The U.S. government’s sweep of Jan. 6, 2021, suspects has led to conflict within the FBI over the agency’s efforts to pursue charges against more than 1,000 people, reports the Wall Street Journal. The investigation into a pro-Trump mob’s assault on the Capitol two weeks before President Biden’s inauguration is the largest in FBI history in terms of the number of cases and national reach. Prosecutors may indict another thousand people in addition to those already charged. In testimony before a House committee, former FBI employees from offices outside the capital said they felt that some of their Washington, D.C., colleagues overreacted to the day’s violence and proposed investigative tactics that put the pursuit of criminal behavior above free-speech rights. Two employees were earlier disciplined for alleged related misconduct. They said they have done nothing wrong. They also have espoused right-wing conspiracy theories. Democrats and some FBI colleagues said those factors have undermined their credibility.
George Hill, a retired intelligence analyst and supervisor in the FBI’s Boston field office, told lawmakers the office pursued two people who participated in the attack but rejected a request from an agent in Washington to examine 140 others who traveled to D.C. on buses those two helped organize. Hill said the D.C. agent wouldn’t share videos that might have shown the bus riders were in the Capitol that day. Without that evidence, he said, the FBI would be investigating subjects over actions that fell under the Constitution’s free-speech protection. Other current and former senior law-enforcement officials defended the bureau’s broad strategy in the Capitol prosecutions and said disagreements arise in all investigations, which unfold in real time and are easy to second-guess. “The FBI will never open an investigation based solely on First Amendment-protected activity,” an FBI spokeswoman said. The panel’s chairman, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio is a frequent critic of the FBI. “I wouldn’t be surprised if other agents come forward and tell us some of the things that they’re concerned about as well,” Jordan said.