Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
An electronic advertisement not far from the White House shows the faces of suspects who assaulted federal officers at the Capitol Building during the Jan. 6, 2021, stormingJeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Navigate to News section

America’s New Political Prisoners

Insurrectionists, white supremacists, and domestic Muslim terrorists are all the same people—us

Lee Smith
July 01, 2021
Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
An electronic advertisement not far from the White House shows the faces of suspects who assaulted federal officers at the Capitol Building during the Jan. 6, 2021, stormingJeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last week the Department of Justice brought its first insurrectionist to justice. A 49-year-old Indiana grandmother of five who walked into the Capitol Building through an open door on Jan. 6 and wandered around for 10 minutes pleaded guilty to “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.” For her crime, she was sentenced to three years of probation, $500 in restitution, and 40 hours of community service. Given that President Biden has called Jan. 6 the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War,” how did she get off so easy?

Her court-appointed lawyer had her read and watch Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Just Mercy, and Schindler’s List, evidence that she was on her way to renouncing her white privilege. What does racism and exterminationist antisemitism have to do with the nonviolent crime she committed? Nothing, of course. The Biden administration sees Jan. 6 as a platform to criminalize its opponents, and the only way out for Donald Trump supporters is to confess to thought-crimes.

But wait, America isn’t the kind of country that puts nonviolent offenders into reeducation camps. It wouldn’t hold dozens of citizens without bail for having the wrong political beliefs or attending political demonstrations. Federal law enforcement agencies exist to protect Americans from dangerous criminals, not to frame people for political crimes defined by a powerful elite. The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t call on Americans to turn in their neighbors for supporting the wrong political candidate. That kind of stuff may happen in third-world countries, but the idea that America would use courts, secret police, intelligence agencies, and the media to prosecute political warfare against other Americans sounds like the drug-riddled account of a bad 1960s-era acid trip. Sure, that’s when the FBI launched COINTELPRO and tapped Martin Luther King Jr.’s phones and sent letters to his wife, but the Church Committee put an end to all that. Didn’t it?

Last week, families of the Jan. 6 detainees held at the Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington, D.C., relayed that authorities imposed severe lockdowns in retaliation for Mark Levin’s Sunday night Fox show, which raised questions about the ongoing prosecutions related to the “deadly insurrection” of Jan. 6, 2021. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.) and journalist Julie Kelly, one of the only reporters who has interviewed the detainees and their families extensively, had appeared on Levin’s show to discuss the case’s ever-growing irregularities.

Kelly, a reporter for the right-leaning publication American Greatness, has been writing for months about the treatment of the detainees, some of whom have been held in prison without bail for months. “There have been no trials, no convictions, but pretrial detentions for dozens of cases,” Kelly told me in an interview. That includes first-time offenders charged with nonviolent crimes who are being held without bail because they protested Biden’s victory. “Judges are signing off on the detentions, contending that because the detainees don’t believe Biden was legitimately elected, they therefore won’t follow U.S. law or obey its court system, and that makes them a danger to society.”

“The outrage,” said Kelly, “is that the Justice Department seeks pretrial detention for nonviolent defenders for their involvement in what increasingly looks like an inside job.”

Indeed there is growing belief in some circles, left as well as right, that federal law enforcement not only infiltrated the Jan. 6 groups but may have directed some of their actions. That’s the argument made by Darren Beattie, another journalist who has been covering the Jan. 6 arrests and charges. A former professor of political philosophy who worked as a speechwriter in the Trump administration, Beattie is the publisher of Revolver News, an internet news site that aggregates stories from the conservative media and features original reporting. His recent article asks if the FBI played a role in stoking the violence during the Jan. 6 protest.

Beattie sees similarities linking Jan. 6 to the summer 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. An FBI agent was allegedly responsible for the Michigan group’s transportation, another was the group’s contact for explosives, and an informant was responsible for security. It appears that without the FBI there would have been no plot.

Beattie notes that at least one of the government’s informants in the Michigan case was not identified as such in court documents, and wonders if any of the figures identified in the Jan. 6 indictments were agents or informants, too. They appear to have committed acts as bad or worse than those indicted, and there is no evidence of plea bargains—so why weren’t they charged with similar offenses? Beattie also points out that the same FBI agent who took down the anti-Whitmer conspirators now oversees the Jan. 6 investigations. In October, Steven D’Antuono, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit field office, was rewarded with a promotion and named assistant director in charge of the Washington, D.C., field office.

Why the FBI is facilitating or even committing crimes is part of the legacy of Sept. 11. Along with the massive surveillance of U.S. citizens that led to the FBI’s illegal spying on the 2016 Trump campaign, this is yet another unconstitutional kink in the justice system that was introduced by the global war on terror. What that meant in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was federal law enforcement putting young Muslim men in the middle of terror plots and then busting them.

In a recent essay on Jan. 6, journalist Glenn Greenwald noted the many cases “where the FBI targeted some young American Muslims they viewed as easily manipulated—due to financial distress, emotional problems, or both—and then deployed informants and undercover agents to dupe them into agreeing to join terrorist plots that had been created, designed and funded by the FBI itself, only to then congratulate themselves for breaking up the plot which they themselves initiated.”

Now they’re using the same methods on Trump supporters. Why? In a separate article, Greenwald argued that Jan. 6 is behind the U.S. military leadership’s sudden interest in critical race theory:

To justify the current domestic War on Terror that has already provoked billions more in military spending and intensified domestic surveillance, the Pentagon must ratify the narrative that those they are fighting in order to defend the homeland are white supremacist domestic terrorists. That will not work if white supremacists are small in number or weak and isolated in their organizing capabilities. To serve the war machine’s agenda, they must pose a grave, pervasive and systemic threat.

Greenwald is right. Counterterrorism is a multibillion-dollar Beltway industry, filling a trough that feeds Republican and Democratic constituencies including the State Department, spy services, and Washington-area NGOs and think tanks. As America downsizes its presence in the Middle East, national security bureaucrats and their parasitical private sector partners fear shrinking budgets. Hence the big move from countering violent extremism in Muslim communities to confronting “domestic terrorists.” The system has readily adapted to the new model as counterterror experts have plugged in the same keywords—radicalization, self-radicalization, lone wolves—for what is essentially the same enterprise. All they’ve done is replace brown teenagers with white middle-age Midwesterners.

But wanting to keep the money flowing is not the only reason the national security bureaucracy and its media partners are targeting Trump supporters. The Biden administration embodies the interests of America’s increasingly powerful oligarchy, comprising the corporate as well as the political establishment. This class represents glaringly small segments of the country like tech workers, teachers unions, and cultural elites. The oligarchs have incentivized street gangs from antifa, Black Lives Matter, and pro-Palestinian antisemites to weaponize their resentments by turning them loose on the Democratic stragglers unlikely to support initiatives at odds with their own interests, like defunding urban police forces.

Using law enforcement as public sector proxies for their campaign of political warfare, Democratic Party officials are employing a similar tactic. By turning the justice system loose on their opponents, they send a general warning to anyone foolish enough to stand against them. That is why the Biden administration has made a point of treating the nonviolent Jan. 6 offenders more harshly than other Americans who have come to the Capitol to exercise their First Amendment rights. We brought the system down on the head of a nonviolent grandmother for walking through an open door. You might be next.

Counterterrorism is a multibillion-dollar Beltway industry, filling a trough that feeds Republican and Democratic constituencies.

Administration officials and Democratic Party colleagues like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi regularly refer to Jan. 6 as the greatest act of political violence to hit the homeland since 9/11—or, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland, since the Oklahoma City bombing. The obvious difference of course is the level of bloodshed. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks; 168 died in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the FBI building in Oklahoma City. During the Jan. 6 protest, only one person was killed: an unarmed Trump supporter named Ashli Babbitt who was shot in the neck by a law enforcement officer whose identity is still being concealed by local and federal authorities.

The roughly four-hour-long Jan. 6 protest is also distinct from these other tragedies because, outside of America’s domestic intelligence apparatus, no one really knows what happened after hundreds of thousands of Americans rallied in Washington to support the losing presidential candidate. Nearly half a year after the demonstration authorities still won’t release the 14,000 hours of footage held by the Capitol Police.

Nor will law enforcement authorities share the footage with the detainees’ lawyers, most of whom are public defenders (many of the defendants cannot afford legal counsel). Naturally, they want to know if the footage includes evidence helpful to their clients. But according to authorities the footage is too sensitive to release, and judges are signing off on protective orders to withhold the video from defense counsel and the public. Lawyers for the Capitol Police fear it would be “passed on to those who might wish to attack the Capitol again.”

Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities have regularly leaked selectively edited cuts of the footage to cast the Jan. 6 protesters in the worst possible light. For instance, social media posts relayed through chosen media organizations show protesters threatening, charging, or striking officers, but not Capitol Police attacking peaceful protesters, which Kelly said she’s seen.

“Leaked clips show one Trump supporter, a former New York City police officer, screaming insults at Capitol Hill police and attacking, but they’re not showing what happened before,” said Kelly. “One of the officers punched him, cold-cocked him. That’s why he was challenging them.” The videos, she says, show police using pepper spray and flash bangs. “Those let off big clouds of smoke. They’re using them not just to provoke the protesters, but to create the optics of the Capitol under clouds of smoke.”

Virtually every leading detail of Jan. 6 that the press has reported is false. There were not five people who died during the protests at the Capitol. There was only, Ashli Babbitt, and after a cursory investigation by the D.C. Metro Police, the DOJ closed the case with no charges. Furthermore, it was not an armed insurrection. To date there is no evidence that protesters brought firearms into the Capitol Building, where only one shot was fired—the one that killed Babbitt.

The standard account of Jan. 6 holds that Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick was killed by Trump supporters. The New York Times initially reported, citing anonymous “law enforcement” sources, that Sicknick died from blunt force trauma suffered when a protester struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher. That was false, but it was the foundation on which Democrats built the second impeachment trial of Trump. Without alleging that Trump’s speech led to a murder, the Democrats would have had a hard time making their only article of impeachment, “incitement to insurrection,” stick. Finally, after three months during which the narrative was etched in marble, the D.C. medical examiner released a report showing that Sicknick, himself a Trump supporter, had died of a stroke on Jan. 7. Biden himself claimed just last week that the Jan. 6 “criminals” had killed a police officer.

Protesters did not storm the Capitol Building en masse. Of the many thousands of demonstrators who rallied in the park behind the White House, only a fraction made the mile-and-a-half walk to the Capitol. Of the estimated 800 who entered the Capitol Building, some fought their way through barricades and law enforcement, while others were ushered into the building by police. Admonished by officers to behave respectfully, most of the protesters inside the building stayed behind the ropes designating where visitors are permitted to roam.

Ever since Jan. 6, the media has shaped the narrative of events that day to suit the needs of a White House whose legitimacy is disputed by many. The issue for these Americans isn’t simply lingering doubt about the integrity of widespread mail-in voting, which both parties had previously insisted was a recipe for fraud. Their real concern now is what the Biden administration is doing in broad daylight. Many of the administration’s initiatives—for instance, throwing thousands of people out of work by shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline while simultaneously relieving oil sanctions on Iran—have the public wondering which Americans these policies are designed to help.

Accordingly, the oligarchy’s media courtiers have taken the Jan. 6 protests as an opportunity to flip the script by making the voters who oppose them into the enemy. To make that case, the press has had to fabricate key details while neglecting to do basic due diligence.

After Timothy McVeigh was apprehended for bombing the FBI building in Oklahoma City, journalists beat a path to the homes of his family and friends, even his army pals. Within a week of 9/11, the press reported from the Swiss boarding school Osama bin Laden had attended as a child, and gave details of the purification rituals Mohammed Atta performed the night before he flew a plane into the World Trade Center.

So who has The New York Times or 60 Minutes dispatched to interview the families of the Jan. 6 “insurrectionists”? If the press really believes its own interpretation of events, why isn’t it devoting resources to reporting the story on the ground? Because it’s not a story. Rather, it’s just another in an ongoing series of third-world style information operations targeting one-half of America to warn them what might happen if they start to ask inconvenient questions.

Julie Kelly says that when she first started reporting the story of Jan. 6, she was far from believing it was an inside job. But then questions started to nag at her. “Part of it was coming to the realization that the Capitol Police had played a bad role, including its involvement in feeding the lie about Officer Sicknick’s death. Then they withheld video, and I saw footage of them attacking and provoking protesters.” Most troubling, Kelly told me, was video footage taken inside the Capitol that had been viewed by Sen. Johnson and his staff. Johnson described the scene in a letter to the acting chief of the Capitol Police asking for more information:

At approximately 2:26 p.m. on January 6, a security camera showed a male inside the Capitol attempting to open one of the upper west terrace doors to exit the building. This unauthorized individual, who was by himself at the time, walked through a narrow hallway to the double doors and attempted to exit through the left door by pushing the door’s crash bar. The door did not open and the individual turned around and walked back through the hallway and away from the doors. Approximately seven minutes later, at 2:33 p.m., security footage showed five unauthorized individuals walking down the same hallway, past a police officer. The security footage, which did not include audio, appeared to show the police officer gesturing toward the doors as these individuals walked past him. Once at the double doors, one of the five individuals pushed the left door’s crash bar and this time, it opened …
As the fifth individual exited through this left door of the upper west terrace doorway, it remained ajar for a moment allowing people from the outside of the building to gain entry into the Capitol.

In other words, the first person found that the door was locked. It opened minutes later, however, for a group of five people who were directed to it by a police officer. With the door opened, protesters entered the building. Johnson says he wants to determine exactly what happened on Jan. 6. He believes there is much more to the story than the current narrative.

“I’m all for the FBI trying to infiltrate dangerous groups,” the Wisconsin senator told me in an interview. “Infiltrating is one thing, but are they taking the next step? And if so, is what they’re doing appropriate?”

Sen. Johnson’s line of inquiry is likely to undo the official story of Jan. 6, which—like the post-9/11 counterterrorism story—the oligarchy, the spy services, and their media partners have pushed on all of us.

Become a Member of Tablet

Get access to exclusive conversations, our custom app, and special perks from our favorite Jewish artists, creators, and businesses. You’ll not only join our community of editors, writers, and friends—you’ll be helping us rebuild this broken world.