Speed Reads

'ongoing and widespread'

Leaked documents show FBI claims about surveillance limits ahead of Jan. 6 were misleading

In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress the bureau was unable to fully prevent or anticipate the attack because it lacked the power, resources, and capability to aggressively monitor social media, "where much of the planning for the insurrection took place," Rolling Stone writes.

Since then, the FBI has built out its online surveillance capabilities — even "entering into one of the largest social-media monitoring contracts of any federal agency," Rolling Stone adds.

Well, according to internal records obtained by Rolling Stone, the FBI was already involved in "ongoing and widespread" tracking of multiple social media platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram — prior to Jan. 6. The documents indicate the FBI has "all the authority it needs" to review social platforms for issues of public safety, and had no qualms doing so during racial justice protests in the summer of 2020. 

Property of the People, a government transparency nonprofit that first obtained the documents, claims the records reveal "three consistent truths about the FBI:" the bureau targets the left but enables the far-right; its spokespersons "lie like they breathe"; and it "exploits national crises to expand the already dystopian reach of its surveillance," per Rolling Stone.

Added Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice: "I think [the FBI] has more authority than it needs frankly."

"When Wray says they don't have the authority, he has affirmatively lied to the Congress, flat out," remarked Patrick Eddington of the Cato Institute.

In a statement on the matter, the FBI said it "routinely reviews and update​s its social media capabilities to ensure the continued utility of these tools in accordance with law, regulation, and policy." Read more at Rolling Stone.