Politics - News Analysis

WHOA: FBI Seized Cell Phone Records, Including Members of Congress, on January 6th

This is intriguing, to say the least. Some of us have wanted cellphone records from certain members of congress since the date of the attack on the Capitol.  (Rep. Boebert, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, others, though we don’t know anything specific.) We certainly presumed that the FBI had the cell phone records from the attack. They do, at least a record of who called where and when. The report says that these records do not have any content from the calls. (We can speculate on whether the government records cell phone records at all, but we’d never know unless the records are accessed.)

Today, the Intercept published a story in which they say the FBI seized cell phone records from privately owned cell towers – which could be a bit of an issue down the road – and the seizure occurred within hours of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Of course, they seized records from many or all of the protesters. Most didn’t think to leave the phone at home.

Fine.

But the report also says that the seizure included members of congress. Now that is interesting because those records have to be kept at least somewhat independent of the other attackers. Otherwise, how would they know they have them? Perhaps members of Congress have different privacy rights in the Capitol than the others, perhaps a greater expectation of privacy. Perhaps less. We don’t know. We now know that the FBI has a data dump that surely includes thousands of calls, and they know they have some from members of Congress.

From The Intercept:

Within hours of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, the FBI began securing thousands of phone and electronic records connected to people at the scene of the rioting — including some related to members of Congress, raising potentially thorny legal questions.

Using special emergency powers and other measures, the FBI has collected reams of private cellphone data and communications that go beyond the videos that rioters shared widely on social media, according to two sources with knowledge of the collection effort.

In the hours and days after the Capitol riot, the FBI relied in some cases on emergency orders that do not require court authorization in order to quickly secure actual communications from people who were identified at the crime scene. Investigators have also relied on data “dumps” from cellphone towers in the area to provide a map of who was there, allowing them to trace call records — but not content — from the phones.

Data from private companies won’t have the content. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the U.S. government did not or cannot record content from those calls, especially calls made after the attack began. There might be a button to push somewhere. We cannot know.

We can be sure that they have identified enough numbers to know that they have calls from members of Congress. The location from which the calls were made may or may not be useful information. The number called from the Capitol could well be useful. But the information itself is interesting. For some reason some people with access know they have those particular records.

We do have this from the Intercept’s reporting:

The Justice Department has publicly said that its task force includes senior public corruption officials. That involvement “indicates a focus on public officials, i.e. Capitol Police and members of Congress,” the retired FBI official said.

We sure wish we had access to that content. We will see. We know it requires patience.

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Peace, y’all
Jason
[email protected] and on Twitter @JasonMiciak

meet the author

Jason Miciak is an attorney, author, political analyst and writer originally from Canada, with dual citizenship, living with his wife and daughter in southern Mississippi. He has an B.S. in Biology and a Minor in American History from Gonzaga University and a J.D. from the University of California. He does as little law as he can get away with while now doing full time writing for Political Flare. He also enjoys gardening, fishing, casual reading in science and dogs.

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