FBI Had an Open Investigation into a QAnon Cultist Predicting World War 3 before January 6

As I noted in this post, partly due to the way Krysten Sinema restated Assistant FBI Director Jill Sanborn’s response, the woman in charge of FBI’s counterterrorism efforts mistakenly claimed that the Bureau cannot monitor public social media communications. The reality — as confirmed by NBC — is that they can’t persistently target a person’s communications, but they can monitor open source postings.

In a statement to NBC News, the FBI acknowledged that it can and does look at public social media information. An FBI official said Sanborn understood Sinema’s question to be referring to “whether the FBI persistently and passively examines internet traffic and social media conversations, to include direct messages between two users.” In fact, her question referred to comments made on public-facing social media services.

“The FBI may observe and collect information from open sources as long as the FBI activities are done for a valid law enforcement or national security purpose and in a manner that does not unduly infringe upon the speaker or author’s ability to deliver his or her message,” an FBI official said. “The authorized purpose must specifically be tied to federal criminal or national security purposes, usually to further an FBI assessment or … investigation.”

Given that the FBI can monitor open source communications, it makes this earlier exchange, between Sanborn and Maggie Hassan, more significant. Senator Hassan asked Sanborn how many of the people already arrested in the January 6 insurrection had been under investigation before it.

Maggie Hassan: Of the individuals charged to day in relation to the attacks of January 6, how many were already under investigation by the Bureau.

Jill Sanborn: Ma’am, I’d have to get you the specific number, but I can only recall, from my memory, one, of the individuals that was under investigation prior.

While Sanborn was speaking from memory and promised to get an exact number, Sanborn could only remember one open investigation among the people arrested so far.

FBI appears to have done an assessment on at least three people arrested so far (assuming that the MPD arrest of Enrique Tarrio for targeting a Black Church in December is not the one Sanborn was thinking of).

For example, in December, an associate of Kevin Strong contacted the FBI to alert them that the FAA employee had started stock-piling goods, warned someone else that World War 3 was going to start on January 6, and was pushing Parler as a legitimate source of information. That led the FBI to open an investigation on Strong on December 30.

On December 30, 2020, the FBI initiated an investigation of STRONG based on reporting from Witness #1 (“W-1”). W-1 is familiar with STRONG and his previous residence. W-1 told the FBI that STRONG had been showing signs of behavioral changes over the last few months including stock-piling items and telling others to get ready for Marshal Law, rioting, and protesting. Specifically, W-1 was aware that STRONG had sent messages to another individual claiming World War 3 is going to occur on January 6, 2021, and that the military was coming in and getting involved. W-1 was aware that STRONG hung a flag with the logo “WW1WGA” on his house. W-1 told the FBI that he/she looked it up on the Internet and found that that “WWG1WGA” was a QAnon slogan standing for “Where We Go One, We Go All.” STRONG was known to declare that he had “Q clearance” and believed he was part of a “movement” that was greater than himself. He had recently purchased a new truck and believed that QAnon would cover the debt. STRONG had also been promoting the “Parler” application as a place to get information.

STRONG is currently employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in San Bernardino, California. On January 7, 2021, an employee in the Internal Investigations Branch of the FAA contacted the FBI and reported STRONG was observed at the United States Capitol building during the unlawful entry that took place on January 6, 2021. According to the FAA employee, STRONG was seen on a news broadcast.1 The employee provided a screengrab from the news broadcast to law enforcement.

Strong was charged with the two misdemeanor trespassing crimes virtually everyone who entered the Capitol was charged with but not, as those who posted conspiracies about the election in advance of January 6 generally were, with obstruction of the vote count.

Even though they had an investigation into Strong, it still took a tip from the FAA to alert the FBI that Strong had entered the Capitol on January 6, to which he readily confessed when he was interviewed on January 16.

Then there’s Bryan Betancur. While out on probation after serving time for burglary, Betancur was explicitly talking about following the lead of James Field, the Neo-Nazi who murdered Heather Heyer.

BETANCUR is a self-professed white supremacist who has made statements to law enforcement officers that he is a member of several white supremacy organizations. BETANCUR has voiced homicidal ideations, made comments about conducting a school shooting, and has researched mass shootings. BETANCUR voiced support for James Fields, the individual convicted for killing an individual with his car during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. BETANCUR has stated he wanted to run people over with a vehicle and kill people in a church. BETANCUR subsequently stated that he had changed his mind about hurting people.

After being released following a conviction for fourth degree burglary, BETANCUR continued to engage racially motivated violent extremist groups on the internet. BETANCUR also made increased verbalizations about his desire to be a “lone wolf killer.” BETANCUR has repeatedly violated the terms of his parole and probation.

Betancur’s arrest affidavit describes a Task Force officer interviewing Betancur repeatedly during what it calls an investigation of him.

A FBI Task Force Officer who has interviewed BETANCUR multiple times throughout the FBI’s investigation of BETANCUR also believes the individual on the left side of the image to be BETANCUR.

Betancur lied to his probation officer — claiming he was going to hand out Bibles in DC — to get permission to go to DC that day. And he showed up wearing a Proud Boys shirt and flashing white supremacist symbols and (in another picture) waving a Confederate flag.

In spite of the fact that this guy was aspiring to replicate Field’s attack and the apparent fact he was under investigation, the FBI affidavit suggests they needed a cooperating witness to ID Betancourt’s social media accounts.

Your affiant has also reviewed screenshots of accounts believed to belong to BETANCUR, provided by a cooperating witness (hereafter “CW1”). CW1 submitted an image to the tip-line established in the aftermath of the events of January 6, 2021. CW1 provided comments with this image stating that the individual in the screenshot had participated in the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 and posted numerous images using social media accounts with the names Bryan Clooney and Maximo Clooney. In the image CW1 submitted to the tip-line, a social media user with the user name “bryan_patriot_1776” appears to stand on scaffolding erected on the western side of the U.S. Capitol Building holding the corner of a confederate battle flag.

Like Strong, Betancur was charged with just misdemeanor trespassing charges, though he’s back in trouble in Maryland for violating probation.

A third defendant the FBI investigated before the insurrection is perhaps the most damning for what it says about the social media activity the FBI will notice.

The FBI is coy about two details in the arrest affidavit for Rasha Abual-Ragheb: One is when the Newark Office obtained Abual-Ragheb’s Facebook data, before or after January 6.

In addition, FBI Newark Division (FBI Newark) recently obtained, through legal process, records associated with the Facebook account with the display name Rasha Abu. The Facebook records link the Rasha Abu account to the same phone number that Rasha Abual-Ragheb provided the interviewing agents in November of 2020. FBI Newark also recently obtained, through legal process, records associated with the phone number provided by Rasha Abual-Ragheb, which confirmed Rasha Abual-Ragheb was in fact the subscriber.

And given that so many people have written affidavits in this investigation, it’s unclear whether the two people identified as “Confidential Human Sources” reporting back to the Philadelphia FBI Office in Abual-Ragheb’s arrest warrant are, as the name would normally suggest, FBI informants, or whether they’re just concerned citizens calling in tips as happened with the vast majority of tips on January 6 defendants.

On January 7, 2021, CHS 1 reported to the FBI Philadelphia Division (FBI Philadelphia) that he/she observed Rasha Abual-Ragheb’s Facebook page (display name Rasha Abu) showing Rasha Abual-Ragheb at the protest in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 (attachment 1). A post made by Rasha Abual-Ragheb on the Facebook page revealed she checked into the Kimpton George Hotel (attachment 2). In another Facebook post (attachment 3), Rasha Abual-Ragheb posted the following: “Just left Dc… I got tear gas, paper spray!!! But I was part of the history. We the people won’t take it anymore. Antifa were between us, i and other MAGA people told Dc police, get that Antifa they didn’t do anything. He had black metal chair… The police would order to use full force on us from the beginning when we start marching to the capital, the use teargas and pepper spray and rubber bullet, they shot the woman that was standing peacefully without a a weapon, they hit women’s kids. They hit people with the pat metal one.”

On January 6, 2021, Confidential Human Source #2 (CHS 2) advised the FBI Philadelphia that on the night of January 6, 2021, CHS 2 encountered a woman on the sidewalk of the Kimpton George Hotel in Washington D.C. dressed in distinct clothing and making a scene (attachment 4, which was photo taken by CHS). The woman on the sidewalk identified herself as “Rasha,” admitted to being in the U.S. Capitol, and showed CHS 2 a picture of herself in the building (attachment 5). CHS 2 further reported Rasha Abual-Ragheb said she was in the U.S. Capitol and saw a woman get shot.

Still, what is clear is that, back in November, the FBI responded to Abual-Ragheb making inflammatory comments and repeating Donald Trump’s “Stand By” comment on social media by conducting — at a minimum — an Assessment against her, including an FBI interview.

In November 2020, a Facebook account with display name Rasha Abu participated in Facebook and Telegram group chats involving the New Jersey chapter of the American Patriot 3%. In the Facebook chat, user Rasha Abu advised the revolution will start not by standing by but by standing up. In addition, she advised civil war is coming and they need to show support, and rise up and fight for our Constitution. Open Source research identified an individual named Rasha Abual-Ragheb, residing at a specific address in New Jersey, as the possible user of the Facebook account. As part of the FBI’s assessment of Rasha Abual-Ragheb, she was interviewed. During the interview, she advised she was a Trump supporter, attended Trump rallies, and was blocked from making posts on Facebook and Twitter for pro-Trump postings. Additionally, Rasha AbualRagheb advised she was born in Lebanon and fled to Jordan when she was a child due to the civil war there. She further advised that she has lived in the United States for 21 years and she provided the interviewing agents with her telephone number.

Like Strong and Betancur, Abual-Ragheb was charged with just the two misdemeanor charges.

While her attorney, Elia Amato, could provide no clarity on whether the investigation into Abual-Ragheb continued from November through January 6 — possibly up to and including arranging for informants to track her movements on the day of the attack — Amato did emphasize that, “What ever prior investigative concerns law enforcement may have had appear to have been quashed.”

Still, it’s clear that, almost alone among 300 people charged so far, the FBI had noticed Abual-Ragheb’s public comments on social media and taken further investigative steps.

Jill Sanborn excused FBI’s failure to see the insurrection in advance based off obfuscation about the Bureau’s ability to observe and react to comments in public. But the Bureau did identify a potential threat and conduct an assessment in Abual-Ragheb’s case.

That also means they did that — almost uniquely — with an immigrant who has a Middle Eastern name, while ignoring others, many with criminal records, who made far more substantive or inflammatory comments.

The FBI didn’t respond to Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio’s plans for January 6 in plain sight, even though he had committed a racially motivated attack the last time he had been in DC.

They didn’t see and respond to Facebook posts from Three Percenter Michael Lopatic, the former Marine who spent the months after the election naming his hunting kill after Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, and Adam Schiff, posted a “Call to Arms,” in advance of January 6, and is accused of assaulting at least two cops at the insurrection.

They did see the woman on Three Percenter sites with an Arab name.

Meanwhile, by dint of opening an investigation into Kevin Strong, the FBI had evidence that delusional QAnon followers believed there would be Martial law and World War 3 on January 6, a description of January 6 as “war” in the FBI’s hands a week before the January 5 Norfolk report.

But that didn’t raise a wider alarm, either.

Now that the FBI has conceded that it had the authority to look at any of the social media discussions that led others to anticipate that January 6 would be something different, it has more some explaining to do — not least why one of the only January 6 participants it discovered in advance was virtually the only one with an Arab name.

47 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Either much of the FBI is sympathetic to the insurrectionists, or they’re incapable of understanding what they’re being told and what’s right in front of them. (“¿Porque no los dos?”)

    • Tracie Goldman says:

      My issue is with using social media posts for the FBI to use ,Is If you use for the far right, this is setting a precedent for the same on the far left. We need to find an appropriate balance on what specific social media free speech is considered valid for the FBI and law enforcement to use.

      • Rayne says:

        We’re not looking at cases of First Amendment protected peaceful protest; we’re looking at cases where people conspired to act individually and together to break the law. That’s not protected speech.

        No matter where one is on the political spectrum, if they use social media platforms to conspire to overthrow the government, they should be expect to be subject to investigation and prosecution.

        What deserves protection is protesters who plan a peaceful protest — like organizers of BLM protests last summer. There is nothing wrong with saying, “We’re unhappy with government about XXX. We want to gather to express our unhappiness. We’re gathering in a publicly-owned venue (and with permit as necessary) — Join us.”

        That’s wholly different from saying, “The election has been stolen [ignoring 60 failed lawsuits (petitions for redress) in which no evidence produced revealed voter fraud or ‘election theft’]. We need to take back the fraudulent election and stop the count. We are going to meet at the Capitol and stop Congress,” while also encouraging weapon carrying and talking about revolution. This isn’t planning for peaceable assembly or legitimate petition for redress of wrongs; it’s incitement and conspiracy to interfere or obstruct legitimate government activity, while expressing an intent to use violence. No one on the left/middle/right should ever believe they can do this and expect not be investigated, prosecuted, and punished if found guilty by a jury of peers.

    • Rugger9 says:

      It’s been something I’ve noticed for a long time. Let’s remember that the SDNY FBI was the source of the “information” about HRC’s emails on Huma Abedin’s computer which basically gifted the 2016 election to DJT as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Comey felt he had to publicize it, not knowing (or apparently caring) that those Feebs hadn’t even asked permission to search Abedin’s computer much less having found something. None of them have so far been held accountable, which is not surprising since DJT wanted it that way up through 20 JAN 2021.

      Looking back farther, let’s also remember that J. Edgar Hoover was basically a strict authoritarian compromised by the Mafia by his entertainment choices. So, the culture of the right wing (including rank misogyny) is quite engrained in the FBI, and I’m sure in 2016 they saw HRC as a threat more than DJT. That would “justify” what they did in their minds.

      The mindset is clear from “The Untouchables” and the old Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. series “the FBI”. Neither of those shows would have been made much less broadcast unless the FBI liked them.

      • gmoke says:

        Notice that CBS in particular still has shows like FBI: Most Wanted and SealTeam on air and that ABC had a show called Quantico and every TV station loves police procedurals that have, like NYPD Blue and many, many others, inured the public to the idea of “tuning up” a suspect and the useless impediment of things like reading a “perp” their rights or abiding by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      • subtropolis says:

        Comey did what he did because to do nothing would have unleashed a shitstorm far beyond anything that his letter caused. Had he obeyed Lynch’s instructions those NY Field Office dumbasses would have gone public about how Obama’s DoJ was covering up evidence, etc. The headlines would have been absolutely brutal, because they’d have had more than a ring of truth. Forget the fine details; between the tidal wave of leaks coming from agents, and the strong hints of tawdriness (it was not Huma’s laptop, but her dumbass, sexting husband’s) that story would have been far, FAR worse for Clinton. Not to mention Obama and Lynch — who might have been forced to resign.

        Comey did the right, no-good terrible thing, imho. And I’ve believed that since the evening of Oct. 28, 2016.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Not very common opinions about the value or appropriateness of Comey’s conduct around here.

        • bmaz says:

          Subtropolis, this is absolute bullshit. Comey had no right to violate every rule in the book and make himself emperor.

          • Rugger9 says:

            If Comey “had” been as noble as subtropolis claims, then he would have included DJT’s Russian footsie as well. But as we all know, Comey did not and no one is buying his regular mea culpa press tours that seem to happen as often as Cher deciding to do a farewell tour.

            In order to have a “ring of truth” the SDNY Feebs would have actually had to search Abedin’s computer. Subtropolis forgets that they didn’t even ask to search before pressuring Comey over innuendo pulled out of the fever swamps.

            • subtropolis says:

              Where do you get the idea that I forgot that? Your straw man argument is weak.

              And this attempted Clinton emails/Russian meddling equivalency is fucking idiotic. The one has nothing to do with the other. Bitching about Comey not playing fair by refusing to out the other thing is toddler logic.

              Nothing personal. This dumbass argument is rampant on the Left. It was fucking stupid the first time that I saw it, and time has done nothing to make it seem more reasonable.

              Thought experiment: Had Comey done nothing, what would the headlines have been about the next day? Would “FBI sources” have been dishing about a coverup at DoJ? If not, please provide a reasonably believable reason why the agents who’d already been calling Comey a “traitor” for stopping the investigation would hold their tongues.

          • subtropolis says:

            To your credit, that’s about ten words more than I’d have expected from your usual terse dismissal. Nonetheless, what you did write reveals that you’ve understood nothing of what I wrote.

        • Silly but True says:

          Comey’s largest issue was reporting on an investigation.

          Comey placed himself in a position where he even felt the need to comment on an investigation in October was because he shredded the rule of law and acted insubordinately in July.

          In Comey’s case, two wrongs made a bigger wrong.

          • subtropolis says:

            No, the largest issue is the reason why he did what he did. When I said that he “did the right, no-good terrible thing” I most certainly was not claiming that two wrongs make a right. Rather, he had two choices; both of them shitty, for both himself and Clinton. The one that he did not choose, though, would have been MUCH shittier for Clinton.

            It amazes me that, even among people who recognise that Rudy and the gang had been rat-fucking Clinton, refuse to acknowledge the obvious next move, after Lynch ordered everything stopped until after the election. Had Comey not acted that evening, it would have been a bloodbath the next day.

            • PeterS says:

              I have sympathy with what you wrote there, and above. It seems that different arguments are being confused and there was, I agree, some weak logic. Perhaps there are two ideas here, both valid. Firstly, that Comey should have followed the rules, not put himself above them. And secondly, what he did was for a “higher good” (though people can debate that, and we’ll never be certain either way)

    • Silly but True says:

      It is tough to determine of the FBI is more incompetently negligent than it is willfully malfeasant.

      This brings to mind Mueller’s infamous FBI focus during lead up to 9/11 — after Yemen bombings, 1998 US Embassy bombings, first WTC bombing, and USS Cole bombing — to make its signature enterprise investigation get to bottom of whether there were hookers in New Orleans.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Mueller became FBI director on September 4, 2001–just eight days, inclusively, before September 11, 2001.

        Have the gatekeepers been asleep since shortly before 2:02 pm, yesterday?

        • Silly but True says:

          The urge to be snarky on internet is sometimes too great and overcomes common sense.

          You’re ignoring that prior to becoming FBI Director, Mueller was the Deputy Attorney General — a role which probably gave him even more leverage in appropriately directing the US government’s investigatory power.

          After a career attacking terrorism and enterprise crime, the big hole is not switching resources sooner from trying to figure out if there were hookers in New Orleans to stopping al Qaeda.

  2. CD54 says:

    Why did Wray allow the FBI under Trump to eliminate almost all resources investigating Right-wing terrorism? Why did Wray’s FBI ignore Congressional letters under Trump’s DOJ?

    This warm, cuddly, rights-friendly FBI revisionism is a hose job right smack in Congress’ face.

    • Rugger9 says:

      It’s because that is what DJT wanted, and once AGs Sessions and Barr made it clear they weren’t going to prosecute anyone I think Wray put resources where some good could be done.

      • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

        He looked nervous and evasive to me at the last hearing he finally turned up for. I think his spectacular inertness during the Trump regime revealed his character, another survivor like rosenstein.

        • subtropolis says:

          He was being evasive because certain senators were digging for information about how much the FBI has on them.

    • Ray says:

      I thought Barr saw himself as the man for the moment. He knew he was exactly what DJT and the Republicans needed, someone with enough gravitas and background to pass confirmation. He was smart enough to use all the discretionary tools to help DJT, like his review of the Meuller report, but held off on overt actions that may have broken the law

      • Ravenclaw says:

        Don’t know as Barr held off on breaking the law (there seem to have been some highly dubious actions/inactions taken by him while in office), though he did hold off on overtly, violently overthrowing the entire constitutional order.

      • raymondsoedipuscomplex says:

        “but held off on overt actions that may have broken the law”
        except for the ‘lying under oath’ bit

        [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your fourth user name since January and it had better be the last one. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  3. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    Let us not forget this little tidbit from 2009…


    ‘In April 2009, Daryl Johnson was caught in a firestorm because of a report he wrote at the Department of Homeland Security.

    It warned of a surge in activity by right-wing groups, including militias, white supremacists, anti-government activists and others motivated by racial grievances toward the nation’s first black president and the consequences of a faltering economy.

    Republicans in Congress called the report an attack on conservatives. Janet Napolitano, then the secretary of homeland security, apologized for the report and it was withdrawn. Johnson’s unit was disbanded.’

    I find it very telling that ‘conservatives’ immediately believe a report about terrorists is a report directed that THEM…

  4. PeterS says:

    Was it predicted anywhere that the Capitol would be breached on 6 Jan? If not then there’s an extent to which what happened wasn’t predictable.

    So the people who ended up inside the Capitol were not necessarily obviously dangerous – or no more dangerous than thousands of others saying violent things online.

    The FBI perhaps is monitoring the public social media of many other people who are thought to be more dangerous and, dare I say it, more smart; smart enough not to expect an event openly pushed by the former guy and by QAnon followers to lead to much in the way of concrete results (in that world, a concrete result perhaps being something like the kidnapping of a governor).

    Or that could all be wrong.

    P.S. I completely accept the point about Abual-Ragheb.

    • Ravenclaw says:

      FWIW, my 17-year-old son was predicting exactly that since last fall – or maybe summer (back then, conditional on a T loss of which he was uncertain). While I did not think that any such invasion would be successful – or probably even (in the end) tried in the face of obviously overwhelming defenses. It’s the job of counterintelligence and other national security forces to anticipate and prepare against every plausible threat; one would hope they could keep up with possibilities being discussed among intelligent high-school-aged kids.

      • PeterS says:

        Obviously law enforcement should have been much better prepared on 6 January. But I don’t think your high-school-aged kids point is entirely valid unless we know how many of their predictions about Trump haven’t come true.

        • P J Evans says:

          The point is more that, if it’s that obvious to teenagers, it should be even more obvious to experienced investigators.

          • PeterS says:

            There’s no evidence it was “obvious to teenagers”, unless you mean 3 teenagers out of 30 million, and even then I don’t know what else was “obvious” to them but never came to pass. You’re either not reading or not understanding what I have written.

            I predicted months ago that the Big Lie would lead to widespread violence and the lack of preparedness on the part of law enforcement on 6 Jan was and still is shocking.

  5. subtropolis says:

    It’s understandable to question why the woman with an Arabic name is one of the few (so far) known to have been monitored in some manner before Jan. 6, but it isn’t necessarily evidence of the FBI giving white guys a pass, or even of being negligent. Given the number of weirdos and outright criminals who’d attended the insurrection, it’s not at all surprising that some of them had already been on law enforcement’s radar for one reason or another.

    I’m also unmoved by complaints that the FBI didn’t notice some random person’s online commentary. Unless it’s reported to them, one can hardly expect them to be monitoring everyone. Indeed, that kind of a Total Information Awareness would be kind of a drag.

    The bigger question is whether they’d been looking closely at people who were specifically involved with the white nationalist, militia, or other far-right groups, especially with regard to preparations for the Jan. 6 event. It’s that last part that is distressing. While we know that FBI has been tracking a number of these people, it’s becoming clear that there wasn’t a broader understanding of what Trump and his shitbag minions had been planning.

    That’s not to say that I knew precisely what was coming, but it was obvious that the rally was an excuse to bring in a mob to cause trouble. (Wasn’t it?!) Couple that with militia types making threats, Roger Stone’s close ties to both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, and Trump’s own teasing on Twitter, and one could have expected a more clear-eyed readiness on the FBI’s part.

    • PeterS says:

      I don’t disagree. I commented on another post that looking at members of organizations/groups was an obvious approach.

      (“that kind of a Total Information Awareness would be kind of a drag”, lol)

  6. Dysnomia says:

    Does it seem to anyone else that the justifications for at least a couple of these investigations are pretty slim?

    Take Strong first. The FBI opened an investigation of him based on a tip that (1) he was stocking up on unspecified stuff, (2) he thought WW3 was going to start on 1/6, (3) he was a QAnon follower, and (4) he liked Parler.

    There’s nothing even remotely criminal here. Yes there’s a connection to 1/6, *before* 1/6. He thought WW3 was going to start on the same day that Congress was set to certify the electoral vote. But that doesn’t even imply criminal intent. All the tip really implies is that he’s a gullible schmuck (the fact that he expects QAnon will pay off his truck loan furthers that impression).

    I think the same is true of Rasha. The basis of the initial investigation into her pre-1/6 is that she made some posts online saying she thinks civil war is coming and people need to stand up and fight for the constitution. I haven’t read the actual posts in question, but based on this description I don’t see anything problematic in it, much less criminal. Yes the civil war thing is nonsense, but I don’t think many Americans would disagree with her that people should stand up and fight for constitutional rights (assuming she means “fight” figuratively, like most people do in this context). How does it look that the FBI investigated someone because she said people should fight for the constitution?

    The investigation into Betancur has more of a reasonable basis. His statements expressing a mere desire to harm people are themselves protected by the first amendment, but the implied threat of violence justifies at least looking into him to see if there’s any there there, or if he’s all talk (as almost everybody who says such things is).

    I don’t mean to defend these people’s worldview, or their delusion that Trump was ever anything other than an elitist charlatan who’s only out for his own interests. But I think anyone who cares about civil liberties and free expression should be concerned about law enforcement investigating people on such flimsy justifications based on protected speech.

    And by the way I definitely agree with the point about the FBI being quick to open an investigation into someone with an arab name, because arabness and terrorism are conflated in their minds.

    • PeterS says:

      While agreeing in general about the civil liberties point, I wonder if at least the Strong investigation was justified.

      “W-1 told the FBI that STRONG had been showing signs of behavioral changes over the last few months including stock-piling items…”

      Though the affidavit doesn’t specify what the items were, I guess the FBI knew. Surely what those items were is key.

      • Dysnomia says:

        Yeah it does seem likely the source knew what specifically Strong was stockpiling and told the FBI about it (and the government is just for some reason being coy about it, saying only he was stockpiling “items”). But, and maybe it’s just a failure of my imagination, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything he could have been stockpiling that would have justified an investigation.

        Maybe he was stockpiling ammunition, but there are plenty of harmless preppers who stock up on ammo, among other things, “just in case.” There was apparently a recent change in his mindset/behavior, but people also suddenly change their views and behavior all the time, and there’s nothing criminal about that. This seems to be, based on what the feds knew pre-1/6 anyway, just a gullible person who got roped into QAnon and fell down the rabbit hole, and started prepping for WW3 because he thought the shit was about to hit the fan.

        Maybe there’s something super important I don’t know, but unless whatever he was stockpiling was *really* sinister, I don’t see how his described behavior pre-1/6 justifies an investigation.

        • P J Evans says:

          Buying small quantities of stuff that can, in large quantities, be used for explosives? (Brainstorming.)

  7. CD54 says:

    Wray has demonstrated ZERO evidence that he repulsed Trump’s controlling demands during the Trump Administration. He has demonstrated ZERO evidence that he has defenestrated Trump sleepers in the FBI.

    He is not protecting the FBI from outside influence. He is protecting Trump sleepers within the FBI from exposure.

    Wray must resign — he is fundamentally contaminated and compromised beyond repair.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      That’s sort of the elephant in the room to me… We had four years of so much criming in the executive branch, and the worst DOJ abuses in decades, along with the FBI being turned into a political cudgel. How does a top leader of the FBI just maintain a gaze at a fixed point on the wall while all this is going on? And are we supposed to pretend all this never happened while Wray was director and stuff it down and move on?

      • bmaz says:

        Okay, let’s step back a bit. There is abundant evidence that Wray did, indeed, in select places push back on Trump. As to the “worst DOJ abuses in decades”, not sure that is right either. There was a LOT of bad in the Bush/Cheney regime. And, unlike what CD54 intoned, you cannot just up and fire career service people because of who they came in under. Wray is doing okay, chill out a little, because the presumption is that DFBI’s get a ten year term; let’s not go full on knee-jerk Trump yet as to Wray, and see how it goes, especially once Garland is confirmed.

        • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

          I yield to the gentleman from Arizona and will wait at least six months before complaining about this issue again.

        • subtropolis says:

          Agreed, on every point. Wray was clearly not in Trump’s pocket. Besides Wray standing up to him, little notice seems to have been given to the number of FBI arrests of militia dweebs BEFORE the election. (Two were killed while resisting being taken into custody.) And I’ve seen little to suggest that he’s covering for any residual fascist elements. Your last point, about Garland, is spot on. Better he waits for that confirmation before upending the Bureau with publicly acknowledged internal investigations. (That, for all we know, may be going on already, anyhow.)

          • Troutwaxer says:

            Someone stop me if I’m being too nice to the FBI, but I wonder whether they missed the rightwingers for the other rightwingers? The arrests of all the militia types before the election seem to relate back to the Black Lives Matter protests and embedded agent provacateurs (who were not under FBI control.) Could it simply be that they were looking backwards towards that investigation rather than forwards towards Jan 6th? Or am I misunderstanding something fundamental?

            • timbo says:

              AFAIK, the Boogaloo Bois were the main target of the earlier FBI investigation in 2020 into right wing extremists…

              Strong might well have fallen into that category of investigation.

    • PeterS says:

      I’m kind of impressed by the certainty of these types of opinions when we know there’s a lot we don’t know, given the nature of such (largely non-public) things.

  8. Kim Hanson says:

    “not least why one of the only January 6 participants it discovered in advance was virtually the only one with an Arab name.”

    Could this be in part the result of automated scanning algorithms?

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