A spokeswoman for the FBI refused to state to The Daily Caller on Thursday whether the agency has any internal guidance on the use of the term “spying,” and declined to clarify how the agency defines the term.
She instead referred the Caller to FBI Director Christopher Wray’s comments in a Senate hearing this week, in which he said he doesn’t consider what the FBI did to the Trump campaign spying, and said that’s all the agency has to say on the matter.
“That hearing was covered by multiple news outlets,” the spokeswoman noted.
Wray’s attempt to distinguish what the FBI did from the term “spying” prompted a slew of headlines. Although the FBI is known to have secretly surveilled one Trump campaign adviser and to have carried out a covert intelligence gathering operation on another, Wray maintained in the hearing that spying did not occur. (RELATED: Former Trump Aide Describes FBI Attempts To ‘Extract’ Information From Him)
“That’s not the term I would use,” he said. “Lots of people have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance.”
The FBI spokeswoman declined to clarify Wray’s distinction between investigating and spying, or to address what kinds of activities the agency would consider spying. She would not speak to whether there are any internal policies on the term.
Wray was responding to a question about Attorney General William Barr’s repeated assertions before Congress that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign, most recently in testimony before the Senate last week. Democrats reacted to the use of the term, in part because President Donald Trump has been accusing the FBI of spying on his campaign for some time.
“I’m not going to abjure the word spying,” Barr said in the course of a tiff with a Democratic senator, who said the term carries a negative connotation.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in Wednesday on the dispute over the term, siding with Trump and Barr. “I think that ‘spying’ is a perfectly good word,” he said in an interview. Former FBI Director James Comey also weighed in Wednesday by echoing Wray’s assertion, saying, “The FBI doesn’t spy, the FBI investigates.”