DOJ Got All the Proud Boy Telegram Texts from Ethan Nordean’s Phone

Judge Tim Kelly just wrapped up a status hearing with three of the four Leadership Proud Boy conspiracy defendants: Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and Charles Donohoe (Zach Rehl’s attorney is still arranging her appearance before the DC court).

A really important detail came out about the Telegram texts that have been central to the conspiracy case against the defendants: According to Nordean’s attorney Nick Smith, they call came from Nordean’s phone.

He said that, in part, to anticipate some of the challenges he’ll make to the evidence. First, he’s going to claim the search was illegal and move to suppress it based off a ruling that the government has dropped that theory of crime (that won’t work under Fourth Amendment precedents, but you have to try).

More importantly, he said the government had gotten into the phone — rather than be forced to crack it, as they are doing with everyone else’s phone — because Nordean’s wife gave the FBI the passcode.

It had seemed like someone listed as Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1 may have shared them with the government. That person says some pretty damning things in the chats.

39. On after Chairman’s January 4, 2021, shortly after Proud Boys Chairman’s arrest pursuant to a warrant issued by D.C. Superior Court, DONOHOE expressed concern that encrypted communications that involved Proud Boys Chairman would be compromised when law enforcement examined Proud Boys Chairmans’ phone. DONOHOE then created a new channel on the encrypted messaging application, entitled, “New MOSD,” and took steps to destroy or “nuke” the earlier channel. After its creation, the “New MOSD” channel included NORDEAN, BIGGS, REHL, DONOHOE, and a handful of additional members.

40. On January 4, 2021, at 7:15 p.m., DONOHOE posted a message on various encrypted messaging channels, including New MOSD, which read, “Hey have been instructed and listen to me real good! There is no planning of any sorts. I need to be put into whatever new thing is created. Everything is compromised and we can be looking at Gang charges.” DONOHOE then wrote, “Stop everything immediately” and then “This comes from the top.”

41. On January 4, 2021, at 8:20 p.m., an unindicted co-conspirator (“UCC-1”) posted to New MOSD channel: “We had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out.”

42. On January 5, 2021, at 1:23 p.m., a new encrypted messaging channel entitled “Boots on the Ground” was created for communications by Proud Boys members in Washington, D.C. In total, over sixty users participated in the Boots on the Ground channel, including NORDEAN, BIGGS, REHL, DONOHOE, and UCC-1.

That, in turn, had led to speculation, and in no way just from me, that UCC1 had already flipped on his buddies and was cooperating.

What was said today appears to be inconsistent with that. Indeed, it seems all the talk of four informants from the Proud Boys working with the FBI mostly pertained to helping Attorney General Billy Barr gin up claims against Antifa, and not (yet, at least) informing on each other.

31 replies
  1. subtropolis says:

    That seems like an interesting break for the good guys. Do you have a link to wherever that Nick Smith said this? It’s not clear to me what you mean by, “based off a ruling that the government has dropped that theory of crime”.

    Also interesting is that the PBs were out in force for a rally in Salem OR on the weekend. They don’t appear to be laying low.

    Likely related: The Salem police were nowhere in sight as the goons made short work of terrifying anyone suspicious to them into leaving the area. This was the inevitable result of calls to “defund the police!”, imho. I’d seen plenty of commentary, from the right-wing noise machine and even cops, that they’d be giving the “libs” exactly what they want by not showing up when things went badly.

    Typo: “they call came from”

    • Norskeflamthrower says:

      “This was the inevitable result of calls to ‘defund the police’.

      Please stop with the bullshit

      • timbo says:

        Thank you. If the police don’t show up when there are yahoos breaking the law, then what are the police being paid to do exactly?

        • Norskeflamthrower says:

          Please stop with the bullshit. The cops are compromised at the top but “defund the police” doesn’t have anything to do with the motivations of those cops who did not show up or obstructed the protection of those who did. You think there wouldn’t have been a January 6th if people didn’t call to “defund the police”? Jeezus, go back to sleep.

          • P J Evans says:

            He has a good question though. In L.A., the word is that you don’t bother calling the cops unless someone was shot, because they’ll take their time showing up, if they come at all.

          • timbo says:

            Wow. How many other folks have you shutdown with your half-cocked nonsense of late? Enough? Or not yet enough?

            • Rayne says:

              timbo and Norskeflamthrower both, let up. Focus on the target not on each other; the target here is insurrectionist Proud Boys who broke into the U.S. Capitol building on January 6. If you can’t aim at them then Netflix and chill for a while.

            • Norskeflamthrower says:

              [I warned you to knock it off. I meant it. This is your second warning. /~Rayne]

  2. Tom R. says:

    The channel name “MOSD” is presumably an allusion to Mission Objectives and Strategy Document.

  3. ducktree says:

    “baofeng” – if my Mandarin serves that sounds equivalent to the English for “fart”: wind envelope (wind + dumpling, package, bundle).

    It figures . . .

    • Tom R. says:

      Baofeng is a brand name. The Proud Boys love using Baofeng UV-5R radios, which have the advantage of being very cheap as well as easy to configure for non-standard frequencies. The quality is underwhelming. Real radio people consider them to be little more than fashion accessories, not serious tactical gear.

      I assume everything transmitted on illegal frequencies in downtown DC gets recorded. I assume the spooks have been doing this for many decades. OTOH I don’t expect them to tell us about it; everything will be parallel constructed.

      • Raven Eye says:

        The trick is to transmit on “legal” frequencies. One of the Baofeng programmed freqs that came out in the investigation was smack in the middle of a DC area UHF TV station’s licensed frequency range. TV stations have a number of different things going on besides just what is used for broadcast. In the days before WiFi, that bandwidth was available for secondary uses such as wireless microphones — as long as that didn’t interfere with the broadcasters’ uses.

        If I was going to do a little op, slotting into the local TV stations’ freqs would be a top choice, as long as all the other technical requirements could be met. Who is going to monitor that?

        • Tom R. says:

          1) The “trick” to legal transmission is trickier than that.
          2) These guys were bent on overthrowing the government of the United States. All available evidence indicates that they didn’t spend much time worrying about the niceties of FCC regulations, or about “slotting” their transmissions into a particular part of the WDCW UHF band. Also BTW, it’s a digital station. It doesn’t have “slots”.
          3) I don’t have all the FCC regulations memorized, but the only legal unlicensed uses of the TV bands of which I am aware are limited to 50 mW EIRP. The Baofeng UV-5R radios are rated at 4 watts. So the Proud Boys are outlaws, outside the law by almost two orders of magnitude. I assume there are some legal low-power wireless UHF microphones inside the capitol, but that’s quite different from what we’re talking about.
          4) Radio direction finding has been around for more than 100 years. I’m pretty sure the FCC and other TLAs know where the WDCW UHF transmitter is located, and what format it uses. If they can’t detect, track, and record a high-power illegal transmission coming from the mall, I’d be very disappointed … especially since this was the established PB MO.
          5) Possible give-away: The FBI said they seized some radios still tuned to the frequency that was used during the coup. How did they know which frequency was used? Either they have a cooperating witness inside the cell, or they have COMINT, or both.

          • Raven Eye says:

            We’re not talking about legal transmissions here. We’re talking about exploiting the available spectrum.

            Put another way, if you take a short-cut by trespassing across private land, you’re already doing something illegal. Whilst actually doing “it”, if you come to a tree or a big rock, you step around. And as you’re sneaking through that forest, those obstructions are also providing you with some cover.

            That the PBs selected a frequency in TV CH 15, which was used for a station that ID’d as CH 14, may indicate some advance research that ended up with a frequency between the CH 15 477.250 MHz video carrier and 481.750 MHz audio carrier (CH 15 spans 476 – 482 MHz.) – the space between the trees. That choice may have been hampered by the Baofeng’s poor receive selectivity and tendency to transmit a lot of harmonics (which wastes transmit power). (A better choice would have been a good quality used UHF land mobile radio, though those typically don’t have a user accessible factory reset…, which could be rough to remember and execute while in handcuffs or if the feds are pounding on the door.)

            It is time consuming, but relatively inexpensive to look for areas of low RF activity within assigned/licensed frequency ranges. For between $30 and $130 I can go to Amazon and get a software defined radio receiver (SDR) kit that will receive between 100kHz and 1.7 GHz. There will be an SDR USB dongle, and antenna or two, and maybe some other do-dads. There is plenty of free software that will allow you to monitor specific frequency ranges and scope the wave forms on your laptop.

            Direction finding (DF)? Fantasy in this case. Who, on January 5th, was going to order up the DF resources for DC, downtown and on the mall, capable of covering 136 – 520 MHz, and able to perform triangulation based on multiple paths (there can be a lot of reflection in cityscapes) for each DF of several sites? Those Baofengs are LOW power tranmitters hampered by their internal engineering and use of low efficiency antennae.

            I apologize if I wasn’t clear with my earlier point: We’re not talking about “legal unlicensed uses of the TV bands”*. I think that this was about finding open spaces among the local RF wave form “environment” (the trees) were they could conduct their business. If so, this would indicate some level of advance planning on the communications side.

            * The mention of wireless mics was to illustrate that the TV channel allocations are not packed wall-to-wall.

        • P J Evans says:

          AFAIK, the FCC monitors broadcast frequencies. Illegal frequency use should get noticed.

          • Raven Eye says:

            Very little direct monitoring gets done, and it is mostly in response to specific complaints. Life/safety is a priority and related to that, interference with public safety agencies, including false maydays. Another situation is when a licensee starts losing serious money.

            In the case of television broadcast frequencies, how are you going to know which specific frequency within a station’s allocation is being used illegally? The licensee would have to complain and then the government’s assets prioritized. That license allows intra-company voice and data use, and unless the illegal user’s low power handhelds were actually blocking a specific use, the station may never know someone had “snuck in”. It is more likely that the Baofengs would suffer.

            Not to venture too far into Pun Land, but the FCC just doesn’t have the band width.

        • P J Evans says:

          I remember, way back, some radio operator – ham, I think – broadcasting on a TV stations frequency. It was audible over the program. (That was in an area where there was an actual FCC monitoring station, so it was a one-off.)

    • paulpfixion says:

      Your mandarin doesn’t serve. 暴风 (cruel + wind) = windstorm; 包封 (package + seal) = close up a package with a seal (this definition is rarely used/outdated). 放屁 (fangpi) = 1.fart 2. speak nonsense

      For some reason I doubt the Proud Boys have any idea what Baofeng might mean, though.

  4. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Utmost joy and appreciation swells every time I dial in here at EW. Marcy and her merry band, plus the wit and insights of the commentarians really gives me hope and something to cherished in these not much to cherish times. Thanks.

  5. Eureka says:

    FYI, Zach Rehl’s long-standing (sensu prior to 1/6) defense atty is a (Black) man as appearing/described in local media over the years/re other cases.

    I found it interesting that that Reuters article of last Monday which you mention, and which pivots off 1/6, identifies a different PB in an infamous informant chat they cite (and authenticate) but Rehl, with whom that person converses (per prior journalism, such as at The Daily Beast), is never mentioned. (I transcribed that chat here from screenshots some months ago).

    Excerpts from Jeremy Roebuck’s thread covering his hearing:

    “In hearing for Philly Proud Boys Prez Zach Rehl… Once again his lawyer, Shaka Johnson, hasn’t shown up. Court is trying to see if they can get him on the line. This is the second time this has happened. He got a dressing down from a Philly magistrate judge at start of case.”
    12:06 PM · May 5, 2021

    [… he appears; hearing proceeds …]

    “This is a hearing, by the way, that was set to argue over a detention brief Johnson promised to file last week….which he did not file.”

    “When pressed by Judge Timothy Kelly, Johnson says he misunderstood that his brief was due last week. As I recall, it was Johnson that suggested the due date of last week at the last hearing. Not sure how that was misunderstood.”

    “Regardless, Johnson agrees to file his brief by May 17. This is argument over a magistrate judge’s stayed decision that Rehl should be released pretrial, issued more than a month ago.”

    “So while a magistrate judge ordered Rehl released pretrial in late March and agreed to stay his order at gov’s request so Kelly could review ASAP, we’re now looking at Rehl sitting in jail for two months in the interim.”

    “It doesn’t appear likely that Rehl will be released, given the way these requests have been going for his Proud Boy codefendants. But still, no matter what you think of Rehl, his org or his alleged actions, it’s hard not to feel like he’s been let down by his representation.”

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