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New NSArchive/Reveal News Podcast Coming 1/15, a New Domestic Terrorism Unit, and More: FRINFORMSUM 1/13/2022

January 13, 2022
Original digital collage by Jan Nimmo, Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Benjamín Ascencio Bautista

“After Ayotzinapa” Podcast Investigates Horrific Mexican Atrocity

On Saturday, January 15, a new podcast exploring the shocking case of 43 Mexican students disappeared by security forces in 2014 will launch on radio stations around the United States and on podcast platforms. The three-part serial is the result of a two-year collaboration between the National Security Archive and Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Although the stark facts of the Ayotzinapa case are known worldwide, the podcast features interviews, insights, and investigative findings that have never before been heard.  They include eye-witness accounts, exclusive interviews with the Mexican special prosecutor and a retired DEA officer, testimonies, and vivid personal accounts of survivors and relatives of the victims.

Reported and co-produced by National Security Archive senior analyst Kate Doyle and Reveal senior reporter Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, “After Ayotzinapa” exposes the story of what happened in the months and years following that terrible “night of Iguala.” Listen along on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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NSArchive January 6 Anniversary Postings

National Security Archive staff marked the one-year anniversary of the January 6 riot with two new postings.  

The first item is a meticulously researched timeline of the day’s events. The chronology, which will serve as an important tool for investigators, researchers, and the public, is divided into three main parts:

  1. Events that took place at the Capitol that we know about thanks to stellar reporting from organizations like ProPublica, The New York Times, the AP, The Washington Post, NPR, Politico, and Newsweek, as well as information provided by a host of both local and federal officials in Congressional testimony;
  2. Activity at the White House, drawn primarily from former President Trump’s official statements on Twitter;
  3. The Department of Defense’s official timeline that was published on January 8, 2021.

The chronology, taken together with our three previous January 6 sourcebooks, provides a high level of detail about the attempted coup, while at the same time underscoring just how much about federal or local government decisions and actions remains unknown to the public.  Each entry includes a source, with hyperlink, and a Who’s Who of key figures is also provided.  The Archive will update the timeline as important new information surfaces.

The second item is a Cyber Brief from Archive Cyber Fellow Cristin J. Monahan examining the double-edged role the Internet played in the January 6 attack and its aftermath. Documents highlighted in the Brief include a January 12, 2021, Congressional Research Service report, “Cybersecurity Concerns Related to the Recent Breach of U.S. Capitol Security,” which Monahan notes highlights a trifecta of core issues:

  • “the role of social media platforms in enabling violent groups to organize and carry out their objectives, and the role of government in monitoring that speech;
  • the use of public communications networks for alerting congressional building occupants; and
  • the risk to information and technology from unauthorized and unscreened persons’ access to the U.S. Capitol.”

Another document highlighted in the brief, the declassified January 11, 2021, United States Postal Inspection Service, Situational Awareness Bulletin – Intelligence Summary: United States Capitol Riot Data Archives, which was released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Property of the People, details how law enforcement relied on members of the public who archived online material from Parler for intelligence.  Read the rest of the documents in the National Security Archive’s Cyber Vault. 

Congressional Staffers Emailed DOJ RE January 6 Concerns

FOIA releases to Buzzfeed News show that “At least two congressional staffers from House and Senate committees reached out to the FBI and the Justice Department concerned about security at the Capitol ahead of the Jan. 6 riots.” Reporters Kadia Goba and Jason Leopold note that the FOIA releases underscore that the FBI was unprepared for the riot despite warnings and requests for help.  The releases, which came only after Buzzfeed News filed a FOIA lawsuit, show that: 

  • The House Intelligence Committee requested a threat assessment and clarification on coordination between the FBI and the Department of Defense on January 5, 2021, citing growing concern about the transition; in response the Committee received “a brief and non-substantive reply from the FBI that did not provide any information about potential threats on January 6.”
  • A Democratic staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee sent several emails between January 4 and January 7 to both the Department of Justice and the FBI inquiring about additional law enforcement presence at the Capitol for January 6.
  • Other notable releases include a redacted Department of Justice “copy of then–acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue’s handwritten notes from a Jan. 4, 2021, phone call he had with Michael Sherwin, the then–acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, that discusses crowd estimates and law enforcement plans. Donoghue’s notes say: ‘no need for additional resources now,’” and intelligence memos prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI that were sent to local law enforcement on the anticipated threat posed by the “Stop the Steal” rally.

New Domestic Terrorism Unit

The Justice Department is forming a new domestic terrorism unit, according to January 11, 2022, testimony from Matthew G. Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Olsen reported that the number of FBI investigations of domestic violent extremists had more than doubled since 2020; he also said “authorities had arrested and charged more than 725 people, including more than 325 facing felony counts, in connection with their roles in the Jan. 6 attack.”

Olson’s testimony comes at the same time as Democratic lawmakers are scrutinizing why the DOJ has yet to seek harsher domestic terrorism sentences for those charged in connection with the January 6 attack. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that such enhancements “typically adds about 15 years in prison to a defendant’s recommended sentence, sets the minimum calculation at 17 and a half years, and also flips the person charged into the criminal-history category used for serial offenders.” Olsen testified that the DOJ could still request such enhancements “as prosecutors win convictions in more-serious cases.” 

In Brief

  • The first Guantanamo Bay detainees arrived on the base 20 years ago this week. The Nation’s Clair MacDougall’s story marking the anniversary, which draws heavily on decades of FOIA work by journalists and human rights advocates, finds that press restrictions are getting worse.
  • Public records obtained by The Markup are shedding light on Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that builds education software, and its work to collect troves of personal data on children, “which they use to fuel a suite of predictive analytics products that push the boundaries of technology’s role in education and, in some cases, raise discrimination concerns.”
  • Jason Leopold recently tweeted, “This week, I learned that for at least 2 yrs an official in HHS #FOIA office held a monthly contest for staff who processed requests: those who redacted the most pages of docs per month could choose a paid day off or a $25 gift card from DoorDash. If you have info I’m on Signal.”
  • Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, has announced his retirement, effective mid-April 2022. Ferriero has led the National Archives and Records Administration for 12 years; prior to that, he served as the Director of the New York Public Library.

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