FBI and DHS Aren’t Using the Free Expertise on Right Wing Terrorism While Looking to Pay for It

There was a remarkable moment in the Homeland Security/Rules hearing on January 6 the other day. Krysten Sinema asked whether FBI knew of the conversations on social media where people were openly planning for insurrection. FBI’s Assistant Director for Counterterrorism, Jill Sanborn, explained they did not know of them because the Bureau couldn’t collect on the social media of Americans without a predicated investigation.

Krysten Sinema: Was the FBI aware of these specific conversations on social media?

Jill Sanborn: To my knowledge, no ma’am, and I’ll just sort of articulate why that is. So under our authorities, because, being mindful of the First Amendment and our dual-hatted mission to uphold the Constitution, we cannot collect First Amendment protected activities without, sort of the next step, which is the intent, and so we’d have to have an already-predicated investigation that allowed us access to those comms and/or a lead or a tip or a report from a community citizen or a fellow law enforcement partner for us to gather that information.

Sinema: So the FBI does not monitor publicly-available social media conversations?

Sanborn: Correct, ma’am, it’s not within our authorities.

For what it’s worth, Sanborn’s first comment was about collecting on social media. Sinema then treated that as a limitation on monitoring it (and Sanborn didn’t correct her). Still, Sanborn explained away FBI’s failure to see the insurrection many of the rest of us were seeing develop in real time by saying that discovering it would have required tracking Americans’ protected speech.

A more revealing moment came elsewhere, when Sanborn revealed that just one person who has been arrested in the wake of the attack had already been under investigation. That means, in spite of the Proud Boys’ threat, with Roger Stone, against Amy Berman Jackson two years ago, the FBI didn’t have an enterprise investigation into them (or the Oath Keepers or a range of other extremist organizations involved in the attack). So, because the FBI was not investigating the Proud Boys, the Proud Boys were able to plan an insurrection in plain sight.

That has changed, of course.

Later in the hearing, Mark Warner — citing all the FBI’s warnings in recent years about what a lethal threat white supremacist terrorism is — asked both Sanborn and the woman currently running DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Melissa Smislova, what they’re doing to improve things and whether they’re using any of the open source experts out there.

Sanborn talked about working with “partners” (which I took to mean social media companies) and Fusion centers. Smislova revealed that DHS is looking to contract with experts on the topic, rather than read what those experts produce on a regular basis.

Mark Warner: I appreciate Ms. Sanborn’s appropriate response that they not arbitrarily collect off of American citizens if there’s not some nexus, but I do think it’s important, I think others have mentioned this that Domestic Violent Extremists didn’t start with January 6. They didn’t start with Donald Trump. They’re not going to end with January 6. They’re not going to end with Donald Trump. In my state we saw, a few year’s back, the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville where many of these same groups and affiliations came together in another violent effort where one protestor was killed, we unfortunately lost a couple members of our State Police. Director Wray has repeatedly said in testimony before the Intelligence Committee, the Worldwide Threat Assessment, that Domestic Violent Extremists are a major national security threat to this country. I personally believe that that message was downplayed during the previous Administration because they didn’t want to hear it. I want to start with Ms. Smislova and Assistant Director Sanborn — Director Sanborn it’s great to see you again — is that, recognizing the constraints that are placed upon you in terms of collections, and also acknowledging that this threat has been around for some time. The FBI in particular has acknowledged that it is an extraordinary major severe threat, what have you both been able to do in engaging in open source intelligence and independent research communities to better identify these DVEs. I know in the run-up to the January 6 insurrection there was research done by Harvard’s John Donovan and Elon University’s Megan Squire as well as other researchers that pointed to the fact that these DVEs and affiliated groups, oftentimes groups that are working in conjunction with groups in Europe, were planning this effort. So how are you both, DHS and FBI, utilizing these independent researchers, these open source activities, and making sure we’ve got a better handle on it, recognizing your appropriate constraints on what you can do directly?

Melissa Smislova: Yes, Senator, thank you for the question. We just last week met as, as inside I&A, to discuss contracting with some of those experts outside. We are aware that we need to invest more in our understanding of Domestic Terror, we understand as well that it will require a different approach than a traditional Intelligence Community approach, we must use different sources to understand this threat, we are looking to get outside experts, invest more in-house, we are secondly looking at how to better understand the social media world, so we can better focus on where we might find specific and insightful information about what the adversary is thinking about. We are additionally looking to partner more with our state and local colleagues who we know have a different perspective on this threat and have more information, in some cases, than we do, and we are also, again, partnering more across the department and with our federal partners, increasing our relationships with FBI.

Warner: Ms. Sanborn?

Jill Sanborn: Thank you Senator, nice to see you again as well. I’d sort of say what we’re trying to do, and I’ll put it in three buckets, really, for you. Increasing our private sector is 100%, I have a section just inside my division that does nothing but partner engagement. We have found that the better we educate them on the threat we’re facing and painting a picture for them of what those threats we are, they’re better able to pay attention and collect and refer information to us and that is helpful and that’s when we talk about the fact that 50% of our tips and leads to our cases, or predication for our cases come from that relationship and that education. We’re also, same as my colleague said, using the state and local partners, so we leverage the Fusion centers a lot and their ability and their expertise — and the Orange County Fusion Center is a great example of leading, sort of, the analytics of social media and leveraging their expertise to predicate cases and they were actually behind the predication of the case, The Base, that we disrupted. And then last, I’d say, challenging ourselves for better collection inside, right, trying to point our sources and our collection to be in the right places to collect the intelligence that we need and that is what led to the Norfolk SIR, that is us pointing our collection in a space that gathered that information.

Warner: I have to tell you, respectfully, I’m pretty disappointed with both of your answers. This is not a new threat, we’ve seen since 2016 election how foreign adversaries manipulate social media, hear repeatedly from DHS and FBI that we’re going to get better at collecting. We saw the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. We heard people say we’re gonna get better at collecting information and better partnering, neither one of your referenced — there’s literally a host of experts at academia, at organizations like Graphika, and others that are monitoring the DVEs and their activities, oftentimes in their connections to anti-government groups in Europe, again, oftentimes amplified by nations like Russia, and I guess we’re always going to get ready and we’re somehow surprised when we see the kind of chaos that took place on January 6th.

Mark Warner proceeded to chew out both FBI and DHS’s witnesses given that, even after he raised open source expertise available, neither mentioned relying on it.

I hope Warner is paying attention to Huffington Post’s recent reporting. On February 26, relying on the work of some anti-fascist researchers, HuffPo identified Danny Rodriguez as the likely culprit behind the tasing of DC cop Michael Fanone, which led him to suffer a mild heart attack. HuffPo also reported that the FBI had gotten tips IDing Rodriguez in January, but had done nothing to call those who submitted the tips until HuffPo called the Bureau for comment.

The man in the red “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat seemed to think he was untouchable. He joined the mob as they yelled “HEAVE! HO!” and tried to force their way through a police line into the Capitol building. Once inside, he used a pole to ram against a window, trying to shatter it and bring more people into the Capitol. In the most disturbing footage of all, he was caught on camera appearing to shock D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Mike Fanone with a stun gun. As rioters push Fanone down the stairs and away from other cops, video shows the man in the red cap pressing a small black device against the officer’s neck. Fanone instantly drops to the ground, swallowed by the mob.


His assailant in the red MAGA hat, who has been at large since the insurrection, is 38-year-old Daniel Joseph Rodriguez from Fontana, California, HuffPost can confirm.

Rodriguez, who goes by “Danny” and “DJ,” is well known among Trump supporters in the Los Angeles area as a superfan of the former president. Multiple news outlets have featured him in their coverage of the local pro-Trump movement in recent years, in articles that included his name and photo. He regularly attended the weekly Trump rallies in Beverly Hills last year. He was recognizable there by his dark-rimmed glasses and the many distinctive pins on his hat, which has a big GOP elephant symbol on the brim.


Two separate anti-fascist activists ― as well as a third witness who supported Trump and called himself a former friend of Rodriguez ― reviewed footage of the man at the Capitol and told HuffPost they recognized Rodriguez from the California rallies.

The FBI received tips about Rodriguez last month, including one from a man he assaulted on video at a Los Angeles-area rally. But it wasn’t until hours after a HuffPost inquiry to the bureau for this story that the tipster heard from an FBI special agent with questions specifically about a man named “Danny Rodriguez.”

Then, yesterday, HuffPo revealed another case where a researcher sent in a tip only to have no visible response from the FBI. Shortly after January 20, SeditionHunter “Amy” identified Robert Scott Palmer as the guy in an American flag jacket who sprayed a fire extinguisher at cops.

With bright red and white stripes across his body and stars down his sleeves, the man in the American flag jacket and “FLORIDA FOR TRUMP” hat wielded a fire extinguisher while charging the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. He shoved his way through the crowd of rioters to the police line, then sprayed officers at close range before chucking the emptied canister at them. By nightfall he himself had been lightly harmed, apparently by a police crowd control munition. He held up his shirt to show off his bruised gut during an interview with a female journalist filming him live as cops pushed the mob back from Capitol grounds. Then he looked straight into her livestreaming device and identified himself as Robert Palmer from Clearwater, Florida.


Palmer is now publicly on the FBI’s radar, though not by name. Three photos of him are featured on the bureau’s Capitol violence page, where he’s listed only as “#246 – AFO [Assault on Federal Officer].” But the images didn’t appear there until nearly a month after Amy had already tipped off the FBI about his identity.

#FloridaFlagJacket was used as a hashtag on Twitter less than a week after the Capitol attack, when Trump was still in office. Amy sent in a tip naming Palmer not long after President Joe Biden was inaugurated. His photos were finally added to the FBI database in late February.

It’s not just online researchers whose tips the FBI isn’t moving on quickly. On January 11, someone who knew Peter Schwartz as a felon who had gotten released from prison due to COVID, alerted the FBI that Schwartz had skipped out on his halfway house to attend the rally (the tipster was friends with Schwartz but Schwartz owed him money). The FBI subsequently identified Schwartz as the person who maced some cops.

On January 11, 2021, the FBI National Threat Operations Center (NTOC) received a tip from an individual (hereinafter W-1) who is personally acquainted with SCHWARTZ. In the tip, W-1 reported that “Pete SCHWARTZ” was involved in the Capitol riots. W-1 stated SCHWARTZ is a felon and was released from prison due to COVID-19. W-1 also stated that SCHWARTZ is employed as a traveling welder. According to W-1, SCHWARTZ was supposed to be at a rehabilitation facility in Owensboro, Kentucky on January 6, 2021. However, W-1 saw a picture of SCHWARTZ on the Capitol Building steps that appeared to have been taken on January 6, 2021. As part of the tip, W-1 also provided the Facebook URL for what he claimed was SCHWARTZ’s Facebook page. W-1 did not provide any other photographs, however. Due to the volume of tips provided to the FBI since January 6, 2021 – which stands at over 150,000 as of January 26, 2021 – the FBI was not able to immediately contact W-1 regarding the information that W-1 provided and did not immediately link SCHWARTZ to the individual who repeatedly maced officers at the Capitol.

Schwartz wasn’t arrested until February 4.

Still, that’s less time than these other tips.

The FBI, perhaps justifiably given the flood of data they’re dealing with, seems to value tips from suspects’ direct associates rather than online tipsters. The vast majority of tips they have acted on do come from people who know a suspect directly, often their family or friends or high school classmates.

But many of these researchers have been doing what FBI claims it cannot do (or could not before an insurrection gave them the predicated investigation permitting them to do so): connect the dots from public social media.

Instead, DHS is looking to pay people for the assistance people are trying to give the FBI for free.

58 replies
    • skua says:

      I’ve read of incidents on 9/11/2001 and in Oklahoma that I thought would have resulted in effective processes by 2020.

    • Leu2500 says:

      If the FBI were stuck in the 60s it would be collecting, not just monitoring, social media information.

      • P J Evans says:

        Watch *what* they collect. They’re still more interested in leftish and Middle-Eastern sites, not the right-wing where a lot of the domestic terrorists are.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      It’s not just the FBI. The imagination failure extends across supposed top-tier investigatory resources. For a few years I have been tracking the ideas and plots of the many commenters on the Epoch Times online; that was how I knew something big was brewing for January 6. But the NYT, even in what it presents as in-depth reporting, never goes beyond ET’s Facebook presence:
      “Several of the pages gained significant followings “seemingly overnight,” said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Many posts were shared thousands of times but received almost no comments — a ratio, Ms. DiResta said, that is typical of pages that have been boosted by “click farms,” firms that generate fake traffic by paying people to click on certain links over and over again.”
      The article never explains that subscribers (and even non-subscribers) to the newspaper do in fact comment in great numbers. Their comments are sometimes terrifying, often incoherent, always revealing. They are not bots. Anyone investigating the alt-right should be following them. But you have to get your butt off the FB couch to do it.

  1. BobCon says:

    Congress really needs GAO looking over the shoulder of the FBI/DHS/Treasury etc. as to how they have been dealing with supremacists, if they aren’t there already. This isn’t the kind of thing that can be handled by a Senator or one or two of their staffers.

  2. Arthur M. says:

    Thank you for this report. IMO the FBI has gone from Cointelpro’s “secret police” (opening mail, tapping phones, sending notes to civil rights leaders suggesting they commit suicide) abuses of the 1960s, to willfully refusing to detect the public pattern on social media platforms in the 2010s / 2020s.

    What changed? Well, leadership at the FBI has certainly turned over: the reign of corrupt, compromised director Hoover is thankfully over (still waiting on a full accounting there.) However the most glaring difference is how the FBI responds when groups and activities arise from a left-based ideology, versus how the FBI responds to groups and activities arising from a conservative ideology.

    To a layman like myself, the FBI grants conservative white males more deference than citizens of color / from a more diverse background.

  3. subtropolis says:

    I don’t find the last part too surprising, given that there only some two dozen agents working on this, as I understand it. That’s an awful lot of tips each has on their plate.

    The other stuff is, frankly, distressing. I know that the FBI was working hard on The Base, as well as many militia types. They arrested a bunch in the weeks leading up to the election. But, is DHS following along? These responses are not comforting.

  4. Eureka says:

    The other thing is as soon as any of these organically-functioning groups is subcontracted (assuming that any of the known, successful groups would be selected — which may be a stretch), the work would probably get spoiled and, well, not work so well. I can’t see a contractor (being allowed to be) working with crowdsourced assistance, for example. Maybe they could just contract others to try to parallel construct the results of these successful groups. So it would add the customary time delay and degree of separation but still result in useful info. [All of this said secure in the knowledge that they won’t do in the future what they would not do at origo, which is to just take the freely available info as a matter of course.]

  5. greenbird says:

    there are experienced folks with proven skills at solving difficult, complex problems, who – when holding a position of authority – seem to perform magic.
    so, yeah, i remember Fitzmas … but i still put up a tree when the stars begin to align.
    and here’s another one: every road is bumpy – quality suspension makes it seem smooth.

    i am yearning for Garland because so many are stalling him.

    • skua says:

      Garland is over the 2/3s hurdle – GOPers left to get sleep and Schumer had the numbers. Just needs a 50+Harris confirm vote in a week.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Of course they are stalling him. Having pretended for months that he wasn’t worthy to be on the Supreme Court, the logic of that position is that he therefore cannot be worthy to be AG. Stalling is a message to the world that their previous actions were principled, as screwed up and illogical as that “logic” is.

  6. Eureka says:

    Related, as detailed by Jeremy Roebuck at the Inquirer: Philadelphia PB leader Zack Rehl was with Nordean and Biggs, active in directing the PB scrum around the Capitol — giving ‘stop’/’start’ marching signals — while Trump spoke at the Ellipse. He’s been IDed to the FBI by online sleuths as depicted in numerous media, including a photo taken in Merkley’s office (aside: recall Merkley’s laptop was the first publicly stated to have been stolen) which was published Jan. 25th in the New Yorker. The Inquirer has IDed him in numerous photos/videos. [They have a link to Eddie Block’s nearly two hour livestream, FYI.] FBI would neither confirm nor deny an investigation into Rehl; Rehl would not speak to the Inquirer.

    Roebuck notes a couple of distinctions wrt Rehl’s behavior versus some others’: Rehl apparently did not post pictures of himself from inside the Capitol; and unlike Nordean and Biggs, Rehl is so far not seen in video entering the building (but then there’s that pix in Merkley’s office). [However, there have been charges, if sparse, solely for trespassing the outdoor restricted grounds. And if this is some kind of informant situation, it seems like they’re handling it far too obviously.]

    And in Further Chronicles of We All Saw How This Was Coming, Roebuck links highlights of Rehl’s PB career, to include when Pence visited the FOP lodge for a Back the Blue Rally July 9, 2020, where PBs openly attended the FOP lodge after party, and they intimidated and ran-off two female reporters outside who fled for their safety [this after some bike cops came and went, checking on the _PBs’_ safety] (which I recounted here at the time).

    Philly Proud Boys president Zach Rehl marched alongside leaders charged in Capitol riot

    Images from the day show Zach Rehl, the Philly Proud Boys president, at the forefront of a crowd that marched on the Capitol and eventually breached the security perimeter. He hasn’t been charged.

    by Jeremy Roebuck Published Mar 5, 2021
    Inquirer staff writers Oona Goodin-Smith and Ellie Rushing contributed to this article. <<— the reporters intimidated by the PBs with police 'assistance' July 9, 2020

    "This" being the embrace, elevation, and unleashing of [monster in any movie plot]

    • pdaly says:

      Curious indeed.
      I also noticed, for what ever it’s worth, Rehl is the only man without a beard in that group photograph.


    • harpie says:

      Haven’t read it all yet, but wanted to mention about the “camouflage “Make America Great Again” hat”.

      Just a little detail this reminded me of,
      from the Just Security “Incitement Time Line”:

      June 4, 2020: The Trump campaign sends out a fundraising email asking supporters to enlist in the “Trump Army.” [screenshot]

      That invitation to join Trump’s Army:

      FOR PATRIOTS ONLY: according to your donor file, you’d make an excellent addition to the Trump Army. […]
      YOU are the President’s first line of defense when it comes to fighting the Liberal MOB.

      These limited-edition [Camo Keep America Great] American-made hats are for Trump Army members ONLY, so do not pass this information on to anyone.

      I can’t tell if that’s a “Make America Great Again” camo hat in the photo or a “Keep America Great” camo hat…

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        harpie, I remember getting that email from the Trump list, with its distinctive language suggesting someone understood the appeal of military cosplay paired with militia-esque secrecy (that is, all the military gear and excitement, without the accountability). At the time I wondered, who falls for this? Now we know.
        Pretty sure I got another, or one like it, during the fall. And I’m still wondering how the Trump email fundraising, which stopped rather abruptly, correlates with insurrection planning. As in: who has which email lists? I’m seeing Brad Parscale mentioned recently as having Mar a Lago visits.

      • Eureka says:

        I believe it’s a “MAGA” camo hat. Blowing up the image, the top line ends in “AMERICA” and the second word of the second line is “AGAIN”.

    • Eureka says:

      ^ ZACH not Zack

      Two items in follow-up:

      (1) Local independent journalist tracking right-wing extremism with lots of details (including how other PBs tried to help Rehl create an ‘alibi’*, claiming he was instead at Harrisburg 1/6 contra all video evidence):

      Why Hasn’t Zach Rehl Been Arrested Yet? / Jordan Hopkins
      Published on 31st January 2021

      * as Roebuck notes above, former Marine Rehl is the son and grandson of Philly cops.

      and yes harpie 12:05 PM and me 11:04 PM, others identify that as a MAGA hat as well/additional images

    • Eureka says:

      (2) on Rehl’s pre-PB organization, “Sports, Beer and Politics” — which could be described as a gateway group or a soft-front group (neo-Nazis promoted the group’s 2017 counter-impeachment rally, for example) depending on one’s perspective:

      Philly Trump supporters will rally against those calling for impeachment – On top of Philly news
      Cassie Owens Jul. 01, 2017, 9:30 a.m

      Some of the memes SBP posts are playful; others appear to disapprove of feminists, LGBTQ people and Muslims.

      Rehl insists that the group is not homophobic.[…]

      [Yes, I noticed, too, that the feminists and Muslims left the chat.]

      Rehl follows with a defense that Trump backs LGBTQ rights, which he hopes that “the gay community can see and turn around a little bit” (writer Owens follows by noting changes already in Trump’s pre- / post- POTUS public positions). Rehl’s coalition had perhaps forgotten or never been the wiser that the evangelicals on board must have their pound, too.

      Owens’ piece aids a glimpse of the evolution of Trump and “mainstream”, side-stream, and extremist opportunist supporters’ views, how they changed and shaped each other over time to what we have now. Rehl as SBP cofounder tells of NAFTA-hate and lost factory jobs, citing his mother and aunts’ textile work during his youth. Three-and-a-half years later he’s radioed- and goggled-up, apparently participating in — if not helping to lead — an insurrection on the Capitol of the United States of America.

    • Eureka says:

      Rehl is glued to Biggs in much of the pre-entry video. He’s framed-in with Biggs (on Biggs’ right) in the WSJ video where they ID Biggs & Nordean leading the PB to the Capitol, for example, and is to Biggs’ left when they’re arriving at the police barricades.

      4:18+ and 4:55+, respectively:

      [later images of Rehl outside show him with a different, Philly-based, PB]

      Here’s a nice still of Rehl and Biggs with their radios prominent (Biggs appears to be communicating on another device at this time) (can’t attest to tweeter’s ID of make/model):

      Detrumpify.org: “Boys and their toys. Note the matching Baofeng UV-5R radios, which are economically priced and dead useful when cellular networks are down, but require a license to transmit with. 11:50 am on the 6th. Video courtesy of Proud Boy live-streamer whose home was raided by the FBI. 😂 [image]”
      1:13 PM · Jan 24, 2021

      • Eureka says:

        Interesting :30 clip:

        (1) By 3-4 seconds Rehl reaches foreground (Biggs is just behind him, to his right), walking next to & just behind a big guy in a black Carhartt sweatshirt who is holding what appears to be some kind of (weapon) device. (It resembles some electric stun devices but that seems so improbable, even though, yes, that guy in Pelosi’s office had a cattle prod, and stun guns were reported. This has a tong-/pincer-like end.) What is that? Who is that?

        [Big Carhartt guy is up front with PB leaders in the WSJ video too, but I don’t see that he was IDed there. His picture is everywhere but can’t find the name.]

        (2) They’re walking in a crowd mixed with general protesters, Qanoners, around the Capitol. Nordean (in line with Rehl and Biggs — to their right) says on a megaphone, “Be respectful.” Rehl is sans orange tape, like other PB leaders. Others flow through with orange tape on their clothes. Some of them seem to be indicating their PB identity to someone ahead as they approach: Rehl by wiggling his radio, others by gesturing to that part of their upper chest/clavicle area (some with very small pieces of orange tape placed there, as opposed to more overt orange arm bands of tape). To whom/ why are they communicating?

        Hannah Allam: “Shortly after that, a big group of Proud Boys & others arrived, all marching in together. “Be respectful!” they’re told over the bullhorn. [video]”
        7:15 AM · Jan 13, 2021

        appending note to 4:22 AM re WSJ video: 7:08+ is where Rehl, Biggs, Nordean are up front at the police line (timestamp in video states that’s at 1:04 PM)

    • Eureka says:

      One more, because it fits EW’s post with resounding irony (Resounding.). Per this screenshot/thread, “Zach Pb” (identified as Rehl) and the Philly PB VP (“Aaron PB”) discuss checking in with their FBI contact; “Aaron PB” claims that the FBI contact specicially wants them to share OSINT info that they — we — can tie to criminal activity on someone who says they are an OSINT anti-fascism researcher:

      Community Research Opposing Hate: “This right here is why Philadelphia Proud Boys President Zach Rehl is not in jail with his buddies. The Philly PBs chapter is a cesspool of federal informants. The feds give them a long leash to do fashy shit so long as the snitches feed them a steady stream of intel. [screenshot]” [see thread for more info, incl. photos from DC December 12th]
      7:38 AM · Mar 6, 2021

      The screenshot (‘sic’s all around):

      January 3 [year not given, but may be deducible from an enclosed screenshot]
      Aaron PB created the group

      Aaron PB: I know, another chat, but this one is for info we want to send to our FBI contact. Specifically he wants things we can tie to criminal activity. 6:53 PM

      Zach Pb: Did you let him know I didnt forget about him?lol 6:55 PM

      Aaron PB: Screenshots of anything from antifash Gordon specifically. This chat should be pretty sparse and kept extremely confidential 6:55 PM

      Aaron PB: Not yet lol 6:55 PM

      Aaron PB: [screenshot of a twitter conversation that includes “AntiFash Gordon”]

      What if the PBs are already the subcontractors /s

  7. obsessed says:

    It seems alarming that the FBI didn’t investigate the Proud Boys after the Stone/Berman incident. I’d be curious to hear people’s opinions on Christopher Wray. I want to dislike him because of his role in Bridgegate. But since he was Christie’s lawyer and everyone’s entitled to one, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s corrupt. Sen. Whitehouse certainly seems to hate him. What say the experts?

  8. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    That transcript of Mark Warner’s question erroneously calls Harvard’s Joan Donovan “John Donovan.”

  9. harpie says:

    Back in October, when we learned about the plot to kidnap Whitmer:

    11:58 AM · Oct 8, 2020

    [from Detroit News article] The federal investigation dates to early this year when the FBI learned through social media that individuals were discussing the violent overthrow of several state governments and law enforcement.

    Also at the tweet: screenshot of TRUMP’s “LIBERATE” tweets from APRIL.

  10. PeterS says:

    A lot of us predicted that the Big Lie would lead to widespread violence, and Jan 6 was an obvious focal point. And as stated, there were very many conversations on social media where people were “openly planning for insurrection”.

    But I do remind myself that, once you know X, Y and Z were insurrectionists on Jan 6, it’s easy to find their incriminating online messages. To complete my understanding, I’d need to know how many people made much the same comments on social media but didn’t end up in the Capitol. 

    Wray spoke about the difficulty of distinguishing between dangerous violent talk (talk with “intent”) and violent talk which is just “aspirational”. An obvious solution surely was to look at organizations.

    • ptayb says:

      Shouldn’t the courts make that call? Is it really up to the investigators to determine intent? It sounds tailor made to let a favored class dodge responsibility for their actions/threats. Come to think of it, it is hard for me to parse the difference between “intent” and “aspirational”. Does intent mean you are going to do it today while aspirational means you are going to wait two or three days?

      • P J Evans says:

        To me, “aspirational” means you hope to, you want to, but you don’t have all the stuff needed yet, so it’s Real Soon Now.

      • PeterS says:

        As I commented before, there are probably a thousand messages every day on social media wishing violence against someone specific, very often a woman. Can the FBI investigate all of them? No. Do I want the FBI to ignore all of them? No. So that must mean I want the FBI to ignore those they think are BS and concentrate on the genuine threats. How else could it possibly work. Let’s not get stuck on semantics.

        P.S. I’m not advocating for a more intrusive FBI.

  11. Manwen says:

    The DOD has a much larger budget than the FBI. DOD has pumped a great deal of money into universities and research consortiums to research and monitor overseas threats through a variety of programs, many a direct outgrowth of the Global War on Terror, including Minerva grants on social science research. These programs have funded numerous studies and monitoring of social media platforms used by violent extremists. As of now, DOD knows more about overseas groups, motivations and methods. They understand better how radicalization occurs and are more able to distinguish between aspirational goals and indices of behavior. The FBI does not have the same kind of resources, the flexibility of DOD, nor the accumulated wisdom of monitoring social media platforms that DOD has developed and continues to develop.
    There is nothing illegal about watching social media platforms that operate in public platforms any more than it is illegal for the FBI to read other public material such as books and published materials. Sanborn’s testimony was a bit misleading on this point.
    DOD has been spending nearly two decades developing data analytics to watch such groups, but the FBI and, as importantly DHS, have failed to keep pace. The USG is now in a position where it can watch and predict international violent extremism more easily than the FBI and DHS can watch and predict domestic violent extremists. This gap is reminiscent of some of the problems that preceded the 9/11 attacks. Some parts of the government know there are threats but they have not developed methods that allow them to understand when a domestic threat moves from fantastical dystopian dreams to a more imminent threat of actualized behavior.
    I do not wish for a more intrusive FBI, but they can and should monitor social media with rigorous intent to identify legitimate threats to the public and to the functions of government. It should not take an incredible investment in resources, nor pose a threat to civil liberties, in order to bring together the information of those who monitor public social media with the analytics already deployed by DOD. The work already done by academics, think-tanks, and the military can substantially improve threat assessment capabilities at FBI and DHS. Coordination and a minimal increase in resources could help solve the problem of distinguishing the “aspirational” from the “operational.” Indeed, it would probably lead to a more efficient use of resources and a corresponding respect for civil liberties if properly applied.

    • PeterS says:

      A lot of good sense there. But I suspect that one difference between international violent extremism and domestic violent extremism is scale. How many millions of Americans bought into the Big Lie, and so how many tens of millions of loosely insurrectionist, angry messages were posted on social media between 4 Nov and 6 Jan?

      Could an algorithm have sifted out the real dangers? I don’t know. My guess is that lack of manpower was more of an issue than lack of computers.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I have often wondered why there is not better interagency coordination and cooperation. I think Mueller made a generalized point about this during Congressional hearings. The look on his face and the tone of his voice indicated an urgency, but his words were elusive and vague.

      There does not seem to be a lack of information and wherewithal so much as a lack of will and leadership. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have been tracking hate groups and extremism for decades. And, as you say, academic institutions and think tanks have valuable data, as well.

      For example, West Point has a valuable article in its archives from 2013 that received little attention. Related articles don’t appear again until 2020. Politics seems to be the major obstacle.

      Republicans seem to think it is an advantage to maintain and support hate, while Democrats think it is a disadvantage for a democracy to promote hate. That could explain why it is so difficult for the US to move forward.

      “Violent Far Right Terrorism Archives – Combating Terrorism Center at West Point”


      • PeterS says:

        “Republicans seem to think it is an advantage to maintain and support hate, while Democrats think it is a disadvantage for a democracy to promote hate.”

        Nicely put, thank you. Though so deeply depressing too.

        • harpie says:

          Yes, SL, nicely put…but we might add >>>

          GOP MO = Manufacture, foment, maintain and support HATE

          For them, it’s existential.

  12. Atomic Shadow says:

    When Trump’s accounting firm was ordered to hand over his taxes and other documents, we read about forensic accounting firms having AI programs that could parse terabytes of data in nothing flat.

    The FBI, do they have computers?

    • P J Evans says:

      The younger agents, probably. The older ones, probably not. (Or maybe at home but not at work.)

      • pdaly says:

        The FBI has a mandatory retirement age of 57 so you would think the majority of its current agents have computer experience.
        Even the oldest would have been exposed, at the very least, to email by college age or just beyond.

        • P J Evans says:

          You would think so. But computers don’t seem to have really been absorbed by the organization and its internal culture.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The FBI has a long history of overspending on, but underutilizing its computer systems and IT and communications protocols. Perhaps that’s changed, but it seems unlikely, given the DoJ and FBI leadership that Trump has imposed on it.

      • bmaz says:

        Not to mention that the investigation is by the Manhattan DA, not the FBI, at least at this point.

  13. Greg Hunter says:

    Everything I read and understand about our current government and its priorities seems to lead me to one thing that may solve all these entangling alliances between the government and its right wing sub contractors is the Drug War.

    From paying the Taliban 44 million dollars in April of 2001 to using Enrique Tarrio as an informant in drug cases has done nothing but strengthen the right wing relationships that are bring us so much domestic trouble. Unfortunately Big Pharma is a much larger negative force in American politics than the NRA and so we dither at the margins instead of addressing a root cause issue.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Thank you, Greg Hunter, for bringing the War on Drugs into this conversation on law enforcement priorities. In the wake of the civil rights gains of the 1960s, the War on Drugs became a vehicle for pursuing the race war. It allowed White politicians to plead “law and order” as code for disproportionately targeting and criminalizing Black lives. It led to two more generations of oppression (economic and otherwise) for Black communities. And it diverted resources, conveniently, from White threats of violent crime like domestic terror groups and actors during a period when overall violent crime rates dropped. Hence we now have militarized police chasing Trump’s imaginary “American carnage” because it has a Black face, while militias prepare for insurrection in plain online sight undeterred. How long do we think a Black militia would have lasted during the last four years?


    There is a confusion within the article regarding two different levels of expertise.

    There is the expertise of single academics at universities; researchers at centers analyzing the right-wing both nationally and globally, who may be professors or journalists or close observers; and, academic researchers at companies like Graphica or DFRLab who have real expertise and sharp tools to analyze digital traffic on social media platforms.

    But, the FBI and DHS also have a problem, perhaps self-inflicted, perhaps not, perhaps constitutional, or of lacking imagination to give warning of an attack in which you do not need a predicate to open an investigation.

    For example, this idea occurred to me reading the article regarding the FBI Norfolk’s office memo of danger on January 6th. The idea is simply this:

    Imagine you work at the CIA or the European Command’s intelligence division and you are looking at a foreign country (not the USA). but a major country within EUCOM’s area of operations. What Indications & Warning picture would you see based on the following indicators?:

    * an authoritarian leader for months during the campaign and after losing the election claims–against all evidence adjudicated in the country’s court system–that the election was rigged against him and that the election was stolen;

    * members of his political party in the national legislature are echoing his claims or do not refute his claims;

    * the leading television, radio, and religious programs in the country amplify the leader’s claims and propose that the formal acceptance of the election results be halted;

    * the leader’s allies hold rallies in the nation’s capitol in November and December to encourage the leader’s political party’s legislative members to not certify the election in early January;

    * the leader’s allies form a social movement organization dedicated to holding a protest on the day of the election certification and the leader will address his most fervent supporters in their last-ditch effort to prevent his re-election from being stolen;

    * the leader of an umbrella paramilitary organization claims for months that the election has been rigged, the opposition candidate and president-elect is a pawn of the Chinese Communist Party, and that militiamen should come to the Capitol for a mass rally on January 6th;

    * the leader of an ethno-nationalist militant group linked to the authoritarian leader’s regime is calling for his members to attend all the leader’s rallies and protests in the Capitol and to go incognito so as to escape detection;

    * and, their is massive amounts of “chatter” on several social media platforms among the most fervent of the leader’s supporters that they need to “take back” their country from the illegitimate opposition party, they must punish members of the leaders party who do not obey his wish to stop the certification process, and, if this results in a second civil war or a second revolution, well, they asked for it.

    Now, I guarantee to you that if I were reading those indicators as an intelligence analyst, I would be writing an assessment that is going to advise the commanding general of a theater command that there is a possible coup brewing in this foreign country. I would think the CIA and State Department’s INR would be writing similar assessments. These assessments, I strongly suggest, would be going into the read books of the commanding general, the Secretary of State, and the president. Embassies would be warned of a possible coup in this country.

    And yet no one in the FBI or the DHS saw this coming.

    And I will contend and put my head on the chopping block, that that is because there is a real difference between doing foreign intelligence (looking outward from the USA) and doing domestic intelligence (looking inward towards the USA).

    Benjamin Wittes saw this coming two days before the Capitol insurrection. Others did as well.

    So, part of the problem is not just that the FBI and DHS need to consult or contract with various experts, but Congress needs to understand why all these indicators of an insurrection–that would have triggered CIA, State, and military intelligence services to give a blaring warning–were missed and not reported. What is actually broken in the domestic intelligence system?

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      What would constitute “the leading television, radio, and religious programs in the country” if that country were the USA? Also, what about the fact that much of the information/entertainment accessed by Americans is online?
      I’m not challenging your umbrella argument here. I’d just really like to know what a ‘religious program’ is, as well as what you consider “leading” TV and radio.

      • JAMES SCAMINACI says:

        Leading in the context of the US is obviously Fox News, Fox News personalities’ radio shows, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative radio talk show hosts, and the Christian television and radio networks, many of the latter tied into the Council for National Policy. But, you can also add the many parachurch organizations who have been promoting the idea of a second civil war or a second revolution since 2009.

        My point was simple. The FBI and DHS want to say that the “chatter” could not be tied to a known person, so they could do anything. My point is that if you put everything that was open source information into an Indications and Warning format, you end up with a potentially serious threat that may happen on January 6th.

        I was a I&W watch officer. I passed DIA’s I&W class. There was enough open source information that would have produced a far more cogent assessment that should have been briefed to the decision makers responsible for defending the Capitol.

        I also read today the Attorney General’s Guidance on FBI investigations. It is clear that the FBI could have been more proactive and did a more robust investigation leading to an assessment. Certainly, with FBI hqs tasking field offices for assessments, a central intelligence office in FBI hqs should have been collating, fusing, and analyzing all the field offfice reports and put them into a FBI hqs assessment.


    I forgot to add the second type of expertise. I got carried away on the first type.

    The second type of expertise in the article is that of independent researchers who are identifying people by looking at videos and combing through social media platforms (like “sedition hunters”). There is value in that. But, they could be also wrong. Most of these groups I am aware of have their members put their findings into a pool where it is reviewed before being sent to the FBI.

    And then there is an excellent group like BellingCat who do tremendous work.

    And then there is the excellent work of anti-fascist researchers or anti-fascist collectives who have done an outstanding job of infiltrating secret communications channels and making them available as well as identifying white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.

    So, aside from the “sedition hunters”, there is a great deal of open source information available to the FBI and DHS.

  16. Vinnie Gambone says:

    What bullshit. The Philadelphia Police monitor boards and FB constantly. Some mummers clubs got a call from city authorities once it became known the mummers were planning an alternate route for a parade. Feds find pedos all the time scouring the boards. Cops can’t alert feds? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. They will never get Stone.It’s the only thing I’m living for.

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