“Agents in nearly all of the FBI’s 56 field offices have executed at least 900 search warrants in all 50 states and D.C.”

Their case is among the more than 1,000 pages of arrest records, FBI affidavits and search warrants reviewed by The Washington Post detailing one of the biggest criminal investigations in American history.

The federal documents provide a rare view of the ways investigators exploit the digital fingerprints nearly everyone leaves behind in an era of pervasive surveillance and constant online connection. They illustrate the power law enforcement now has to hunt down suspects by studying the contours of faces, the movements of vehicles and even conversations with friends and spouses.

How America’s surveillance networks helped the FBI catch the Capitol mob

The Washington Post, April 2, 2021 – Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg

Debra Maimone pulled down her American flag mask for a moment on Jan. 6 and gazed at the unruly mob of supporters of President Donald Trump overrunning the U.S. Capitol.

“Put your mask on,” warned her fiance, as the couple stood beneath an unblinking array of surveillance cameras. “I don’t want them to see you.”

It was too late.

That scene, recorded in a cellphone video Maimone posted to the social media site Parler, helped FBI agents identify the Pittsburgh-area couple and pinpoint their location inside the Capitol, FBI agents said in a federal criminal complaint filed before Maimone’s arrest last month.


The cache of federal documents lays out a sprawling mix of FBI techniques: license plate readers that captured suspects’ cars on the way to Washington; cell-tower location records that chronicled their movements through the Capitol complex; facial recognition searches that matched images to suspects’ driver’s licenses or social media profiles; and a remarkably deep catalogue of video from surveillance systems, live streams, news reports and cameras worn by the police who swarmed the Capitol that day.


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