OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A clearly frustrated Sen. Ted Cruz angrily denounced FBI Director Christopher Wray and his agency in a testy exchange during an oversight hearing on Thursday.
At one point, the Texas Republican slammed his boot on a table and denounced the agency as having become “thoroughly politicized” under Wray’s leadership.
Wray was being questioned by senators when Cruz inquired about what he described as an FBI training document that had been obtained by investigative journalism organization Project Veritas which the Texas lawmaker said “listed various symbols and themes which in the FBI’s estimation were indicative of ‘militia violent extremism.'”
According to a video clip of the exchange posted online, Cruz pointed out that, according to the alleged FBI training document, the symbols included the Betsy Ross flag — an early design of the American flag consisting of 13 stars in a circle — the Gadsden “Live Free Or Die” Flag and the Gonzales battle flag. At that, Cruz took off one of his boots and slammed it on the table to show Wray that it depicted the Gonzales flag.
“Well, I will self-report right now that every day in the Senate, I wear my boots that have the Gonzalez battle flag on the back of them,” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) slams his boot on the table in opposition to FBI guidelines on symbols that indicate violent extremist groups:
“I will self-report right now that everyday in the Senate I wear my boots that have the Gonzales battle flag on the back.” pic.twitter.com/HxsqbEXaqJ
— The Recount (@therecount) August 4, 2022
“Director Wray, what are y’all doing? This makes no sense,” Cruz continued, pointing to a graphic mock-up behind him of the training aid sent to Project Veritas. “Do you agree with this FBI guidance?”
Wray responded that he was not familiar with the particular training aid that Cruz posted and thus could not comment specifically on it, but added: “I will tell you that when we put out intelligence products, including ones that reference symbols, which we do across a wide variety of contexts, we usually make great pains, take great pains to put caveats and warnings in the document that make clear that a symbol alone is not considered evidence of violent extremism.”
“Director Wray, you don’t include things like Antifa,” Cruz responded, again referencing the alleged FBI training document. “You don’t include things like Black Lives Matter. Instead, you identify patriotic Americans as suspect.”
In a statement to Newsweek regarding the alleged document, the FBI said:
“It is our usual practice to decline comment on articles about allegedly leaked FBI documents, internal FBI products, or information shared with law enforcement partners. In this case, we would point out an online article referencing an allegedly leaked document on symbols that may be used by Militia Violent Extremists (MVE) contains the following words highlighted in bold near the top of the document: The use or sharing of these symbols alone should not independently be considered evidence of MVE presence or affiliation or serve as an indicator of illegal activity, as many individuals use these symbols for their original, historic meaning, or other non-violent purposes.”
It’s not clear which “online article” the FBI was referencing but on Wednesday, The Epoch Times reported on the training aid leaked to Project Veritas and included a graphic:
The “Domestic Terrorism Symbols Guide” was leaked to Project Veritas, which released images of the bulletin on its website and social media on Aug. 2. It includes such common images as the Gadsden flag, the Betsy Ross flag, and the Liberty Tree.
The document includes terms and symbols that are very familiar in conservative, law enforcement, and military circles. In the introduction, the FBI stressed that simply using the terms or symbols is not evidence of wrongdoing.
“The use or sharing of these symbols alone should not independently be considered evidence of MVE presence or affiliation, or serve as an indicator of illegal activity, as many individuals use these symbols for their original historic meaning or other non-violent purposes,” the bulletin reads.
“Widespread use of symbols and quotes from American history, especially the Revolutionary War, exists within MVE networks,” the bulletin adds, according to The Epoch Times. “Historic and contemporary military themes are common for MVE symbols.”