Former and current FBI agents are fuming about Director Christopher Wray’s use of the FBI’s private jet, which originally was intended by Congress only to be used for counterterrorism purposes.
A lot of other Americans would like to know why Wray cut short a Senate oversight hearing on Aug. 4 to fly in the FBI jet to his family holiday destination in the Adirondacks, after telling Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that he had “business” to attend to.
Republican members of Congress sent a formal letter to Wray on Aug. 15 asking whether the flight was in “compliance with the applicable federal regulations and requirements” and whether he is “properly reimbursing federal taxpayers for your personal travel aboard government aircraft.”
The FBI’s Gulfstream G550 doesn’t appear to have visited Saranac Lake again since The Post first reported on that trip, and two other flights on June 2 and June 5, 2022.
But the jet has been flying back and forth an awful lot to Atlanta, where Wray has a house in the exclusive Buckhead district.
Atlanta frequent flyer
According to flight monitoring website FlightRadar24, the Gulfstream has made eight trips in the past four months to Atlanta, most recently last Tuesday, Oct. 11.
It could be that Wray has important FBI business in Atlanta, but it currently is the No. 1 most popular destination for the FBI jet — and Wray’s roots in the city run deep.
Wray’s wife, Helen Howell Wray, is from Atlanta, where her family has been part of the elite for seven generations.
Although Wray was born in New York and spent summers in the Adirondacks, he began working at the Atlanta offices of the King and Spalding law firm in 1993, after Yale Law School, where he met his wife.
In 1997, he took a job as a federal prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, and went back to King and Spalding in 2005.
When he became FBI director, he was described in Atlanta media as a “Buckhead attorney.”
Perhaps, at 55, Wray is planning for life in Atlanta beyond the FBI, where it is almost certain that his career will be cut short once Republicans take charge of his employment.
An email to FBI public relations Sunday afternoon was not returned before our deadline, so we are left to speculate.
What we do know is that on Oct. 11, the FBI jet left its home airport at Manassas, Va., at 12:46 p.m. and landed at 2:10 p.m. at the Fulton County Executive Airport in Atlanta, 16 miles from his Buckhead home. It then flew to Dallas at 4:17 p.m.
Perhaps Wray had very fast business in Atlanta during the two hours on the ground, or perhaps he found another mode of transport back to FBI HQ in Washington, DC.
On Friday, Oct. 7, the jet again flew to Atlanta, this time from Dulles Airport in DC, leaving at 4:21 p.m. and landing at 5:47 p.m., before turning around 52 minutes later at 6:39 p.m. and flying back to Manassas, landing at 7:43 p.m.
On Friday, Sept. 2, it flew from DC to Atlanta at 4:18 p.m, arriving at 5:43. After a little over an hour on the ground, it flew back to Manassas at 6:52 p.m., landing at 8:11 p.m.
On Sunday, Aug. 14, it flew from Manassas to Atlanta at 12:11 p.m., arriving at 1:23 p.m. After two and a half hours on the ground, it flew back to Manassas at 3:42 p.m.
On Thursday, Aug. 11, it flew from DC to Atlanta, leaving at 2:26 p.m., and landing at 3:43 p.m., spending just 43 minutes on the ground before flying back to Manassas at 4.26 p.m.
On Thursday, June 30, it flew from Manassas to Atlanta at 7:13 p.m., arriving at 8:27 p.m., before leaving for an undisclosed location at 9:14 p.m., after just 47 minutes on the tarmac.
There were several curious flights logged that month, in which the jet is recorded taking off from DC or Manassas en route to Atlanta and then circles around for a few minutes before returning.
On Sunday June 26, it took off from DC at 9:52 a.m., circled for 15 minutes and landed at 10:07 a.m.
Two hours later it took off again from Manassas at 12:03 p.m., circled and returned at 12:21 p.m.
On Monday, June 20 (the Juneteenth holiday), the jet took off from Manassas at 11:31 a.m. and made it all the way to Atlanta, landing at 12:40 p.m. It made the return journey at 2:46 p.m., arriving at 4:37 p.m.
It made another aborted flight back to Atlanta a little more than an hour later, at 5:22 p.m,, returning after 17 minutes in the air to land at 5:49 p.m.
On Thursday June 16, the jet took off from DC at 12:24 p.m., en route to Atlanta, then turned around and landed at 12:45 p.m, after flying for 21 minutes.
Later that afternoon, the jet appeared to take off again from DC at 2:24 p.m. for an unknown destination before turning back and landing at 4:04 p.m. after 21 minutes in the air.
Finally, at 5:37 p.m., it took off for Atlanta and flew all the way there, arriving at 6:57 p.m.
Whatever was the purpose of all those flights to Wray’s hometown, they have set tongues wagging among current FBI agents. They have shared with former agents their suspicions that Wray is treating the FBI jet like his own private plane, and allege it amounts to “embezzlement” of government property which is when someone “knowingly converts government property to one’s own use.”
“The FBI acquired the Gulfstream for the express purpose of moving its own Counterterrorism Rapid Deployment teams to anywhere in the world to deal with an act of terrorism,” says one concerned former agent.
“At the time of discussions centering on the potential purchase of the FBI’s own Gulfstream aircraft, the Bureau was acutely aware of its need and specific purpose, and the significance of never misusing the aircraft for any other travel, specifically to include the movement of FBI Executives unless directly related to terrorism investigations and incidents.”
Spelled out in law
The former agent says embezzlement under Title 18, U.S.C. 641 is distinct from other forms of theft in that “the physical taking of the property is often lawful . . . This can be as simple as using a government-issued vehicle or other device for personal use.”
The statute was used “to great effect and impact, resulting in the indictment, guilty plea and firing of an FBI inspector, and two former FBI directors, one who resigned short of their term, and the other who was fired by President Bill Clinton.”
However, Republican members of Congress say that the Government Accountability Office has permitted previous FBI directors to use government aircraft for personal use as long as they reimburse taxpayers at the commercial rate — which is why they have asked Wray for receipts.