March 1, 2019
Press Release


WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County), member of the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking him why the Bureau is dismantling its International Human Rights Unit. The unit, which investigates international war crimes, is critical to the U.S.’s leadership on enforcement of international order and the protection of human rights.

In the letter, Mr. Lieu writes:

  • As you know, the IHRU was originally dedicated to hunting down Nazis living in the United States after World War II and has since grown into an important legal and moral bulwark against perpetrators of genocide and other human rights abuses. This work is highly specialized and deserves the attention and expertise that come from having a dedicated federal unit. Not only does the unit focus on crimes committed by foreign actors abroad, but it also addresses international crimes committed against U.S. citizens abroad. Dismantling the office makes U.S. persons less safe.
  • According to an FBI statement, the dissolution of the IHRU “in no way reflects a reduced commitment by the FBI” and existing agents will be reassigned to the Civil Rights Unit (CRU). However, the CRU is dedicated to domestic civil rights cases, with little to no expertise investigating human rights violations or working internationally. Without major adjustments to the structure of the CRU, it remains unclear how it will have the capacity to execute the IRHU’s mission.
  • The decision to shutter the IHRU is particularly confounding in light of the unit’s recent high-profile victory in the conviction of Thomas Woewiyu, a former Defense Minister of Liberia. President Trump also touted the FBI’s work in identifying Jakiw Palij, the last known Nazi who was living in the United States until his deportation to Germany last year. Clearly, this office and its dedicated professionals have proven successful, time and again, in their mission.
  • President Ronald Reagan said: "Let us remember our heritage and, with it, our destiny – the destiny of this shining city on a hill, this beacon of freedom for all the peoples of the Earth." I fear your unnecessary shuttering of the IHRU has dimmed the lights on our shining city on a hill.