nothing ever seems to go away.

When I was coming out of college, the Cold War was ending, the Soviet Union was collapsing, and we were told it was the end of great-power competition. Anyone hear anything about Russia recently? 

Our counterintelligence folks spend countless hours combatting Russia’s efforts to steal our government secrets and sow division through human intelligence operations, sophisticated cyber intrusions, signals collection platforms, and foreign malign influence campaigns 

And what about China? 

The Chinese Communist Party has shown it’s willing to lie, cheat, and steal its way to achieve its ambition of becoming the world’s one and only superpower. There’s no question in my mind that the greatest long-term threat to our nation’s ideas, innovation, and economic security—our national security—is the People’s Republic of China.

At one point recently, the FBI was opening a new China-related counterintelligence investigation every 12 hours.

And you talk about cyber.

China’s vast hacking program is the world’s largest, and they’ve stolen more U.S. data than every other nation combined, so despite what folks may have thought in the early nineties, great-power competition is far from over.

Counterterrorism is another great example. On September 11, 2001, I was a relatively new official in the Justice Department’s leadership. I spent most of 9/11 in a packed command center at FBI Headquarters with former Director [Robert] Mueller and then-Attorney General [John] Ashcroft. On that day—and in the months and years that followed—we were laser-focused in our determination to prevent an attack by a foreign terrorist organization on American soil from ever happening again.

After 9/11, the FBI transformed the way we do business. We became an intelligence-driven national security and law enforcement organization—one that collects, uses, and shares intelligence in everything we do. We changed our focus from investigating terrorist plots and attacks after the fact, to stopping them before they occur. We broke down walls and emphasized partnership with law enforcement and the rest of the Intelligence Community. And we made protecting the United States from terrorist attacks the FBI’s number-one priority.

Fast-forward to when I took this job in 2017: Many of those changes were, by then, taken for granted.

In fact, some commentators were criticizing the FBI for maintaining counterterrorism as our top priority—claiming the threat from foreign terrorist organizations was over. How does that sound now after October 7—when one of our closest allies was attacked by Hamas terrorists, who killed something like 1,300 people that day? And that’s in a country with a total population of less than 10 million. Put another way, in America, that would be something like killing nearly 40,000 people in a single day.

In recent months, we’ve seen a rogue’s gallery of foreign terrorist organizations call for attacks against Americans and our allies:

  • Hizballah expressed its support and praise for Hamas and now poses a constant threat to U.S. interests in the region.
  • Al Qaeda issued its most specific call to attack the United States in the last five years.
  • Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—or AQAP—called on jihadists to attack Americans and Jewish people everywhere.
  • And ISIS urged its followers to target Jewish communities both in Europe and the United States itself  

As you probably know, these are groups that haven’t always seen eye to eye—and that’s putting it mildly—now united in their calls for attacks on us. Those events obviously have a profound effect on our troops serving overseas, but they also have implications for our homeland security. I’ve been very public in saying that, in a year when the terrorism threat was already elevated, the ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans inside the United States to a whole ‘nother level.

Although we cannot and do not discount the possibility of another coordinated 9/11-style attack by a foreign terrorist organization, our most immediate concern has been that individuals or small groups will draw twisted inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks here at home. And over the past five months, our Counterterrorism Division agents have been urgently running down thousands of reported threats stemming from the conflict. Even though we’re starting to see those numbers level off, we expect that October 7 and the conflict that’s followed will feed a pipeline of radicalization and mobilization for years to come, [the] point being: The threat of terrorism has not gone away, and it’s not going to, any time soon.

I recently sat down with a former senior intelligence official who talked about how she hates the term “pivot"—the idea that we can simply move on from one threat to the next. In our line of work—whether you’re a special agent or intel analyst at the FBI, or a second lieutenant in the Army—we almost never “pivot” away from a threat. We just end up having to cover down on more and more threats as things evolve. We don’t have the luxury of pivoting or just moving on. We’ve got to continue doing the hard work of staying focused on an expanding array of threats, to keep Americans safe.

FBI Director Christopher Wray (left) speaks with U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Army Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland following his Commandant's Hour lecture at West Point on March 4, 2024.  U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen/USMA Public Affairs Office.
FBI Director Christopher Wray (left) speaks with U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Army Lt. Gen. Steve Gilland following his Commandant's Hour lecture at West Point on March 4, 2024. U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen/USMA Public Affairs Office.

Commitment to Service 

Which leads me to the last common feature I want to highlight, and that’s our shared commitment to service. The FBI’s special agents, intelligence analysts, and professional staff are motivated by the same sense of patriotism and duty as the Corps [of Cadets] and soldiers around the world.

Like you, everything we do is driven by our mission—protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

We’ll always have a bond with those in careers of service protecting Americans, and with anyone committed to the values of duty, honor, country.

When it comes to special agents—and law enforcement jobs more generally—I’ve long said it takes an incredibly special person to wake up every morning willing to put his or her life on the line for a total stranger, day after day. The same is certainly true for all of you and the commitment you’ve made.

At the FBI, we’ve got almost 8,000 veterans among our 38,000 employees—including 179 who attended West Point—and it’s easy to see why so many veterans find working at the Bureau a natural fit: It’s a chance to keep serving a cause greater than themselves.

Among those is our Associate Deputy Director, Brian Turner, who was Class of ’91 and wants me to give a shout-out to Company I-2. Go Moose!

Brian is now the number-three executive in the Bureau and our second-highest ranking special agent.

So, I want you all to know that whenever your Army career comes to a close, the FBI would welcome you, too.

It’s like I tell my folks: We’ve got to always be recruiting. In fact, it’s my understanding the Bureau recruited Brian away from a position as a West Point instructor to an incredible career with the FBI—I’m just saying.

With that, I want to thank you again for having me here today. You represent the best of our country and set a standard to which we should all aspire. I’m looking forward to our conversation.


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