42 People Now Face Federal Charges for the Capitol Riot

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The feds are doing just fine with the tools they have, thanks. So far, 42 defendants have been charged in federal court “related to crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Several had their initial appearances in court yesterday, January 14. You can find a full list of those arrested and the charges against them here—along with a reminder that law enforcement already has all the power and surveillance capability it needs.

Court filings released yesterday suggest that anyone who had his cellphone on while illegally entering the Capitol on January 6 could face criminal charges if identified.

An affidavit against Cleveland’s Christine Priola—who was first identified through a photo posted to Twitter and is now charged with “Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority,” and violent entry, disorderly conduct, and unlawful activities on Capitol grounds—notes under probable cause that “agents were able to recover device location data for January 6, 2021, at 4:23PM” from Priola’s iPhone. 

“This data indicated that the device was utilizing a WiFi system located at GPS coordinates” that “correspond to a location just northeast of the U.S. Capitol building,” Deputy U.S. Marshal David M. Kasulones wrote.

In Priola’s case, the phone data seems to be backed up by photographic evidence, and was only accessed after Priola was otherwise identified as having been inside the Capitol building; it does not appear to be part of a location data dragnet by federal authorities.

That’s good news. And as the DOJ continues to identify people and make arrests based on their many existing tools, we have all the more reason to reject calls for a ramping up of surveillance technology.

“In the days since the attack, the airwaves have been full of former law enforcement officials claiming that surveillance is the answer,” notes Wired. “Even many who are normally critical of policing have jumped on the surveillance bandwagon in the desire to find justice.”

But “we don’t need a cutting-edge surveillance dragnet to find the perpetrators of this attack: They tracked themselves,” writes Albert Fox Cahn. “They livestreamed their felonies from the halls of Congress, recording each crime in full HD.”

And whatever facial recognition tech or other surveillance tools are approved in the wake of the Capitol attack will reach far beyond these particular circumstances, there for authorities to deploy against activists and dissidents of all types, any groups whose ideas those in (shifting) power find scary, sex workers, gun owners, and anyone engaged in harmless but disapproved-of activity.

The same goes for deploying new domestic terror laws or reviving sedition prosecutions.

“Last week’s riot was an attempt to undermine the nation’s democratic procedures. The response from some political elites is unwittingly trying to do the same through calls for unnecessary new terror laws,” warns Branko Marcetic.

Meanwhile, “the history of sedition prosecutions is rife with injustices, and the precedent, once established, becomes a grotesque Frankenstein monster,” writes David Beito.

Before the latest calls to use sedition laws against Capitol rioters, conservatives were crying sedition during summer protests against police abuses. Thankfully, “it’s become very difficult in the United States to bring sedition charges because courts are all too aware of their record as dangerous weapons in the hands of insecure politicians,” notes J.D. Tuccille. “If people horrified by the events of January 6 want to prevent a recurrence, they can best do so not by resorting to a disreputable legal weapon, but by convincing all sorts of Americans that their freedom and security can be maintained under the existing system.”


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