Hawley presses Wray on use of geolocation data to track Capitol rioters

Source: The Hill | March 2, 2021 | Dominick Mastrangelo

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) grilled FBI Director Christopher Wray about the methods federal law enforcement officials have been using to track people who participated in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“Are you saying … you don’t know whether the bureau has scooped up geolocation data, metadata cellphone records from cellphone towers?” Hawley asked Wray during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. “Do you not know, or are you saying maybe it has or maybe it hasn’t? Tell me what you know about this.” 

Wray replied he would “not be surprised to learn” but does not “know for a fact that we were using geolocation data under any situation in connection with investigation into the 6th.” 

“But again, we do use geolocation data under specific authorities and specific instances,” Wray said. “Because this is such a sprawling investigation, that would not surprise me.” 

When it comes to metadata and the Capitol riot, Wray said he felt “confident” the FBI has been acting within its legal authority to look at the data of people who participated in the Jan. 6 attack “under a variety of situations.”  

The FBI in partnership with the Department of Justice and local police in Washington, D.C., have been investigating the origins and execution of the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol. Hundreds of people have been arrested for their participation in the incident that left several people dead and dozens injured. 

Some critics have warned tracking down rioters could come at a cost to personal liberty. Bank of America last month was hit with criticism from the right after it said it would help federal authorities obtain banking information for people believed to have participated in the riot. 

Hawley, a conservative and loyalist to former President Trump, was one of the two GOP senators who objected to the certification of President Biden’s victory even after the riot had briefly forced the legislative proceedings to be put on hold.

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