July 5, 2022 / by 

 

Three Things: Something Truck-ed This Way Comes

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

If you’re not white you’re not surprised at expressions of hate in our society. There are frequent demonstrations in the form of microaggressions white folks often miss.

Sometimes they’re more obvious, like racist tagging on buildings or even more obvious like the noose once left in a friend’s front yard tree, or direct confrontation experienced by another friend and their family who trapped in their car by racists yelling at them and beating on their vehicle. Many of these expressions never make the local news and might not even be reported to police for fear of making things worse.

But overt signs of hate, the kind to which even white people notice and take exception, didn’t appear as frequently in the news until Donald Trump took the White House.

Now increasingly everyone can see the wretchedness out in the open, waving its stars and bars, screaming hateful epithets at persons who aren’t cis-het white.

Like the insurrectionists waving Confederate flags outside and in the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

Like the neo-Nazis’ demonstration in Orlando, Florida this past February.

And then the usual Republican DARVO response – Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender – when confronted with these hateful expressions.

In February, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ aide Christina Pushaw accused the Democrats of being neo-Nazis followed by DeSantis playing victim by accusing Democrats of smearing him about the neo-Nazis.

Yet nothing about DeSantis’ office’s response discouraged another future demonstration with attacks on passersby.

The hate’s all out there in the open – and it’s escalating.

It’s no longer restraining itself to minorities, either; it may also be a component of hybrid warfare intent on demoralizing a substantive number of Americans while embedding and normalizing itself in our communities.

~ 3 ~

On Saturday evening December 4, 2021, a white nationalist group — the Patriot Front (PF) — gathered in Washington DC and paraded in numbers along the Mall before hopping into U-Haul trucks and driving away.

The group is a spin-off from Vanguard America which took part in the hate rally in Charlottesville VA in 2017.

PF has had numerous pop-up events; the Anti-Defamation League has documented their activity across the country from propaganda to rallies. The December 4 event was in the same vein.

There were many calls to avoid giving this fascist organization any air time, and more calls to ridicule them as unserious.

… This weekend in Washington, a ridiculous white supremacist boys club called Patriot Front dressed up in matching outfits to make themselves look like menacing middle managers of an electronics store. They got their white nationalist flags and their little shields and their khakis and their shin guards and they marched from the Lincoln Memorial down the national mall in what was supposed to be a white supremacist show of force in the nation`s capital. …

(source: Rachel Maddow, MSNBC )

But the December 4 event should have given us pause, especially 11 months after the January 6 Capitol Building insurrection.

— PF didn’t have a permit for their demonstration;

— They amassed a large number of participants in a short time with little-to-no advance notice to the public;

— They used at least one smoke bomb during their demonstration;

— Their rally took place in the same area the insurrectionists gathered and traveled from the January 6 speeches at the Ellipse to the Capitol Building;

— Police presence was a fraction of the number of PF rally attendees, with many on bikes;

— It was difficult to tell whether police were protecting or monitoring PF attendees.

Not only were folks left of center insisting PF’s rally not be treated as a valid expression of dissent, but they encouraged laughing at their normcore appearance which included not only khaki pants and ball caps but white neck gaiter masks.

Where have we seen so many white men wearing white fabric masks over their faces not to prevent infection but to hide identity while displaying a unified identity?

The December 4 event and other earlier PF events like this one may have looked performative, like costume players merely dressing as contemporary fascists, but the entire effort made a point and may have been proof-of-concept for some other future effort.

In other words, what’s to stop another group which is armed from beginning an assault on Washington DC in exactly the same way?

Enclosed box trucks show up, their contents not visible to anyone on the street including law enforcement; the occupants jump out wearing similar outfits and shields but this time concealing firearms and other weapons; they march to their intended destination and deploy a smoke bomb at first to mask another explosive device or to mask their weapons.

On December 4 they made it clear they could do this.

I’d have been less worried about these normcore shock troops but persons with more expertise have likewise expressed concern.

~ 2 ~

All of the above I wrote months ago, beginning a draft in December after the PF event in D.C., revising the draft after yet another PF rally on January 8, 2022 when PF participated in the March for Life anti-abortion rally in Chicago IL.

Clearly I should have published what I had at the time, ahead of yesterday’s arrest of 31 PF members in Coeur d’Alene ID for conspiracy to riot at a scheduled Pride parade.

Though Coeur d’Alene police were in contact with federal law enforcement, it was CADPD which handled the arrest and charging of the PF members.

Only one person of the 31 arrested was from Idaho; the rest were from across the U.S. — Washington, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wyoming, Virginia, and Arkansas — though the bulk were from West and Midwest states.

Like the December 4, 2021 PF rally in DC, CADPD found PF brought riot gear, one smoke grenade, shin guards and shields.

No firearms have been mentioned in any reports, but this event could have been bad had PF arrived and violence triggered if locals were carrying weapons.

There have been no federal charges, yet; it’s not clear if any federal laws were broken. Traveling across state lines might be a factor.

It’d be easy to brush this off as just another stunt by cosplayers on a sunny summer Saturday afternoon, except the number of events like this and the corresponding propaganda by PF have exploded.

(source: ADL report: White Supremacist Propaganda Spikes in 2020)

More than 80% of that uptick was PF’s work. Where are they going with this besides demoralizing much of the country?

~ 1 ~

There’s been some confusion in left-of-center social media about Patriot Front and the Proud Boys, some mistaking one for the other. They are different groups with overlapping if not identical ideologies.

Patriot Front

Proud Boys

Launched: 2017 (spun off from Vanguard) Launched: 2016
Ideology:

  • Patriot Front is a white supremacist group whose members maintain that their ancestors conquered America and bequeathed it to them, and no one else.
  • Patriot Front justifies its ideology of hate and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of its members’ European ancestors.

(source: ADL’s backgrounder)

Ideology:

  • The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups.

(source: ADL’s backgrounder)

Their xenophobia, antisemitism, and misogyny are their primary shared attributes along with racism to varying degrees.

We’ve now seen what the Proud Boys have been willing to do which Patriot Front have not yet engaged in — participation in events which can become violent. Yesterday’s Pride parade in Coeur d’Alene could have become a crossover event had Team PF not been arrested ahead of their destination.

What’s problematic, though, is the slack Proud Boys have been allowed. They’ve been treated like other civic and community organizations when their core ideology is hate. Buhl, Idaho allowed the Proud Boys to participate in a parade last summer:

The Times-News reports that Proud Boys members were among about 100 floats in the Sagebrush Days parade that went through the center of town.

The Buhl Chamber of Commerce runs the parade but wouldn’t comment specifically about the Proud Boys taking part.

“At this time the Buhl Chamber (of) Commerce will not feed into any negative propaganda,” the group said in a statement to the newspaper. “The Buhl 2021 Sagebrush Days parade saw 90 plus entries who celebrated in a courteous and civil manner. The Buhl Chamber takes pride in welcoming all participants, while giving them the opportunity to celebrate our great nation.”

“will not feed into any negative propaganda” meaning what, they weren’t going to allow anyone to bash Buhl’s Chamber of Commerce, or they weren’t going to let anyone bash the Proud Boys?

So long as Buhl allows the Proud Boys to participate in a community event, there’s no daylight between Buhl and the Proud Boys.

Ditto for Scotland, South Dakota which had agreed to allow the Proud Boys to host a street dance in their town though the Proud Boys backed out due to unspecified security concerns.

Both communities have validated and legitimized a hate group by allowing them equal footing with the rest of their community.

Would they have done so with Patriot Front had they taken the same approach as the Proud Boys rather than showing up in a U-Haul panel van after publishing comments online which could be construed as an expressed intent to riot?

Are these two hate groups testing the waters to see where they can establish a foothold and grow their organizations? Or has there been something more hateful in the offing?

Why yes, there was — where PF was stopped from harassing a Pride event in Idaho, the Proud Boys had already stormed a public library to halt a Drag Queen story hour in San Lorenzo, California, scaring families with children by shouting hate-filled diatribes at attendees.

Alameda County sheriff’s department escorted the Proud Boys out of the venue.

Between the two groups at these two different locations on the same day, they now know they can get away with their harassment if they restrain themselves to smaller numbers and target families with children, or attack larger groups if they use more operations security.

~ 0 ~

When I first set out months ago to write about PF, I had also wanted to discuss harassment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the truck convoys. Both are examples of the spread of overt expressions of hate, the first being racist and the second being socio-economic. Whatever was driving the attacks on HBCUs and the convoys has eased for now. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if foreign influence operations were the primary drivers.

However we have plenty to focus on immediately with the domestic influence operations these two hate groups are engaged in which must be stopped.

PF, by the way, still has an active Twitter account and a Twitter account used as a follow hub.


DOJ Is Treating January 6 as an Act of Terrorism, But Not All January 6 Defendants Are Terrorists

It turns out that Ted Cruz is (partially) right: Some of the people who participated in January 6 are being treated as terrorists. But not all January 6 participants are terrorists.

Though, predictably, Cancun Ted misstates which insurrectionists have been or might be labeled as terrorists — in part out of some urgency to avoid calling himself or Tucker Carlson as such.

While some defendants accused of assaulting cops will, I expect, eventually be slapped with a terrorism enhancement at sentencing, thus far, the people DOJ has labeled terrorists have been key members of the militia conspiracies, including a number who never came close to assaulting a cop (instead, they intentionally incited a shit-ton of “normies” to do so).

Ted Cruz wants to treat those who threatened to kill cops as terrorists, but not those who set up the Vice President to be killed.

The problem is, even the journalists who know how domestic terrorism works are giving incomplete descriptions of how it is working in this investigation. For example, Charlie Savage has a good explainer of how domestic terrorism works legally, but he only addresses one of two ways DOJ is leveraging it in the January 6 investigation. Josh Gerstein does, almost as an aside, talk about how terrorism enhancements have already been used (in detention hearings), but then quotes a bullshit comment from Ethan Nordean’s lawyer to tee up a discussion of domestic terrorism as a civil rights issue. More importantly, Gerstein suggests there’s a mystery about why prosecutors haven’t argued for a terrorism enhancement at sentencing; I disagree.

As numerous people have laid out, domestic terrorism is defined at 18 USC 2331(5):

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States; and

As both Savage and Gerstein point out, under 18 USC 2332b(g)(5) there are a limited number of crimes that, if they’re done, “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,” can be treated as crimes of terrorism. One of those, 18 USC 1361, has been charged against 40-some January 6 defendants for doing over $1,000 of damage to the Capitol, including most defendants in the core militia conspiracies. Another (as Savage notes), involves weapons of mass destruction, which likely would be used if DOJ ever found the person who left bombs at the RNC and DNC. Two more involve targeting members of Congress or Presidential staffers (including the Vice President and Vice President-elect) for kidnapping or assassination.

If two or more persons conspire to kill or kidnap any individual designated in subsection (a) of this section and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be punished (1) by imprisonment for any term of years or for life,

There’s very good reason to believe that DOJ is investigating Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs for conspiring to assassinate Nancy Pelosi, starting on election day and continuing as he went to her office after breaking into the Capitol, so it’s not unreasonable to think we may see these two laws invoked as well, even if DOJ never charges anyone with conspiring to assassinate Mike Pence.

Being accused of such crimes does not, however, amount to being charged as a terrorist. The terrorist label would be applied, in conjunction with a sentencing enhancement, at sentencing. But it is incorrect to say DOJ is not already treating January 6 defendants as terrorists.

DOJ has been using 18 USC 1361 to invoke a presumption of detention with militia leaders and their co-conspirators, starting with Jessica Watkins last February. Even then, the government seemed to suggest Watkins might be at risk for one of the kidnapping statutes as well.

[B]ecause the defendant has been indicted on an enumerated offense “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government,” the defendant has been charged with a federal crime of terrorism as defined under 18 U.S.C §§ 2332b(g)(5). Therefore, an additional basis for detention under 18 U.S.C § 3142(g)(1) is applicable. Indeed, the purpose of the aforementioned “plan” that the defendant stated they were “sticking to” in the Zello app channel became startlingly clear when the command over that same Zello app channel was made that, “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.” Id. [my emphasis]

DOJ has invoked 18 USC 1361 as a crime of terrorism for detention disputes with the central Proud Boys conspirators as well. It’s unclear how broadly DOJ might otherwise do this, because another key figure who is an obvious a candidate for such a presumption, Danny Rodriguez (accused of tasing Michael Fanone and doing damage to a window of the Capitol), didn’t fight detention as aggressively as the militia members have, presumably because his alleged actions targeting Fanone clearly merit detention by themselves. That said, I believe his failed attempt to suppress his FBI interview, in which he admitted to helping break a window, was an attempt to limit his exposure to a terrorism enhancement.

We have abundant evidence that DOJ is using the threat of terrorism enhancement to get people to enter cooperation agreements. Six of nine known cooperators thus far (Oath Keepers Graydon Young, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, and Jason Dolan, Proud Boy Matthew Greene, and SoCal anti-masker Gina Bisignano) have eliminated 18 USC 1361 from their criminal exposure by entering into a cooperation agreement. And prosecutor Alison Prout’s description of the plea deal offered to Kurt Peterson, in which he would trade a 210 to 262 month sentencing guideline for 41 to 51 months for cooperating, only makes sense if a terrorism enhancement for breaking a window is on the table.

You can’t say that DOJ is not invoking terrorism enhancements if most cooperating witnesses are trading out of one.

For those involved in coordinating the multi-pronged breaches of the Capitol, I expect DOJ will use 18 USC 1361 to argue for a terrorism enhancement at sentencing, which is how being labeled as a terrorist happens if you’re a white terrorist.

But there is another way people might get labeled as terrorists at sentencing, and DOJ is reserving the right to do so in virtually all non-cooperation plea deals for crimes other than trespassing. For all pleas involving the boilerplate plea deal DOJ is using (even including those pleading, as Jenny Cudd did, to 18 USC 1752, the more serious of two trespassing statutes), the plea deal includes this language.

the Government reserves the right to request an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, n. 4.

That’s a reference to the terrorism enhancement included in sentencing guidelines which envisions applying a terrorism enhancement for either (A) a crime involving coercion other than those enumerated under 18 USC 2332b or (B) an effort to promote a crime of terrorism.

4. Upward Departure Provision.—By the terms of the directive to the Commission in section 730 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the adjustment provided by this guideline applies only to federal crimes of terrorism. However, there may be cases in which (A) the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct but the offense involved, or was intended to promote, an offense other than one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B); or (B) the offense involved, or was intended to promote, one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B), but the terrorist motive was to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, rather than to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. In such cases an upward departure would be warranted, except that the sentence resulting from such a departure may not exceed the top of the guideline range that would have resulted if the adjustment under this guideline had been applied. [my emphasis]

The point is, you can have a terrorism enhancement applied even if you don’t commit one of those crimes listed as a crime of terrorism.

In a directly relevant example, the government recently succeeded in getting a judge to apply the latter application of this enhancement by pointing to how several members of the neo-Nazi group, The Base, who pled guilty to weapons charges, had talked about plans to commit acts of terrorism and explained their intent to be coercion. Here’s the docket for more on this debate; the defendants are appealing to the Fourth Circuit. This language from the sentencing memo is worth quoting at length to show the kind of argument the government would have to make to get this kind of terrorism enhancement at sentencing.

“Federal crime of terrorism” is defined at U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, app. note 1 and 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5). According to this definition, a “federal crime of terrorism” has two components. First, it must be a violation of one of several enumerated statutes. 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B). Second, it must be “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(A). By § 3A1.4’s plain wording, there is no requirement that the defendant have committed a federal crime of terrorism. All that is required is that the crimes of conviction (or relevant conduct) involved or were intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.

[snip]

To apply the enhancement, this Court needs to identify which specific enumerated federal crime(s) of terrorism the defendants intended to promote, and the Court’s findings need to be supported by only a preponderance of the evidence. Id.17

The defendants repeatedly confirmed, on tape, that their crimes were intended to promote enumerated federal crimes of terrorism. They intended to kill federal employees, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114. Exhibit 19; Exhibit 20; Exhibit 28; Exhibit 33; Exhibit 34; Exhibit 44; Exhibit 45. They intended to damage communication lines, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1362. Exhibit 37. They intended to damage an energy facility, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1366(a). Exhibit 30; Exhibit 35; Exhibit 36; Exhibit 45. They intended to damage rail facilities, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1992. Exhibit 29; Exhibit 30; Exhibit 38; Exhibit 45. And they intended to commit arson or bombing of any building, vehicle, or other property used in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). Exhibit 45.

Furthermore, there can be no serious dispute that the defendants’ intentions were “to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion.” Coercion and capitulation were core purposes of The Base. And specific to the defendants, they themselves said this is what they wanted. Exhibit 39 (“Desperation leads to martyr. Leads to asking what we want. Now that’s where we would have to simply keep the violence up, and increase the scope of our demands. And say if these demands are not met, we’re going to cause a lot of trouble. And when those demands are met, then increase them, and continue the violence. You just keep doing this, until the system’s gone. Until it can’t fight anymore and it capitulates.”). It was their express purpose to “bring the system down.” Exhibit 36

Given how many people were talking about hanging Mike Pence on January 6, this is not a frivolous threat for January 6 defendants. But as noted, such a terrorism enhancement doesn’t even require the plan to promote assassinating the Vice President. It takes just acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States and an attempt to coerce the government.

Contra Gerstein, I think there’s a pretty easy explanation for why the government hasn’t asked for a terrorism enhancement yet. The way the government is relying on obstruction to prosecute those who intended to prevent the peaceful transfer of power sets up terrorism enhancements for some of the most violent participants, but we’ve just not gotten to most of the defendants for whom that applies.

Thus far, there have been just three defendants who’ve been sentenced for assault so far, the acts “dangerous to human life” most at issue: Robert Palmer, Scott Fairlamb, and Devlyn Thompson. But Palmer and Thompson pled only to assault.

Fairlamb, as I noted at the time, pled guilty to both assault and obstruction. Unlike the two others, Fairlamb admitted that his intent, in punching a cop, was to, “stop[] or delay[] the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion.”

When FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the Capitol building, armed with a police baton, he was aware that the Joint Session to certify the Electoral College results had commenced. FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the building and assaulted Officer Z.B. with the purpose of influencing, affecting, and retaliating against the conduct of government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion. FAIRLAMB admits that his belief that the Electoral College results were fraudulent is not a legal justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol building and using intimidating [sic] to influence, stop, or delay the Congressional proceeding.

Fairlamb, by pleading to assault and obstruction, admitted to both elements of terrorism: violence, and the intent of coercing the government.

On paper, Fairlamb made a great candidate to try applying a terrorism enhancement to. But the sentencing process ended up revealing that, on the same day that Fairlamb punched a cop as part of his plan to overturn the election, he also shepherded some cops through a mob in an effort, he said with some evidence shown at sentencing, to keep them safe.

That is, on paper, the single defendant to have pled guilty to both assault and obstruction looked like a likely candidate for a terrorism enhancement. But when it came to the actual context of his crimes, such an enhancement became unviable.

I fully expect that if the January 6 prosecution runs its course (a big if), then DOJ will end up asking for and getting terrorism enhancements at sentencing, both for militia members as well as some of the more brutal assault defendants, both for those who plead guilty and those convicted at trial. But in the case of assault defendants, it’s not enough (as Ted Cruz says) to just beat cops. With a goodly number of the people who did that, there’s no evidence of the intent to commit violence with the intent of disrupting the peaceful transfer of power. They just got swept up in mob violence.

I expect DOJ will only ask for terrorism enhancements against those who made it clear in advance and afterwards that their intent in resorting to violence was to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

But until that happens, DOJ has already achieved tangible results, both in detention disputes and plea negotiations, by invoking crimes of terrorism.


Broken Windows Policing and January 6 Plea Deals

Before Proud Boy Matthew Greene entered into a cooperation plea deal yesterday — the January 6 investigation event that generated a lot of press attention — something else happened that helps to explain the Greene (and most other) pleas thus far.

In a status hearing for Kurt Peterson, AUSA Alison Prout described that the government had offered Peterson a plea deal that she wanted to put on the record. He could plead guilty, Prout explained, to one count of obstruction, which would give him a guidelines range of 41 to 51 months. That compares to the sentence he faces if he were to go to trial on the other 7 counts, including a destruction of government property count, which Prout claimed might be 210 to 262 months. Prout claimed there had even been a meeting in Louisville to discuss such a deal and explicitly acknowledged the plea would include cooperation.

Only after that did Peterson’s attorney, Laura Wyrosdick, ask that the hearing — which I had just tweeted out in real time — be sealed to hide the discussion of cooperation.

Whatever effect Prout’s comments will have on her ability to finalize a plea deal with Peterson, she has confirmed something I pointed out when Graydon Young pled guilty. The government is using the terrorism enhancement that can come with 18 USC 1361 charges for damage to government property to convince people to plead to the obstruction charges and gain their cooperation. And because Peterson broke a window while at the Capitol, such a deal will look preferable by comparison.

It’s unclear what the government believes he can offer in cooperation (though the meeting in Louisville suggests he has already proffered testimony). On Facebook after the riot, he revealed he, “was with 3 men who had served our country in special forces. All of us in our sixties. They were patriots and not an [sic] anarchists.” Thus far, just two Special Forces veterans, Jeffrey McKellop and Jeremy Brown, have been arrested so far. McKellop would likely would be younger than his 60s (he completed 22 years of service in 2010) and I think Brown would be too. So it may be DOJ has an interest in Peterson’s co-travelers.

It’s also possible DOJ wants Peterson’s testimony about the attempts to break into, first, the House Chamber and then the Speaker’s Lobby. He was present as Ashli Babbitt was killed (and claimed to be calling the crowd to stop, though that doesn’t show up on the video I’ve seen). He’s not being prosecuted by AUSA Candice Wong in the group of men from that scene that seem to be clustered together. If that’s the case, then the government would be seeking to use the testimony of someone who had himself damaged the building to help prosecute men (at least Zach Alam, the guy who punched through the Speaker’s Lobby door) who likely do merit a terrorism enhancement for their efforts to hunt down members of Congress.

We’ll see whether Peterson ultimately decides to cooperate. But a similar calculation seems to have convinced Matthew Greene to flip on his Proud Boys.

Greene was charged, along with Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe, in what I call the “Front Door Proud Boys Conspiracy,” for the way the three of them worked towards Pezzola’s breach of a Northwest window, the first breach of the building on January 6. Greene was charged with conspiracy to obstruct the vote count (18 USC 371), obstruction (18 USC 1512(c)(2)), civil disorder (18 USC 231), destruction of government property (18 USC 1361, the charge that can carry a terrorism enhancement), as well as three trespassing counts.

His plea agreement shows that he pled to conspiracy — which the plea agreement claims included both obstruction and civil disorder (the first indictment did include both) — and the obstruction charge. Rather than a separate charge for vicarious responsibility for Pezzola’s break of the window (on an abetting charge), that liability is added to the obstruction charge as an “offense involving property damage.” At the hearing yesterday, it was said his guidelines range would be 41 to 51 before accounting for the cooperation.

That is, Matthew Greene made effectively the same deal that Peterson is contemplating, though he was probably working from a much higher guidelines range because of the additional civil disorder charge, not to mention possible weapons violations based off an AR-15 seized at his arrest.

Curiously, Greene’s written plea agreement still permits the government to request a terrorism enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, n. 4, which normally is being taken out of cooperation plea deals. But the entire proceeding yesterday was dismayingly discombobulated, with the plea itself just signed by Greene’s attorney and some clauses in the elements of the offense requiring tweaking. So it’s possible the prosecutors just used boilerplate and forgot to take that out. Greene’s attorney, Michael Kasmarek, spoke about the detailed discussions he has had with prosecutors, so he seems to trust them, but I’d still make sure everything were better captured in writing.

Perhaps it reflects the overwhelming workload of this investigation (the Proud Boys team has significantly fewer prosecutors — at least that have noticed appearances — than the team prosecuting the Oath Keepers), but I remain concerned that the team prosecuting the Proud Boys seems less organized than a bunch of the people prosecuting non-militia trespassers.

Greene’s deal differs from others thus far in that he’s moving immediately to sentencing on March 10 (he’s the only publicly identified cooperator in custody), with the understanding that even after sentencing the government may file for another downward departure while he serves his sentence.

The plea agreement contemplates the possibility of witness protection.

Update: Corrected to add Jeremy Brown as a Special Forces arrestee.

Update: Gina Bisignano’s August plea agreement has now been released. She, too, dodged the property damage crime by cooperating. She also faces the same 41 to 51 month sentence.


Marina Medvin’s Client Signs a Plea with the Potential of a Terrorism Enhancement

Marina Medvin is the sweet spot of January 6 lawyers. She’s a legit lawyer, doing particularly good work trying to challenge the asymmetrical access defendants get to security video of the attack. She clearly serves the interests of her clients rather than grifting or focusing more on scoring political points, as some other January 6 defense attorneys appear to do. But she’s also a right wing activist in her own right.

As such, she spends a great deal of time calling people she doesn’t like “terrorists.”

She uses debunked claims about (foreign) terrorists to try to sow fear about immigration.

She spends a great deal of time demanding that the 9/11 attackers be called terrorists.

She calls the evacuation of Afghans who helped the US fight terrorism the importation of terrorists.

She labels Joe Biden’s effort to craft a positive outcome out of Donald Trump’s capitulation to the Taliban as negotiating with terrorists.

She holds protestors accountable for those they affiliate with who call for violence.

She even complains when those held as — and those guarding — terrorists get treated humanely.

Yesterday, with the benefit of Medvin’s able counsel, her client Jenny Louise Cudd pled guilty under a plea agreement that permits the government to ask for a terrorism enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4 at sentencing.

To be sure, I agree with Medvin’s assessment yesterday that it is unlikely the government will actually push for this enhancement with Cudd (and I think it even more unlikely that Judge Trevor McFadden would side with such a government request). This appears to be a standard part of any January 6 plea agreement involving sentencing calculations but no cooperation agreement; one thing cooperators are getting — especially those in militia conspiracy cases — is an assurance they won’t been deemed terrorists at sentencing.

Still, Cudd won’t be sentenced until March, and the government may have a far more complete story to tell about the attempted revolution that Cudd applauded by then, a story that will likely incorporate some of the facts to which Cudd admitted under oath yesterday. You never know what DOJ will do or Judge McFadden might find plausible by then.

I raise the terrorism enhancement language in Cudd’s plea agreement not because I think she’ll be treated as one come sentencing (thus far, I think Scott Fairlamb is at greatest risk of that, because his statement of offense admitted both to using violence and to his intent to intimidate those certifying the vote). Rather, I raise it to show that even a right wing activist like Medvin agrees with my reading of the language in these plea agreements. The government is reserving the right to treat these defendants, even someone who pled down to a trespassing misdemeanor like Cudd, as terrorists at sentencing. To be clear: Medvin doesn’t think this will work legally nor does she think her client is implicated in the violence of those with whom she chose to affiliate on January 6, but that is what she described the language effectively means in Cudd’s plea hearing.

Such terrorism enhancements are how domestic terrorists get labeled as terrorists. Because domestic terrorist groups like the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers aren’t labeled as (foreign) terrorist groups by the State Department, affiliation with or abetment of those groups is not per se illegal (as it might be under material support statutes for foreign terrorist organizations). It’s not until sentencing, then, that the government can argue and a judge might agree that the specific crime a person committed involved acts dangerous to human life, and (in the case of January 6) an attempt to intimidate or coerce the policy of government. If the judge does agree, a terrorist enhancement could expose the defendant to a much longer sentence as a result, a guidelines range of 121 to 151 months for someone with no criminal history.

This is a detail that has gone almost entirely unreported elsewhere: that DOJ is building in an ability to treat these defendants as terrorists when it comes to sentencing, sentencing that may be five months in the future.

Mind you, since this would be domestic terrorism, the government could not just wildly label someone as a terrorist for attending a protest at which others present espouse violence, as Medvin has done of Muslims. They’d have to lay out a specific intent on the part of the defendant to threaten force to coerce some political outcome. But if they do so with these January 6 defendants, then they may be legally branded as terrorists for their actions on January 6.


The Eight Month Investigation into the January 6 Investigation Didn’t End in March

I was going to hold off responding to this Spencer Ackerman op-ed in the NYT — which attempts to superimpose conclusions of his book onto ensuing events that have disproven some of his predictions — until I finish a half-written review of the book itself (tl;dr: it’s a great history of the war on terror, but entirely unpersuasive as to its main argument and especially sloppy when it attempts to discuss politics). But I got a bit fed up by the way he claims to be speaking about the response to January 6 with an op-ed that doesn’t incorporate anything more recent than March.

“Eight months later, there is no political response to the insurrection at all,” — Spencer claims, linking an article dated March 26 reporting, “Dem Hearings Bend Over Backward to Ignore GOP Complicity in Capitol Riot –“only a security response aimed at its foot soldiers.” That’s his most recent reference in the entire op-ed, as demonstrated by the links he uses:

Elissa Slotkin: 2/1/21

Somali plot: 1/25/19

Somali plot: 10/14/16

Mike Flynn: 7/9/16

Trump on terrorism: 8/15/16

Trump’s birtherism: 9/19/15

How the January 6 insurrectionists saw themselves: 1/5/21

Veterans: 2/4/21

Non-veteran Mariposa Castro declaring war: 1/21/21

Describing the Jan 6 investigation based on what Michael Sherwin’s comments about sedition, while ignoring what he said about holding everyone accountable: 1/13/21

[Sherwin’s resignation: 3/23/21]

Trump sent them: 1/9/21

Opting against 14A: 2/3/21

Dems on empowering the FBI: 2/5/21

DOJ seeking new domestic terror powers: 2/26/21

Slotkin again on monitoring domestic extremists: 3/23/21

“I am not a terrorist:” 1/13/21

Spencer makes no mention of any of the developments you’d look at to understand how the Biden Administration was responding to January 6, including:

  • A new domestic terrorism response that includes social media monitoring of the sort that might have prevented the attack on the Capitol, but few of the other things Spencer and others have never stopped predicting since January 6.
  • A discussion of the actions of the January 6 Select Committee, on which committee Elissa Slotkin (the Democrat Spencer quoted twice and on whom his book focuses) doesn’t sit. The committee has provided a way around the need to placate Republicans trying to avoid angering Trump, to say nothing of committees (like the House Oversight Committee) packed with key figures in the events of January 6. The committee has already moved to obtain the records of the people that Spencer claims have escaped accountability.
  • A description of Merrick Garland’s repeated comments, starting in his February 22 confirmation hearing and continuing since, that DOJ would go where the evidence leads, including to those who incited it. Garland’s DOJ has also found important ways to avoid sheltering Mo Brooks (and by association all other people who were Federal employees the day of the riot, as Trump was), and to waive executive privilege to allow multiple investigations into Trump’s actions to proceed.
  • How DOJ under Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco has approached the January 6 investigation, notably with its use of the unpoliticized obstruction statute to charge felonies rather than (thus far at least) sedition, the use of interlocking conspiracies that have already started incorporating some organizers and which could easily be used with Trump and his flunkies, and the possibility of terrorism enhancements that would be decided at sentencing, by judges, rather than by categorical application at the start of investigation.

There are definitely ways that the two decade war on terror played a big role on January 6.

More important than the 22 veterans charged by early February is which figures in the organizing conspiracies applied their military experience to ensuring the success of the operation. Key among those is former Staff Sargeant Joe Biggs, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before he went on to play a key propaganda role in the 2016 election; as I’ve described, Biggs was at the head of both major fronts (East Side, West Side) of the attack, and his network incorporates the key organizers of the larger event. Charles Donohoe, Dominic Pezzola, Gabriel Garcia, Jessica Watkins, and Joshua James are other veterans who allegedly turned their war on terror training to play key roles leading an attack on the Capitol. The second front of the attack on the Capitol that Biggs seemed to have anticipated was opened — either coincidentally, or not — by a bunch of Marines, including one on active duty.

If you’re going to talk about the import of the war on terror on January 6, you also have to talk about the mental scars that veterans have brought back. That was made spectacularly clear by Landon Copeland’s PTSD-driven meltdown in a detention hearing. But even Jacob Chansley’s mental illness has ties to his service. These two are not alone among the men and women whose service scars led them to embrace the false promises Donald Trump was offering.

In his book, Spencer rightly complains about the Wanted Dead or Alive rhetoric motivating the War on Terror. He also complains about an, “obsession with the baroque, fragmentary details of what became #Russiagate,” (mistaking the equally baroque counter-propaganda hashtag for those focusing in varying degrees of obsessiveness on the investigation itself) that nevertheless ended with Bill Barr corruptly intervening to protect Trump. But Spencer apparently feels the best way to deal with something else — a plodding, but ambitious, attempt to conduct a law enforcement investigation from the attack itself to its kingpins — is to largely ignore it even while claiming to speak for it.

The January 6 investigation, even in conjunction with the Select Committee, will not fix all the problems with the War on Terror. The two together may not hold the most powerful culprits for January 6 accountable — but that’s not for lack of ambition to do just that. But — in large part because this is an investigation of mostly-white people, which goes to the core of how America’s racism and other demons almost brought down its democracy and still could — it looks more like how the US should have responded to the 9/11 attack and not the caricature that Spencer arrives at by ignoring the last six months.

Following 600 cases as DOJ meticulously obtains the camera footage to see how Alex Jones lured unwitting participants to a second front or attempts to document whether key militia members made an attempt on Nancy Pelosi’s life is not sexy. But it’s what Spencer claims we should have done in response to 9/11.


Reuters Doesn’t Mention Terrorism When Claiming DOJ Won’t Charge Serious Offenses in the January 6 Investigation

Reuters has a story claiming to report that, “FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated,” that has elicited a lot of consternation. I’d like to look at what it does and does not say. Most of it is true — and not news — but somewhere along the way someone (either the reporters or the sources) misunderstood parts of what they’re looking at.

Reuters or its sources don’t understand how DOJ is charging this

One detail shows this to be true.

The Reuters piece makes much of the fact that DOJ is not charging what it calls “serious” charges.

Prosecutors have filed conspiracy charges against 40 of those defendants, alleging that they engaged in some degree of planning before the attack.

They alleged that one Proud Boy leader recruited members and urged them to stockpile bulletproof vests and other military-style equipment in the weeks before the attack and on Jan. 6 sent members forward with a plan to split into groups and make multiple entries to the Capitol.

But so far prosecutors have steered clear of more serious, politically-loaded charges that the sources said had been initially discussed by prosecutors, such as seditious conspiracy or racketeering.

[snip]

More than 170 people have been charged so far with assaulting or impeding a police officer, according to the Justice Department. That carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

But one source said there has been little, if any, recent discussion by senior Justice Department officials of filing charges such as “seditious conspiracy” to accuse defendants of trying to overthrow the government. They have also opted not to bring racketeering charges, often used against organized criminal gangs.

Not once does the story mention obstruction, which also carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. If you don’t mention obstruction — and your sources don’t explain that obstruction will get you to precisely where you’d get with a sedition charge, but with a lot more flexibility to distinguish between defendants and a far lower bar of proof (unless and until judges decide it has been misapplied) — then your sources are not describing what is going on with the investigation.

Furthermore, Reuters purports to rule out “more serious, politically-loaded charges,” but it never mentions terrorism.

One reason it wouldn’t, though, is because for domestic terrorists, you don’t charge terrorism, you charge crimes of terrorism or you argue for an enhancement under U.S.S.G. §3A1.4 at sentencing. And that has and will continue to happen. For example, both the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys  conspiracies include 18 USC 1361 charges (damage to a government building exceeding $1,000, a charge that is a bit of a stretch for the Oath Keepers) that constitutes a crime of terrorism, and the government has raised that and noted it is a crime of terrorism in a number of bail disputes. Effectively, DOJ has already called the leaders of the militia conspiracies terrorists. But Reuters doesn’t think that’s worth noting.

Similarly, for both the assault pleas DOJ has obtained thus far, the government has reserved the right to invoke a terrorism enhancement at sentencing. In the case of Scott Fairlamb, who also pled guilty to obstruction, which effectively amounts to pleading guilty to having a political purpose for his assault, I suspect such an enhancement is likely.

Somehow this entire story got written without mentioning what DOJ is using instead of seditious conspiracy: obstruction (which has been charged against over 200 defendants) and terrorism enhancements; civil disorder is likewise not mentioned, but has been charged against around 150 defendants. DOJ isn’t using seditious conspiracy because it doesn’t need it (again, unless and until the courts reject this use of obstruction).

Reuters mis-describes the Proud Boys’ role in the riot

Much of the rest of the story includes details that are true, and public, but arguably misleading.

A “former senior law enforcement official” (most former senior people who had visibility on the investigation have been gone for some time) claims that 90 to 95% of these cases are “one-off” cases, seemingly distinguishing between the 40 people Reuters describes to have been charged in conspiracy from the 540 or so who have not been charged with a conspiracy.

“Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,” said a former senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. “Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.”

On paper, that’s true, and in key places a really important detail. But in other places it doesn’t mean what Reuters suggests it says.

For example, consider the nine men charged in the assault of Daniel Hodges. None of them knew each other before they started beating the shit out of some cops in the Tunnel of the Capitol. But several of the men charged nevertheless managed to orchestrate the assault (indeed, that’s most of what David Mehaffie did do — make other assailants more effective) and so, even while these individuals did not conspire to beat the shit out of cops, they worked in concert when they did so. The same is true for the men jointly accused of assaulting Michael Fanone (though Daniel Rodriguez has not been charged with the other men involved, many people believe because he’ll be charged in a conspiracy with others from Southern California).

Plus, the number cited to Reuters is probably wrong. Ten percent of the 580 people charged would be around 60. There were that many people on the Proud Boys’ organizational Telegram channel that day (though not all those people were present). There are a bunch of Proud Boys already charged individually, including some (like Dan Scott) who could easily be added to existing conspiracy indictments, others charged as groups (like the five Floridians on the Arthur Jackman indictment), and a father-son pair Jeffrey and Jeremy Grace who just got a terrorism prosecutor added. There are five Oath Keepers not included in that conspiracy (four cooperating against the others). And DOJ is only beginning to unwind the 3%er networks involved. So even just considering militias, the number is likely closer to 80.

And there are other important affiliations represented at the riot — with QAnon and anti-maskers being two of the most important — that actually created networks that were in some ways more effective than the militias. The QAnoners didn’t conspire with each other but they sure as hell were directed from the same place. And anti-mask protests were actually one place where a goodly number of rioters were radicalized, and those localized networks manifested as cells of cooperation in some key incidents in the riot.

More importantly, this claim can only have come from people who misunderstand what the investigation has shown:

Prosecutors have also not brought any charges alleging that any individual or group played a central role in organizing or leading the riot. Law-enforcement sources told Reuters no such charges appeared to be pending.

Conspiracy charges that have been filed allege that defendants discussed their plans in the weeks before the attack and worked together on the day itself. But prosecutors have not alleged that this activity was part of a broader plot.

It’s true that the Proud Boys are not known to have had a detailed plan describing who would move where in the Capitol. But it’s also true that both before and after the riot, the Proud Boys discussed mobilizing the “normies,” because normies have no adrenalin control. And the Proud Boys’ success at doing this is what made the initial assault on the West side of the Capitol work (and therefore the attack generally). The Proud Boys weren’t ordering the 1,000 rioters what to do at each step (though probably 100 people at the riot had some interaction with the Proud Boys), but they did give the riot a kind of structure that was crucial to its success.

Maybe Roger Stone isn’t involved?

Because of the other problems with this article, I don’t know what to make of the single piece of news in it. As noted above, a former senior law enforcement official claims that, “there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages.” That makes sense with respect to Alex Jones; his videographer was arrested long ago and remains charged only with trespass.

But Stone has continued to appear in Oath Keeper filings long after the time that someone very senior would have left. And the two cooperators who might confirm or deny Stone’s involvement — Graydon Young (who did an Oath Keeper event with Stone in Florida) and Mark Grods (who was present with the Oath Keepers who were with Stone the day of the attack) — only pled guilty at the end of June, meaning if they confirmed Stone wasn’t involved (even in the planning for the attack known to have taken place in December, in Florida), it wouldn’t have happened all that long ago.

Particularly given the mention of kidnapping — which was a real question at the beginning of the investigation because of the zip ties that Larry Brock and Eric Munchel picked up inside the Capitol — this seems like a denial of a very dated misunderstanding of what happened.

I don’t think this story is meant maliciously. For example, I’m unimpressed with concerns raised about Tass’ ownership; this is Mark Hosenball and he’ll do the same reporting regardless of who signs his paycheck. Nor am I all that concerned by the anonymity of the sources; I’m more interested in how dated some of this information might be and which corners of the sprawling investigation those who actually worked on it were personally involved with.

It reads like the end result of a game of telephone asking questions that were raised in January, not a report about the investigation as public filings reveal it to be in August.

Update: DOJ just charged InfoWars host Owen Shroyer. The initial charges are just trespassing (leveraging a prior charge and Deferred Prosecution Agreement he entered), but he’s likely to be charged with obstruction based on stuff in his arrest affidavit.


Terrorists in the Tunnel: The Omnibus Indictment for Officer Daniel Hodge’s Assault

One of the most spectacular assaults from January 6 was that charged against Patrick McCaughey for crushing Officer Daniel Hodges in a door.

McCaughey was charged early — on January 19. Over time, though, his indictment has become more than that — an indictment incorporating the worst assailants involved in a long brutal fight that took place in the Lower West Terrace entrance to the Capitol, deemed the Tunnel. First Tristan Chandler Stevens was added in March. Christopher Quaglin and David Judd were added in April. Robert Morss and Geoffrey Sills were added in June.

On August 4, the government rolled out a superseding indictment that adds two newly charged defendants, Steven Cappuccio and David Mehaffie, and incorporates Freddie Klein into the existing one; it was unsealed yesterday after Cappuccio and Mehaffie were arrested.

A notice filed in both the McCaughey and Klein dockets on July 29 explains the logic of this indictment.

All nine of these individuals are or will be charged primarily with assaultive conduct on law enforcement officers in and around the first landing of the Lower West Terrace as well as the Lower West Terrace archway, colloquially referred to as “the tunnel,” of the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, between approximately 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. This tunnel entranceway to the Capitol Building, which is approximately ten feet wide, was the site of a significant physical confrontation with law enforcement for several hours. Each of these defendants was an active participant in the first wave of rioters to enter the tunnel between 2:40 and 3:18 p.m., at which time law enforcement successfully cleared the tunnel of rioters for the first time that day. Moreover, several of the defendants, including Mr. Klein, committed additional crimes on the first landing of the Lower Wester Terrace before reaching the tunnel for the first time. Accordingly, because the primary criminal conduct alleged against these individuals overlaps both temporally and geographically, and the evidence against them will be mutually admissible, including the testimony of witnesses and their victims, the government is preparing to charge this group in a single indictment and to present evidence against them in a single trial.

The same notice says that while there are “dozens” of people who committed crimes along with these defendants, they do “not expect” to add any other defendants to this one.

I’ve tried to lay out which defendants got charged with what crimes using what weapons in this table. Altogether, I think this indictment does four different things.

First, Cappuccio is charged with grabbing Hodges’ gas mask and pulling if off and then stealing his police baton.

McCaughey is the guy whose name is on this indictment and who has, since the days after the riot, been one of the chief focal points because of that assault. But Cappuccio was actually the guy alleged to be doing to the most harm to Hodges (a point that McCaughey nodded to in a successful bid to get pretrial release). Cappuccio has finally been added alongside McCaughey, charged in one of the signature assaults of the attack.

Second, this indictment charges Mehaffie along with a bunch of people he gave instructions to during the hours long assaults, as captured by his Sedition Hunter moniker, Tunnel Commander and explained by HuffPo.

Dave Mehaffie of Dayton, Ohio, was known to online investigators as #TunnelCommander because he was issuing orders to members of the mob who were attacking officers during a brutal battle at the lower western terrace entrance to the Capitol. Mehaffie was 86-AFO on the FBI’s Capitol wanted list, meaning he was wanted for assault on a federal officer.

A judge signed an arrest warrant for Mehaffie on Aug. 4 after he was indicted by a grand jury as part of an existing case.

Mehaffie was involved in one of the toughest battles of the Capitol siege. Members of the mob had stormed past police barriers and ascended the scaffolding set up for President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and were attempting to break into the building. During the “medieval” battle, members of the pro-Trump mob kidnapped D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was repeatedly electroshocked. Rosanne Boyland, a pro-Trump member of the mob, was trampled during the brutal clash. The woman’s brother-in-law said that former President Donald Trump “incited a riot” that killed one of his “biggest fans.”

Alone among these nine defendants, Mehaffie is not charged with assault using a dangerous weapon and/or directly striking the officer victim (that’s roughly speaking the difference between the 111(a)(1) charges and the 111(b) charges in the table). Instead, Mehaffie is charged with one count of assault and abetting assault, lasting from 2:40 to 3:18, presumably amounting to his directing the assaults of the others, along with civil disorder and obstruction. But that doesn’t convey the seriousness of his actions, because he had a role in making the other assaults more effective.

That’s why including him on this omnibus indictment will be important. By charging all nine men together, DOJ will be able to show how these men, who aren’t alleged to have known each other before the assault and aren’t charged with conspiracy, nevertheless worked in concert, always ensuring there were people at the front to press the assault, with Mehaffie playing a key role in making it all work (Morss, too, had a key role in directing traffic in the tunnel, which will also become clearer at trial with all charged together). In isolation, these men’s assaults can be minimized. In concert, their actions had a devastating effect.

Finally, Klein’s inclusion does more than just get him added to what will be a very powerful trial. He was originally indicted, on March 19, with just one count of assault. By April 5, in a detention memo, DOJ described three different assaults. So DOJ was bound to supersede his initial indictment in any case. This superseding indictment charges him in six different assaults (I think I’ve bolded the ones that appeared in the April detention memo), the culmination of seven months of video review to understand his role.

It also might get Klein detained. Of the seven men who had already been charged, Stevens was released on arrest, McCaughey got released with a huge bond payment, and Judd was released after review. The government successfully fought to keep Quaglin and Morss detained, sustaining Quaglin’s detention on appeal.

Klein also fought successfully for release. Along the way, his attorneys pointed to the conduct of McCaughey and two other of his now co-defendants, claiming they were more dangerous.

Contrast these cases, and the allegations against Mr. Klein, with others detained pretrial and alleged to have engaged in far more egregious conduct including having pinned an officer between a door and a riot shield (McCaughey – 21-cr-00040); violently assaulting an officer in the side of the neck with a riot shield and spraying chemical irritant directly into the eyes of an officer (Quaglin – 21-mj-00355); repeatedly throwing objects, including a pole, a desk drawer, some type of pipe/metal rod, and a flagpole at officers (Jenkins – 21-cr-00245); lighting and throwing fireworks at officers (Judd – 21-mj-00334), and striking an officer so violently with a pole that it shatters on his riot shield (Palmer – 21-mj-00301).

John Bates released Klein (in an opinion that significantly lowered the bar on releasing violent assault defendants). And while the release itself was a defensible decision, Bates’ logic (in my opinion) was not. Bates treated Klein’s assault on the Capitol, as a State Department official, as a breach of trust, but also credited him with having held a security clearance, as if having a cleared individual attack his own government isn’t particularly dangerous (as the government successfully argued in Timothy Hale-Cusanelli’s case). Crazier still, Bates said that Klein’s assaults weren’t as bad as others because his objective was not to injure the police but instead to occupy the tunnel, the use of violence for political end.

The government’s contention that Klein engaged in “what can only be described as hand-to-hand combat” for “approximately thirty minutes” also overstates what occurred. See Gov’t’s Br. at 6. Klein consistently positioned himself face-to-face with multiple officers and also repeatedly pressed a stolen riot shield against their bodies and shields. His objective, as far as the Court can tell, however, appeared to be to advance, or at times maintain, the mob’s position in the tunnel, and not to inflict injury. He is not charged with injuring anyone and, unlike with other defendants, the government does not submit that Klein intended to injure officers. Compare Hr’g Tr. 57:12–18 (government conceding that the evidence does not establish Klein intended to injure anyone, only that “there was a disregard of care whether he would injure anyone or not” in his attempt to enter the Capitol), with Gov’t’s Opp’n to Def.’s Mot. to Reopen Detention Hearing & For Release on Conditions, ECF No. 30 (“Gov’t’s Opp’n to McCaughey’s Release”), United States v. McCaughey, III, 21-CR-040-1, at 11 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 2021) (government emphasizing defendant’s “intent to injure” an officer who he had pinned against a door using a stolen riot shield as grounds for pretrial detention). And during the time period before Klein obtained the riot shield, he made no attempts to “battle” or “fight” the officers with his bare hands or other objects, such as the flagpole he retrieved. That does not mean that Klein could not have caused serious injury— particularly given the chaotic and cramped atmosphere inside the tunnel. But his actions are distinguishable from other detained defendants charged under § 111(b) who clearly sought to incapacitate and injure members of law enforcement by striking them with fists, batons, baseball bats, poles, or other dangerous weapons.

[snip]

Klein’s conduct was forceful, relentless, and defiant, but his confrontations with law enforcement were considerably less violent than many others that day, and the record does not establish that he intended to injure others. [my emphasis]

Klein is now the co-defendant of McCaughey, Judd, and Quaglin, charged in more assaults than McCaughey and Judd, which might make his own prior comparison with them backfire. More importantly, Klein’s inclusion in this larger indictment makes it clear how his actions cannot be viewed — as Bates did — as isolation actions, but were instead an integral part of some of the worst clashes of the day.

I have no idea whether DOJ will use this superseding indictment to move to get Klein’s release revoked. But he’s on the edge anyway: since his release, he has had several release violations for things like drinking enough wine at dinner with his mom that he decided to just stay over the night in violation of curfew. Thus far, John Bates hasn’t deemed Klein’s disrespect for the authority of the Court to be worth detaining him over. Trevor McFadden, under whom Klein’s case will be moved, has similarly been reluctant to revoke bail (though the most notable January 6 defendant where he did revoke bail, Brandon Fellows, is only charged with obstruction and may have mental health issues contributing to his refusal to follow release conditions). But he has far less patience with defendants who openly disdain the Court’s authority, as Klein has.

Last week, I noted that the government had made a record that they are entitled to invoke a terrorist enhancement for Scott Fairlamb at sentencing (his sentencing has been bumped to November to give the probation office time to finish the presentencing memo).

Like Fairlamb, all these defendants are also charged with obstruction. If proven at trial, that would mean a jury found there was an intent behind their serial, extended, coordinated assaults: to occupy the Capitol (as even Judge Bates described it) and in so doing to halt the vote count. These men are accused of violence in the service of preventing the peaceful transfer of power. And as such, I would be shocked if on this most spectacular of assault trials, DOJ didn’t also go after a terrorism enhancement.

In his testimony before the January 6 Commission, Jamie Raskin asked Hodges why he referred to terrorism or terrorists 15 times. Hodges read the legal definition of domestic terrorism:

Activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state, and, b, appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.

If this omnibus case goes to trial it will demonstrate how all these assaults worked in concert to sustain an assault on our democracy for thirty-eight minutes. Officer Hodges may have his vindication at labeling these men terrorists.


Scott Fairlamb Pled Guilty to Obstruction and Assault; Does That Amount to Terrorism?

Two January 6 assault defendants pled guilty yesterday, Scott Fairlamb and Devlyn Thompson, the first defendants to plead to assault. Here’s my live tweet of Fairlamb’s sentencing.

There’s a detail of those plea agreements that has not gotten the attention it deserves.

While both plea agreements (Fairlamb, Thompson) include the Estimated Guidelines sentence for the crimes the men pled to, both allow DOJ to request an upward departure for a terrorism enhancement. That means that, while the existing guidelines make it look like these men face around four years in prison, DOJ may come back and argue they should be sentenced to something closer to ten years. I wouldn’t be surprised if DOJ did so with Fairlamb.

Here’s how the sentencing works for Fairlamb, who pled guilty to assault and obstruction.

It starts with the math for both crimes. In both cases, Fairlamb faces an enhancement off base level charges. On the obstruction charge, Fairlamb got penalized for both his physical threats and engaging in substantial interference. On the assault charge, he got an enhancement for punching a cop, an official victim.

From there, Fairlamb gets two-plus-one-points off for pleading guilty.

That results an Estimated Offense Level of 22, based on the assumption the sentences will be served concurrently. Once you factor in Fairlamb’s past assault convictions, his Estimated Guidelines sentence is 41 to 51 months.

But!

There’s a big *but* in the plea deal. The plea deal lays out what each side can argue about next month when Fairlamb will be sentenced.

The parties agree that, solely for the purposes of calculating the applicable range under the Sentencing Guidelines, neither a downward nor upward departure from the Estimated Guidelines Range set forth above is warranted, except the Government reserves the right to request an upward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4, n. 4. Except as provided for in the “Reservation of Allocution” section below, the parties also agree that neither party will seek any offense-level calculation different from the Estimated Offense Level calculated above in subsection A. However, the parties are free to argue for a Criminal History Category different from that estimated above in subsection B. [my emphasis]

Neither side will deviate from this math except that both sides can argue that Fairlamb’s past assaults result in a different criminal history category than used to calculate these guidelines. Since the guidelines calculated here are based off the lowest category, this can only work against Fairlamb going forward.

More importantly — as AUSA Leslie Goemaat made a point of noting explicitly for the record in yesterday’s sentencing — the government reserves the right to argue for an upward departure under U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4.

That’s a reference to a terrorism enhancement.

4. Upward Departure Provision.—By the terms of the directive to the Commission in section 730 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the adjustment provided by this guideline applies only to federal crimes of terrorism. However, there may be cases in which (A) the offense was calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct but the offense involved, or was intended to promote, an offense other than one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B); or (B) the offense involved, or was intended to promote, one of the offenses specifically enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5)(B), but the terrorist motive was to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, rather than to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. In such cases an upward departure would be warranted, except that the sentence resulting from such a departure may not exceed the top of the guideline range that would have resulted if the adjustment under this guideline had been applied.

This language allows the judge to bump that Offense Level up 12 points, up to but no further than 32.

Even assuming the government does not argue that Fairlamb’s criminal history category should be higher, that would still bump up his potential Guidelines Sentence — if the government were to choose to exercise this option and if Royce Lamberth were to agree that Fairlamb’s crimes were an attempt to influence the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion — to 121 to 151 months.

In other words, while the headlines are saying that Fairlamb could face a roughly 4-year sentence, if the government argues that his actions had a political motive and Judge Lamberth agrees, then in reality Fairlamb could be facing a 10-year sentence or more. And in Fairlamb’s case, he already pled to a crime, obstruction, that admits to that political purpose.

As part of Fairlamb’s Statement of Offense, he agreed under oath that,

When FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the Capitol building, armed with a police baton, he was aware that the Joint Session to certify the Electoral College results had commenced. FAIRLAMB unlawfully entered the building and assaulted Officer Z.B. with the purpose of influencing, affecting, and retaliating against the conduct of government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding by intimidation or coercion. FAIRLAMB admits that his belief that the Electoral College results were fraudulent is not a legal justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol building and using intimidating [sic] to influence, stop, or delay the Congressional proceeding.

That is, he already admitted his actions were intended to intimidate or coerce the government, the language required to invoke the terrorism enhancement.

Even if this application of the obstruction statute were thrown out (meaning his sentence would start at 17 instead of 22), if Judge Lamberth decided the terrorism enhancement applied, he could still face an 87 to 108 month sentence.

The government will not necessarily invoke this language. The terrorism enhancement language also appeared in Paul Hodgkins’ plea agreement, but AUSA Mona Sedky specifically noted at sentencing that the government was not invoking it in Hodgkins’ case.

The language does not appear in the five known cooperation pleas (Caleb Berry, Josiah Colt, Mark Grods, Jon Schaffer, Graydon Young). Indeed, as I’ve noted, by pleading their way out of the existing Oath Keeper conspiracy, Young and the other Oath Keepers also got out of the depredation of government property charge that is explicitly among those that can carry a terrorism enhancement. There appear to be at least three Proud Boys charged in conspiracies considering pleading, and I imagine they’d be looking at the same deal, a way out of being treated as a terrorist in exchange for their cooperation. For those willing to cooperate against their buddies, it seems, the government is willing to trade away the possibility of calling the person’s actions terrorism.

There has already been at least one case where a defendant’s lawyer described reluctance to accept a plea offer because it included this terrorism enhancement language. I would imagine the inclusion of this language in plea deals is one reason why so few defendants have taken pleas even when faced with abundant video evidence of their own crimes.

I likewise imagine that the government won’t argue for the enhancement in all cases where it appears in a plea (as noted, Sedky specifically declined to invoke it with Hodgkins).

But in Fairlamb’s case, as part of their argument to hold Fairlamb in pretrial detention, the government has argued he was arming and preparing for war. And Fairlamb swore under oath both that he engaged in violence and that he did so with the intent of coercing the government to stop or delay the certification of a democratic election.

Fairlamb will be sentenced on September 27. So we may learn then whether Federal judges — and as I noted, many of the ones presiding over January 6 cases, including Lamberth, also had key roles in the War on Terror — consider January 6 to be terrorism.

Update: Here’s Lamberth’s order upholding the government request for pre-trial detention. It was one of the first he issued after he was sort-of reversed in Munschel, and as such may reflect more chastened language. But he clearly thinks that Fairlamb’s behavior on January 6 fairly exceptional.

Here’s how he described January 6 in the original Munchel decision, though.

The grand jury charged Munchel with grave offenses. In charging Munchel with “forcibly enter[ing] and remain[ing] in the Capitol to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote,” Indictment 1, ECF No. 21, the grand jury alleged that Munchel used force to subvert a democratic election and arrest the peaceful transfer of power. Such conduct threatens the republic itself. See George Washington, Farewell Address (Sept. 19, 1796) (“The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government. All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.”). Indeed, few offenses are more threatening to our way of life.


“Darkened Plazas with Throngs of People:” The Government Debunks the Portland – January 6 Comparisons

The government just responded to January 6 defendant Garret Miller’s claim of selective prosecution. Miller is charged with assault and civil disorder, obstruction, and — for threats against AOC and the officer who shot Ashli Babbit — interstate threats.

On January 15, 2021, MILLER admitted in a Facebook chat that he is “happy to make death threats so I been just off the rails tonight lol,” and is “happy to be banned now [from Twitter].” When asked whether the police know his name, he responded, “[I]t might be time for me to …. Be hard to locate.”

Last month, Miller filed two motions claiming selective prosecution (for discovery, to dismiss). He argued that Portland defendants were treated differently than he is being treated, because many of the Portland cases involving (some but not all of) the same crimes he was charged with are being dismissed or resulting in plea deals.

UndersignedCounsel has undertaken an extensive review of pleadingsfiled on PACER, press releases issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon, and various news accounts as they relate to the Portland riots. From that review, it appearsthat approximately 74 persons were charged with criminal offenses arising out of the riots. 5 Of those 74 persons, to date, approximately 30 persons have had their cases dismissed (often with prejudice) upon motion of the government, 12 persons appear to have been offered dismissals upon completing a pre-trial diversion program, and at least 3 persons have been allowed by the government to plead guilty to significantly reduced charges.6

Most of the Portland rioters were charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 231(a)(3) (civil disorder) and/or a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111 (assault on a federal officer). These are the same charges brought against Mr. Miller in Counts One, Two and Four of the Superseding Indictment based upon his participation in the Washington, D.C. riots.

Given the right wing efforts to compare the two events, this was an inevitable legal challenge. And as such, it will be one of the few times where the government is asked to compare their prosecutorial decisions between the two events.

The government responded to the motion for discovery today. It argues, generally, that Miller hasn’t presented any similarly situated people.

Miller fails this showing. A selective-prosecution claim requires the defendant to identify “similarly situated” individuals who “have not been prosecuted,” Irish People, Inc., 684 F.2d at 946 (citation omitted), and Miller has pointed to no such individual. He instead cites 45 cases (from a sample of 74) where the government charged the defendant with federal offenses arising from riots around the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and where the government subsequently dismissed the charges, entered a deferred-prosecution agreement, or acceded to the defendant’s guilty plea on reduced charges. Doc. 32, at 7.2

2 Miller’s motion further references pleadings from 31 of these cases where, in his view, the defendant’s conduct in Portland mirrored his actions on January 6, 2021. Doc. 32, at 8-16; see also Doc. 32-1 (Attachments 1-31).

This is how most selective prosecution claims die: the precedents require coming in with proof of an almost exactly similar case getting differently treated, and then proving it was differently treated for some kind of bias.

It then points out the obvious: Miller is not claiming selective prosecution, he’s claiming that the outcomes of those prosecutions are different than his is likely to be.

This comparison fails, first and foremost, because the government actually charged nearly all defendants in the listed Oregon cases with civil-disorder or assault offenses. See Doc. 32-1 (Attachments 2-31). Miller has accordingly shown no disparate treatment in the government’s charging approaches. He instead focuses on the manner in which the government ultimately resolved the Oregon cases, and contrasts it with, in his opinion, the “one-sided and draconian plea agreement offer” that the government recently transmitted to him. Doc. 32, at 6. This presentation—which compares the government’s initial plea offer to him with the government’s final resolution in 45 hand-picked Oregon cases—“falls woefully short of demonstrating a consistent pattern of unequal administration of the law.”3 United States v. Bernal-Rojas, 933 F.2d 97, 99 (1st Cir. 1991). In fact, the government’s initial plea offer here rebuts any inference that that it has “refused to plea bargain with [Miller], yet regularly reached agreements with otherwise similarly situated defendants.” Ibid.

3 Miller’s motion notably omits reference to the remaining 29 Oregon cases in his survey, presumably because the government’s litigation decisions in those cases do not conform to his inference of selective treatment.

You can’t claim selective prosecution when those other defendants were also charged, especially not after you, yourself, have been offered the same “significantly reduced charges” you’re complaining Portland protestors got.

But then the government goes into specifics about what distinguishes Miller: generally, there’s far better evidence against Miller, and, specifically, he committed other crimes as well.

More fundamentally, the 45 Oregon cases serve as improper “comparator[s]” because those defendants and Miller are not similarly situated. Stone, 394 F. Supp. 3d at 31. Miller unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol and resisted the law enforcement officers who tried to move him. Doc. 16, at 4. He did so while elected lawmakers and the Vice President of the United States were present in the building and attempting to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in accordance with Article II of the Constitution. Id. at 2-3. And he committed a host of federal offenses attendant to this riot, including threatening to kill a Congresswoman and a USCP officer. Id. at 5-6. All this was captured on video and Miller’s social-media posts. See 4/1/21 Hr’g Tr. 19:14-15 (“[T]he evidence against Mr. Miller is strong.”). Contrast that with the 45 Oregon defendants, who—despite committing serious offenses—never entered the federal courthouse structure, impeded a congressional proceeding, or targeted a specific federal official or officer for assassination. Additionally, the government’s evidence in those cases often relied on officer recollections (e.g., identifying the particular offender on a darkened plaza with throngs of people) that could be challenged at trial—rather than video and well-documented incriminating statements available in this case. These situational and evidentiary differences represent “distinguishable legitimate prosecutorial factors that might justify making different prosecutorial decisions” in Miller’s case. Branch Ministries, 211 F.3d at 145 (quoting United States v. Hastings, 126 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 1997)); see also Price v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 865 F.3d 676, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (observing that a prosecutor may legitimately consider “concerns such as rehabilitation, allocation of criminal justice resources, the strength of the evidence against the defendant, and the extent of a defendant’s cooperation” in plea negotiations) (brackets and citation omitted)

More importantly (and a point that Trevor McFadden made when Couy Griffin tried to claim he was being picked on because he got charged with the same trespassing charge virtually everyone else got charged with), the government notes that Miller hasn’t been treated differently than any of the 500 others who’ve been charged in January 6.

[H]e is one of more than 500 defendants already charged for participating in the riot, and he does not suggest that he has been treated differently than any of those similarly situated defendants.

This is a response to a guy who, though his assault charges are not as serious as the assaults charged against others, then went on Twitter and bragged about committing crimes, and then threatened several people, including a Congressperson. Other January 6 defendants might raise more interesting selective prosecution challenges, which will likely fail for the general comments laid out about the quality of evidence involved. But this challenge was doomed from the start. Miller’s alleged crimes were so well documented — on camera and in his own words — that he was never the person to bring this challenge.

More importantly, the government raises one big reason why the January 6 defendants will be prosecuted and some Portland defendants will not (setting aside the 29 cases Miller tried to pretend didn’t exist), even assuming their alleged crimes are just as bad: because there weren’t tens of thousands of others filming their actions, because they didn’t try to occupy a building full of CCTV, and because they didn’t brag about their crimes after the fact.

This may not end the comparisons between January 6 and Portland. But it does lay out for the court very practical reasons why throwing the book at January 6 defendants is easier to do than Portland defendants: because January 6 defendants committed alleged crimes in bright spaces covered by CCTV and then went on social media and bragged about doing so, whereas many Portland defendants did so in “darkened plazas.”


PCLOB: The Essential Oversight Link Designed to Be Inadequate

Last year, there were a couple of measures that purported to respond to the problems with the Carter Page FISA application but which would not have helped him at all. In February, House Judiciary Committee rolled out a bill to replace the now-lapsed Section 215 of FISA that included a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board review of the impact that tradition FISA had on First Amendment Activities.

SEC. 303. REPORT ON USE OF FISA AUTHORITIES REGARDING PROTECTED ACTIVITIES AND PROTECTED CLASSES.

(a) REPORT.—Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board shall make publicly available, to the extent practicable, a report on—

(1) the extent to which the activities and protected classes described in subsection (b) are used to support targeting decisions in the use of authorities pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.); and

(2) the impact of the use of such authorities on such activities and protected classes.

As I noted at the time, because PCLOB’s mandate is limited to counterterrorism, it would not be able to look at counterintelligence targeting. This is not the first time that PCLOB’s mandate made its work less useful than it could be. Because its Section 702 report was necessarily limited to the counterterrorism uses of the law, PCLOB’s report did not address problems with the cybersecurity and counterproliferation uses of Section 702, both of which have far more unexpected impact on US person’s privacy than the counterterrorism use.

Then, in May, PCLOB’s Chair, Adam Klein, announced PCLOB was going to review traditional FISAs.

Adam I. Klein, the chairman of the privacy board, said that the issues Horowitz surfaced were precisely those that the board was established to examine.

“This is at the heartland of our jurisdiction,” said Klein, a lawyer and prominent researcher of FISA and other national security laws. “The IG found systemic compliance problems. At a minimum, we have a duty to inform ourselves.”

I again noted that PCLOB’s mandate would limit the value of such a review, and indeed, would prevent PCLOB from even reviewing the precipitating application, Page’s counterintelligence application.

Last week, Klein released the results of that review, billed and released not as a PCLOB report, but as a Chairperson’s White Paper (Klein has said he’d step down once Joe Biden replaced him). He makes clear,

I provide several observations and recommendations based on this review. These views are provided in my individual capacity as Chairman and should not be attributed to the Board as a whole or to other members of the Board.

Its recommendations are not obviously supported by the described scope of the review. His White Paper generally argues for more efficiency, a recommendation that conflicts with virtually all other conclusions that came out of the Carter Page review (though some of his recommendations to achieve efficiency, such as making the authorization period for non-US person FISA applications one year, make sense). He makes two recommendations (that the Woods file not require repeated documentation for repeated facts and that DOJ distinguish between information known at the time and information learned subsequent to an initial application) that would undercut some of the results of the DOJ IG Report on Carter Page.

Klein’s White Paper does recommend that a summary memo submitted with the application which highlights novel privacy, legal, or technological issues. If the FBI Director or his delegate were required to sign off on that summary as well as the current certification (that doesn’t address the probable cause content of the application in the least), it might provide a level of accountability that (Congress doesn’t yet understand) FISA currently lacks. Other than that, Klein’s White Paper reads as much like a valedictory trying to guide future PCLOB plans as it does a report to improve FISA. Almost two pages of the 26-page report constitutes a recommendation to reauthorize Section 215 of FISA.

But, as predicted, the review did not consider anything remotely pertinent to what happened to Carter Page.

To conduct its review of applications themselves, PCLOB asked for and received the subset of the 29 FISA files that DOJ IG is conducting a review of that pertain to counterterrorism as well as the backup exchange between FBI and DOJ regarding those applications. That included:

  • 19 total applications (out of 29 reviewed by DOJ IG)
  • All counterterrorism targets
  • Most located in United States at time of targeting

These details help us understand the two reports DOJ IG wrote about the full set of 29 files, which I wrote about here. Of the 29, ten must be counterintelligence files like Carter Page’s.

Because PCLOB did not review the counterintelligence applications, it only reviewed one of the two for which DOJ IG found a material error.  The second was a CI application that showed a worse error rate than the Carter Page file (which was measured using a different methodology than the Carter Page one).

It also didn’t review any Sensitive Investigative Matters — applications which, like Carter Page’s, involve someone who is a political, journalistic, or religious figure whose targeting should get extra scrutiny. That seems to suggest that DOJ IG did not include any counterterrorism applications targeting SIMs in its review (it would seem SIMs would be more likely to be targeted on the counterintelligence side, but we know of religious and political figures targeted under counterterrorism FISA applications). These would be the applications that pose the greatest privacy and civil liberties concern.

In lieu of that, FBI Office of General Counsel provided PCLOB with,

The number of “sensitive investigative matters” pertaining to U.S. persons in which FBI sought a FISA probable cause order in each year between 2015 and 2019, a summary of each matter (including the type of investigation and the features resulting in its classification as a “sensitive investigative matter”), and whether each request was granted.

That’s presumably how PCLOB learned that there aren’t all that many SIMs targeted under FISA.

[I]nformation received by the Board indicates that relatively few FISA applications are obtained each year in SIMs.

Still, this is the core of what you’d need to review to serve the function of PCLOB. Klein even appears not to have reviewed Page’s significantly declassified public applications, which would have been simple to do, would have provided him something to compare the counterterrorism applications he reviewed with, but which would have been outside the scope of PCLOB’s mandate.

This matters because PCLOB has been reasonably effective. Indeed, in a book published in April in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Pentagon Papers, Lisa Monaco (in a contribution submitted before she became Deputy Attorney General) pointed to PCLOB’s contributions after the Snowden releases as an important way forward to balance security and secrecy in the age of mass leaks. Monaco even recommended that PCLOB consult with the Director of National Intelligence prior to the implementation of certain policies. (Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines also contributed a chapter to the book, which was far more intriguing that Monaco’s.)

Another would be to institute a practice of DNI consultation with the PCLOB before the adoption of certain collection programs. The PCLOB served an important function after disclosures precisely because it is charged with considering privacy and civil liberties implications as well as the national security implications of counter-terrorism programs.82 It could be a valuable addition to the consideration and review of some intelligence programs for a standing body with the infrastructure to handle classified information to work with privacy officers in each agency to assess privacy concerns and conduct privacy impact assessments that are reported to the DNI.

But as noted above, even PCLOB’s Section 702 review suffered because it couldn’t look at several of the applications of 702, applications implicated by the Snowden releases.

Last year, I was told that efforts to expand the jurisdiction of PCLOB would be a poison pill to any bill to which they were attached. I can only assume that means the Executive doesn’t want to expose to scrutiny they kinds of practices that were central to the Carter Page application.

But if Lisa Monaco believes PCLOB has a role to play in balancing national security and secrecy, she should ensure its mandate is sufficiently broad to do that job.

Copyright © 2022 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/terrorism/