Among members of a far-right group that marched on the United States Capitol on January 6 was an FBI informant, who was providing live updates to his handler during the attack, according to a Saturday report.
The Proud Boys, a far-right group of self-described “Western chauvinists,” were largely following a mob supporting then- US president Donald Trump rather than carrying out a preplanned attack, according to the informant’s account in confidential records obtained by The New York Times.
The informant provided his FBI handler with real-time updates via text messages, and in turn, the latter asked the informant to keep him in the loop, especially if there was any violence, the paper said.
The report said that two sources familiar with the matter suggested that the FBI had far greater visibility into the assault than was previously known, even as it was taking place.
The informant’s account of events before, during, and after the January 6 riot appeared to support claims by defense lawyers that even though several Proud Boys activists broke into the Capitol, the group did not come with a prepared plan to storm the building, according to the report.
However, it was not clear if the Proud Boys member was in a position to know of plans ahead of the January 6 riot, missed indications of the attack, or deliberately misled the government.
At least 19 leaders, members, or associates of the Proud Boys have been charged in federal court with offenses related to the January 6 riot, as federal officials believe group members attempted to stop Congress from certifying US President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
The records also raised new questions over the FBI’s performance ahead of, and during the Capitol riot. In June, a US Senate investigation of the January 6 insurrection uncovered broad government, military, and law enforcement missteps before the violent attack.
The Senate recommended a consolidated intelligence unit within the Capitol Police after widespread failures from multiple agencies that did not predict the attack, even though insurrectionists were planning it openly on the internet.
The police’s intelligence unit “knew about social media posts calling for violence at the Capitol on January 6, including a plot to breach the Capitol, the online sharing of maps of the Capitol Complex’s tunnel systems, and other specific threats of violence,” the investigation found, but agents did not properly inform the leadership of everything they had found.
Senators also criticized the FBI and the Homeland Security Department for downplaying online threats and for not issuing formal intelligence bulletins that help law enforcement plan.
The Proud Boys met at the Washington Monument around 10 a.m. on January 6 and marched to the Capitol before then-US president Donald Trump finished addressing thousands of supporters near the White House.
Around two hours later, just before Congress convened a joint session to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd of people who breached barriers at a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, the indictment says. Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol building itself after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors.
At least nine people who were there died during and after the rioting, including a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber and three other Trump supporters who suffered medical emergencies.
Two police officers died by suicide in the days that immediately followed, and a third officer, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, collapsed and died after engaging with the protesters. A medical examiner later determined he died of natural causes.