GoToInsurrection and Other Astounding Oath Keeper Social Media Habits

DOJ has now charged the following Oath Keeper associates:

Between all the charges, prosecutors have laid out a breathtaking scope of social media use by the militia:

  • A leadership list on Signal they appear to have obtained from either Watkins and/or Kelly Meggs
  • Open channels on Zello, possibly separate ones for each large event
  • Telephony chats and texts, including during January 6
  • MeWe accounts
  • Way too much blabbing on Facebook, followed by a foolish belief they could delete such content
  • Parler for further blabbing
  • Stripe for payment processing (possibly for dues)
  • GoToMeeting for operational planning

Plus, most of the people arrested thus far had their cell phones on, pinging cell towers, while they were in the Capitol (thus far, two of the accused did not enter the Capitol).

It’s the GoToMeeting revelation, in Harrelson’s affidavit, that gets me:

Pursuant to legal process, the government obtained records from Go To Meeting showing that a user named “gator 6” was the organizer for a meeting titled “dc planning call” on January 3, 2021. The user “gator 6” accessed the meeting from a mobile device using the same IP address ending in 158 [as Harrelson used to access Apple servers], and the user listed themselves as living in Titusville, Florida. Between September 30, 2020, and January 3, 2021, the user with the same IP address ending in 158 attended or organized approximately 30 meetings on Go To Meeting affiliated with the Oath Keepers, using the names “gator 6,” “hotel 26,” or kenneth harrelson.”

GoToMeeting is basically spyware for your computer, because it has to access so many features of your computer to work. As a default it collects a great deal of data on participants, and can be set to collect more. It is end-to-end encrypted, but with legal process FBI might be able to get a great deal of information from GTM, if the Oath Keepers kept it.

Between these twelve people, then, DOJ has served legal process on enough databases to create a veritable dossier on the Oath Keepers. While some of these comms (such as the Zello comms) are ephemeral, Facebook and GoToMeeting and Stripe are data vacuums.

With a database like this, the government can be choosy about which Oath Keepers they arrest. Reportedly, DOJ says they may add 6 more people to their collection of Oath Keeper defendants.

Indeed, it’s not really clear why they’ve charged the last three — Minuta, James, and Harrelson — before charging the last several members of the Stack that entered the Capitol together.

Harrelson was not part of the Stack, but the affidavit justifying his arrest shows him — and another guy — in communication as the Stack came up the Capitol steps, with Harrelson interacting with Graydon Young inside the Capitol. But his organizing efforts in Florida would put him in close touch with the Meggses (Kelly leads the Florida chapter) and James (who lives in Alabama but seems to be tied to the Florida chapter), along with Young (who lives in Titusville).

These Florida Oath Keepers were providing “security” for Roger Stone well before the January insurrection, including an event in Florida. (MoJo had a summary of who provided security when yesterday.)

As for Minuta, in addition to serving as Stone’s security on January 5 and 6, he also was abusive to cops before entering the Capitol and on his way out, when he promised the Second Amendment option came next. Like Young, Minuta is also accused of deleting Facebook, probably just as unsuccessfully.

In James’ case, DOJ seems particularly interested in the communications he had with Minuta, called Person Five in the affidavit even though he was already arrested by the time it was approved.

While James stood with the other Oath Keepers, at least one of them (who will be referred to below as “Person Five”)2 aggressively berated and taunted U.S. Capitol police officers responsible for protecting the Capitol and the representatives inside.

[snip]

Records indicate that phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged a number of phone calls throughout November and December 2020 with a person who will be referred to herein as Person Five.

On November 13 and 14, 2020, for example, phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged approximately eight calls with the number associated with Person Five. Your affiant is aware that certain Oath Keepers attended rallies in Washington, D.C., held on November 14, 2020, at which some Oath Keepers, to include Person Five, operated as a personal security detail for one or more speakers at the events.

Later, on or around November 20 and December 11, 2020, records indicate that phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged two phone calls with Person Five. Your affiant is aware that certain Oath Keepers attended rallies in Washington, D.C., held on December 12, 2020, to protest the results of the 2020 election—at which some Oath Keepers, to include Person Five, operated as a personal security detail for speakers at the events.

Finally, records indicate that, on or around January 5, 2021, phone number XXXXXX-4304 (associated with James) exchanged six calls with the number associated with Person Five. That day, James, Person Five, and other individuals wearing apparel with the Oath Keepers name and/or insignia provided security to a speaker at the “Stop the Steal” events planned for that day.

Note that Minuta was hanging out with Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola in that December MAGA event.

James’ affidavit ends with this group photo, identifying Connie Meggs, two still uncharged Stack participants, four uncharged people who tracked with James and Minuta during the insurrection, Kelly Meggs, and another Stack member.

Both the Minuta and James affidavits focus on Oath Keeper head Stewart Rhodes, described as Person One, as does this detailed filing opposing bail for Caldwell.

James stayed in touch with others during the time of active investigation:

Since January 6, 2021, phone number XXX-XXX-4304 (known to be associated with James) has exchanged multiple phone calls and text messages with the number associated with Person Five. The number associated with James has also placed at least one call as recently as February 2021, to a phone number known to be associated with Kelly Meggs, the now-arrested self-described Florida Oath Keeper leader.

Thus far, DOJ isn’t explaining why Minuta, James, and Harrelson were arrested in the weeks after FBI started exploiting the Signal chats that organized Oath Keeper efforts on January 6 and, particular, Kelly Meggs’ communications.

But because the Oath Keepers were such promiscuous users of all kinds of social media tools, the FBI has a remarkable collection of data about the group’s activities since last fall. And they’ve picked these guys to arrest.

Update: In his detention hearing today, the FBI focused on James’ providing security for Stone.

The FBI agent who testified at Thursday’s hearing said several firearms were found during a search warrant executed at James’ home. All of the firearms were legal, and none were confiscated. They included a shotgun, a hunting rifle, a few “AR-15 style rifles,” and two pistols, the agent said.

James was paid $1,500 for security at two events, including a “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, according from testimony from his wife, Audrey James. Stone and other pro-Trump figures held several events in Washington in addition to the official rally that Trump spoke at shortly before the attack.

Audrey James said she was sent “around $1,500 total” directly from the Oath Keepers over a mobile app. She stated the funds were paid out over a couple of months to assist her and her children during Joshua James’ absence to Texas and Washington, DC, while he was providing security. She said she didn’t know where the money originated from.

This story, by itself, presents real problems with the story Stone told. He raised funds for “security” in advance of the insurrection, but then said he couldn’t find paid security so relied on volunteers.

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38 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    As always, excellent reporting. Just remember that while the wheels of justice can grind slowly, they do grind very finely but a bit higher pace would be appreciated as long as the cases are sound.

    OT, I see our Mexico-vacationing-defendant is demanding a TX trial because she thinks a jury there would be less hostile due to cancel culture. Ms. Cudd, the crimes were committed in DC, and your MAGA cult status gives you zero benefits in the justice system not run by AG Barr, so suck it up, buttercup.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes, as I noted, it’s interesting she feels the need to avail herself of the same defense as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

      She’s well-lawyered and someone was going to try this.

      • bmaz says:

        Sure. Also note that release conditions worked fine and that she is back from the “Mexico vacation” that people (although not the DOJ or court) were apoplectic about.

        • emptywheel says:

          “People”?

          I’ve spent a good deal of time distinguishing between state and federal bail practices and talking about how many of these issues are close calls.

          • bmaz says:

            They are close calls because people howl at it. Presumptive release and “end cash bail” and whatnot sounds great until you have to put it into practice I guess. There are legitimate release dangers, and then there is BS. And there are a lot of practical options now.

            • Alan Charbonneau says:

              I spent 40 years as a financial analyst and portfolio manager. That’s vastly different than national security analysis or analysis of legal issues, but I know one thing is pertinent to any type of analysis, and that’s bumper sticker slogans are never a good way to make policy.

              However intuitive they might be to someone, such simplistic ideas can help form a guiding philosophy, but do not substitute for deep analysis.

              Good policy takes rigorous analysis, not simplistic gobbledegook.

    • bmaz says:

      Also, Rugger, because Cudd (granted, she is an idiot) is home and complied with release prior conditions and orders, you don’t think she should be necessarily prevented from making other legal arguments do you?

      • Rugger9 says:

        Not at all, this OT observation was to point out how the RWNJs demand special privileges because of who they are. BLM supporters on the other hand could get summarily executed like the one in PDX while Barr still ran things. I also don’t recall anyone not “in the club” (like the Muslims denied their halal diet) getting the kid gloves treatment.

        I’m not so sure how TX is an appropriate venue for something that clearly happened in DC, unless…. there is a conspiracy rap involved or something that rhymes with MEKO (a shipbuilder in the EU). Also depending on where in TX this goes, Ms. Cudd shouldn’t be so sure her jury there is on her side any more than one a competent defense attorney could get in DC (assuming that challenge rules are similar in TX and DC which might be a stretch). She only needs one holdout.

      • Peterr says:

        I didn’t take the comment to say that she should not be able to request a change of venue, but that the request should be quickly denied.

  2. PeterS says:

    “Facebook and GoToMeeting and Stripe are data vacuums.”

    That initially threw me because I think of a vacuum as something completely empty, but I realized it’s a reference to things that suck up data.

    • Rugger9 says:

      There are few if any restrictions on what they do with the vacuumed data (IIRC this is a particular issue in the EU), including giving it to the DOJ. However, they’d rather sell it.

      • emptywheel says:

        Oh gosh. I’m going to start being incomprehensible to American readers if I adopt the local dialect — that’s what it’d be here in Ireland too.

      • PeterS says:

        There was recently a minor celebration on these pages of words which had two opposing meanings so it’s kinda fun to find a phrase having the same characteristic, such that without context (in a vacuum?) its meaning is mysterious. But you are correct, I am still learning Amglish.

      • P J Evans says:

        That’s not unfamiliar to US residents – I’ve heard it used in my own extended family. (Also, I grew up with a Hoover vacuum. I had to fix the cord where it went into the body…when it was past 25 years old.)

        • ducktree says:

          “After all, there’s nothing like a Hoover ~ when you’re dealing with dirt!”

          Ernestine Tomlin, one of the tracks on her comedy album in a call to J. Edgar.

          • Savage Librarian says:

            Speaking of dirt, while doing yard work yesterday, I came across an empty bottle of Wild Irish Rose that someone had tossed in the overgrown fern. What tales it could tell…

  3. Rugger9 says:

    So, do we start a pool on how long it takes Stone to be indicted again? He seems to turn up in a lot of, ahem, interesting places with people who were later rolled up by the DOJ. I wonder if he has a DJT pocket pardon (and I doubt those would be valid, but that’s another subject) connected to the 06 JAN riot.

    OT, it appears more banks are “reviewing” loans on four more TrumpOrg properties which can’t be a good thing for DJT. This goes back to my note above about the grinding wheels of justice, which includes civil stuff too. Since DJT can’t scare anyone other than the GOP we’ll see more of this.

    Another pool should go on how long Tucker Carlson stays employed if he’s taking potshots at the military and ticking them off.

  4. Matthew Noel Harris says:

    The truly astounding thing to me is that at least some of these people had enough military background to at least know in theory what OPSEC is. The fact that they ignored normal precautions in discussing and even advertising their movements and intentions means that they must have felt the benefits of advertising outweighed the costs of being tracked.

    I suspect that they thought that most of the country agreed with them, and that specifically law enforcement agreed with them. They must have known that talking openly on apps would be evidence—they just didn’t think it mattered.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes. It’s more a measure of impunity than knowledge.

      But also it’s hard to popularize a national militia without using mainstream data intensive social media.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Also, it’s one of the tenets for these groups that the Government is too inept/stupid to realize what they are doing.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      But, also, how could there be consequences when they were going to install a new government ?

  5. dimmsdale says:

    Slightly digressive maybe, but one of the figures in the infamous “stack” video (and the small b&w vignette above) that really interests me, is the gal who can be seen in the vignette, directly above the fourth circled head from the bottom. She was dressed in a white parka, with a pink-purple hat under the hood, and she got an up-close full-face video of ALL of the stack as they trudged past her up the steps. Hoping that her video is in the hands of the Feds; and if not, hoping the feds are trying to find her. Intriguing thought, was she one of Them, or one of Us?

  6. Troutwaxer says:

    With regard to Stone, I’d guess he paid his “volunteers” because he doesn’t want to deal with any more tax paperwork than he must, and they don’t want to be taxed. Just standard, Republican griftiness.

  7. pdaly says:

    Roger Stone attended on Jan 5, 2021 the “Virginia Women for Trump” rally held at the corner of Constitution Ave NE & First St NE, Washington, DC 20002. The rally was located across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court, which is fairly close to the U.S. Capitol building.


    Roger Stone takes a golf cart after that rally at the U.S. Supreme Court back to the National Mall. 

Golf cart driver appears to be Oath Keeper Joshua James based on the inclusion of the photo from a NY Times interactive report linked to in the USA v. Joshua A. James affidavit by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia




    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/14/us/roger-stone-capitol-riot.html

    

Stone maintains he had no knowledge of, nor role in, the planning of the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol the next day. Nevertheless, Stone and his driver would have likely passed the U.S. Capitol and had an opportunity to see and remark on.any security measures in place the day before the Electoral College tally and certification was to occur there.
 



    Another photo of his golf cart driver from the U.S. Supreme Court location.

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/01/roger-stone-did-something-wrong/

  8. CharlieY says:

    There is no reason to assume that Zello data is ephemeral. It emulates an ephemeral communications system on a non-ephemeral system – a database.

    • emptywheel says:

      I base that off what the FBI said they got on returns. The audible comms don’t appear to have been kept. I imagine there is metadata though it’s not clear how inclusive that is.

      As noted, however, on Zello you can set private channels. They did not, which is how the WNYC journalist was able to listen along.

      • CharlieY says:

        Thanks. Audio files are relatively heavy so they may be tossing them to save money or to protect user’s privacy. OTOH, they must be able to keep them for a short time to add functionality like being able to join a conversation late and catch up.

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