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Six months later, search for Capitol rioters continues

On the six-month anniversary of the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, the FBI is still on the hunt for hundreds of people who raided the building in an attempt to stop lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Over 500 people have been arrested and pleaded guilty, but many of those were easy targets for the FBI, with rioters openly bragging on social media or caught in video footage. In many instances, friends, family members or acquaintances of the rioters tipped off the agency. 

After identifying the individual, the process gets much harder for the FBI, as agents have to obtain search warrants, conduct interviews and create a portfolio of evidence to present in court.

In Washington federal court, recently unsealed documents show that FBI agents identified Capitol rioter Fi Duong by connecting his Google location data obtained through search warrants with information learned from an undercover agent claiming to be a “patriot.” Duong told the undercover agent that he wore all black to trick law enforcement into thinking he was a member of antifa, which the FBI has said is not a group but an ideology that rejects fascism. Duong also added the agent to an encrypted messaging platform. 

Through the messaging platform, the agent spent months talking to Duong and gathering enough evidence for an affidavit. 

But about 300 rioters still remain unidentified in about 900 FBI pictures — including someone who placed pipe bombs outside the Republican and Democratic national committees the night before and others who attacked police officers or made violent threats against the press. 

“We will never forget USCP Officers Brian Sicknick and Howie Liebengood, who died after the attack, nor the sacrifices of the nearly 150 law enforcement officers who were injured,” Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said in a statement Tuesday morning. 

Pittman said Capitol Police are working to enhance security, and have already expanded wellness services like trauma-informed counselors and peer support teams, increased training for the Civil Disturbance Unit, upped staffing for member security and solidified emergency plans. 

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The unit is also opening field offices in Florida and California to investigate threats to members of Congress, and has acquired more helmets, shields, batons and surveillance technology. 

The changes are based on recommendations from a number of reports which investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection, including reports from Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, the Office of the Inspector General, Government Accountability Office and others.  

“Throughout the last six months, the United States Capitol Police has been working around the clock with our congressional stakeholders to support our officers, enhance security around the Capitol complex, and pivot towards an intelligence-based protective agency,” Pittman said.

Democrats are leading the charge: they have been holding hearings to improve Capitol security for months, and even pushed a  $1.9 billion emergency security funding bill through the House in May. The bill has since stalled in the Senate, as Republicans say that it's too expensive.  

If passed, the bill would make enhancements to U.S. Capitol grounds security, create a “quick reaction force” within the U.S. Capitol Police with National Guard assistance and make physical security upgrades to the building. 

Meanwhile, civil lawsuits are still pending accusing Trump, Rudy Giuliani and various lawmakers of inciting the riot. 

On Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alaska, asked to be dismissed from a lawsuit claiming he helped to incite the mob in a speech that he gave during a “Stop the Steal” rally challenging the election results. 

In court documents, Brooks’ attorney argues he can’t be held liable because he was acting as a federal employee and performing his duties as a congressman. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ordered the Department of Justice and Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who filed the lawsuit, to respond to Brooks’ motion. 

Trump has asked the judge to dismiss the case for similar reasons.

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About 300 rioters still remain unidentified in about 900 FBI pictures.