Commentary

Senators: Ask The FBI Nominee for His Diversity Plan

Jul 12, 2017

Christopher Wray, President Trump’s nominee for FBI chief, heads to Capitol Hill this morning for a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee. The president announced his pick June 7 on Twitter, about a month after abruptly firing former chief, James Comey.

You can watch the action online at 9:30 a.m. on the PBS NewsHour, on C-Span, or the the Senate website.

Wray, a former Justice Department attorney, has spent a decade in private practice, typically representing companies accused of committing federal crimes. Most notably, he served as New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s personal attorney during the Bridgegate investigation.

The investigation into the possible Trump ties to Russia will be top of mind today, but there are other serious operational issues at hand Here are two questions I’ll be listening for from the Committee members.

1.) Where do you stand on torture?

David Cole, the national legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union told NPR that the senators should inquire about Wray’s work after Sept. 11. Wray was part of a key team working to protect national security after the attack. "In our torture database, which we created through documents we received under the Freedom of Information Act, Chris Wray is named on 29 documents," Cole said. "And these are all documents related to the Bush administration's use of torture and coercive interrogation tactics against detainees." Wray’s responses to the mistreatment of detainees were redacted, however, so we simply don’t know.

2) What is your diversity plan?

The FBI is astonishingly white. According to the FBI’s own statistics, 83% of special agents, 78% of intelligence analysts, and 69% of professional staff are white. And the numbers are getting worse, not better.

Former director Comey considered this an emergency and a priority. In fact, he was preparing to attend a diversity recruitment event in Los Angeles when he was fired. “We have a crisis in the FBI and it is this: Slowly but steadily over the last decade or more, the percentage of special agents in the FBI who are white has been growing,’’ he said in a speech to security professionals about a year ago. “I will have failed if I don’t change this.”

It’s now up to the next FBI chief.

Former F.B.I Section Chief Robert Cromwell (and raceAhead reader) has written a book on his time at the FBI called Fugitive Man: Hunting Violent Criminals for the FBI and Searching for Justice for the Innocent Convict. In it, he talks about his own experience in both law enforcement and recruiting. “Director Mueller recognized the importance of diversity in our ranks, and monitored hiring statistics closely,” he writes. “With his support, we conducted numerous recruiting initiatives aimed at women and people of color. While we gave it a good try, the FBI could certainly do better.”

The lack of diversity within the ranks of the FBI represents an operational shortcoming, says Cromwell. “The widely accepted corporate argument for diversity predicts a more efficient and functional organization when the organization reflects its customer base,” he says. It’s even more critical for law enforcement. “The FBI’s bottom line is not expressed in profit or loss. The FBI’s bottom line involves success in preventing terrorist attacks, catching spies, solving major crimes, and saving lives.”

Ask Wray for his diversity plan, Senators.

Here’s a hint from the corporate world: If it doesn’t include some version of a Chief Diversity Officer who reports directly to him, it’s not a plan, it’s a pass.

Ellen McGirt is a senior editor for Fortune and writes raceAhead, a daily column on race, culture and inclusive leadership.

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