Inside the massive Jan. 6 criminal investigation as anniversary approaches

Over 700 arrests have been made so far
Jan. 6 Capitol riot
Posted at 7:24 AM, Jan 03, 2022

WASHINGTON — This week marks one year since the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol and the thwarted effort to stop President Joe Biden from taking office.

Since that day, the FBI has been conducting a massive investigation, with many rioters already being sentenced to jail. According to the Justice Department, there have been over 700 arrests so far.

"This is the largest investigation in FBI history," said Ryan J. Reilly. a justice reporter at The Huffington Post.

Few journalists in the country have covered the aftermath of Jan. 6 more than Reilly, who is writing a book called "Sedition Hunters." His focus is on how the Jan. 6 rioters are being arrested.

Initially, the FBI made arrests based on tips from family members or friends. Once those tips dried up, facial recognition software became a popular tool, especially since the event was so heavily photographed.

An even more important tool has been cell phone records. Search warrants can actually reveal which cell phones were inside the Capitol complex that day.

"Anyone who entered the Capitol that day, that number is in a government database," Reilly said.


But the other way people are getting arrested has little to do with the FBI and a lot more to do with regular men and women at home using the internet and publicly available information.

"A lot of online sleuths have been identifying these people on their own," Reilly said.

Reilly said people spend their own time and money going through videos to determine who still needs to be brought to justice.

In one case, Reilly says a woman who was home sick with COVID-19 identified Robert Scott Palmer as a rioter before the FBI could.

"What this individual, Amy, and some other online sleuths were able to identify is he actually identified himself on a live stream later that evening," Reilly said. "He got more than five years behind bars."

As to where the case goes from here, the biggest challenge is the government's ability to keep prosecuting suspects. The Justice Department simply doesn't have the resources to bring every potential case to trial.

Reilly speculates though there could still be as many as 2,000 more arrests, because that is the number believed to have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.