Facial recognition, license scanners and digital data are trumping the Capitol mob

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jserraglio
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Facial recognition, license scanners and digital data are trumping the Capitol mob

Post by jserraglio » Sun Apr 04, 2021 1:13 pm

WASHINGTON POST How America’s surveillance networks helped the FBI catch the Capitol mob https://www.washingtonpost.com/technolo ... i-privacy/

EXCERPTS

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.

Video cameras mounted throughout the complex also captured the pair from 10 different angles , the complaint says, as they allegedly stormed the halls of Congress, rummaged through a police bag and made off with protective equipment that Senate officials kept on hand in case of a chemical attack....

[A] 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.....

One warrant targeting Brandon Miller, an Ohio man who wrote on Facebook that he had traveled to Washington to “witness history,” yielded his Facebook posts, credit card information, phone number and home Zip code, giving FBI agents the clues necessary to later match his photo to Capitol surveillance camera footage and his Ohio driver’s license.

When Miller was asked on Facebook the day after the riots whether he and his wife, Stephanie, had gotten into trouble, he had written back, “No not yet anyway lol,” a criminal complaint shows.

But data from a Google search warrant allowed FBI agents to map the exact locations of their phones that day — from the point where rioters smashed into the Senate chamber, to the speaker’s office in the heart of the Capitol, according to the complaint. Another search warrant to their cellular carrier, AT&T, added additional information about their whereabouts, plus their names and home address. Stephanie Miller’s attorney declined to comment, and Brandon Miller’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment....

Fruitless efforts to hide
Many of the Trump supporters who marauded through the Capitol that day showed little interest in concealing their presence, posting selfies, gloating on Twitter and sharing video of chaotic violence and ransacked hallways. James Bonet, of Upstate New York, uploaded a Facebook video of himself inside the Capitol’s halls, allegedly smoking a joint, a criminal complaint states. And Dona Bissey, an Indiana follower of the extremist ideology QAnon, posted a location-tagged photo of herself and her friends to a publicly available Facebook page: “Picking glass out of my purse,” she wrote, according to a charging document. “Best f---ing day ever!!”

One man from New York’s Hudson Valley, William Vogel, had his round-trip voyage to D.C. photographed by license plate readers at least nine times on Jan. 6, from the Henry Hudson Bridge in the Bronx at 6:06:08 that morning to Baltimore’s Harbor Tunnel Thruway at 9:15:27 a.m. and back to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., at 11:59:22 that night, a criminal complaint claims.

Vogel generated more evidence of his presence inside the Capitol with a set of videos he posted to Snapchat, the complaint said. And though no license plate scanners captured his car in D.C., they offered other clues to his movement: A photo that morning from a stretch of Interstate 95 northeast of Baltimore showed a comically oversized “Make America Great Again” hat on Vogel’s dashboard. Agents said in the complaint that they later matched it to a Facebook selfie in which he appeared to be wearing “the same large red hat.” ....

Dominick Madden, a New York City sanitation worker who was on sick leave when he allegedly stormed the Capitol, had his car’s license plate scanned half a dozen times in his round-trip journey to Washington, a criminal complaint states. Madden was also allegedly caught on video walking through the Capitol’s Senate wing in a blue QAnon sweatshirt. He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

In many cases, the documents quote suspects expressing confidence that they had slipped beyond the FBI’s grasp. When an unnamed Parler user warned Maimone — the Pittsburgh-area woman with the American flag mask — that authorities would be arresting anyone who entered the Capitol building illegally on Jan. 6, she dismissed the idea through her account, “TrumpIsYourPresident1776.”

“Lmao yaaaaaaaaaa sure thing buddy!” she wrote in an exchange cited in the criminal complaint charging Maimone with theft, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. A D.C. judge signed a warrant for her arrest last month.

FBI agents got help identifying Maimone and her fiance, Philip Vogel (no known relation to William Vogel), by manually comparing his voice and hand tattoos to a Pittsburgh TV news report from last year, during which he talked of being rescued one night after his fishing boat hit a log and capsized, the federal complaint said.

Investigators also matched Vogel’s gray beanie to a photo he and Maimone had posted to the Yelp profile of their contracting business, according to the complaint. And they matched his scarf to one he’d worn in a selfie posted to his Facebook account in which he celebrated catching a “monster” fish in the Potomac River one day after the riot.

Attorneys for Maimone and Vogel declined to comment. The couple have been released from custody after they each paid $10,000 in bond and agreed to “stay away from D.C.,” court records show.....

Other alleged insurrectionists ended up helping investigators even as they attempted to cover their tracks, FBI agents wrote in charging documents. One man entered the Capitol wearing a dark cowboy hat and a large respirator that covered all but his eyes and forehead. But he also took a selfie beneath a marble statue of the nation’s seventh vice president, John C. Calhoun, a fixture of the large “crypt” room beneath the Capitol Rotunda. A tipster who received the photo forwarded it to the FBI, a criminal complaint said, along with a suggested name: Andrew Hatley.

Hatley denied participating in the attack, writing on Facebook: “It has come to my attention that there was someone who looks like me at the Capitol. I’d like to set the record straight. I don’t have that kind of motivation for lost causes. I just don’t care enough anymore, certainly not enough for all that.”

But he allegedly left evidence to the contrary in the logs of a social media app, Life360, often used by family members to keep track of each other. When a tipster told FBI agents that Hatley had the app on his smartphone, they sent a search warrant to Life360 days after the attack. Investigators said in the complaint that they then plotted Hatley’s travels on “an electronic map of Washington, D.C.” based on the company’s logs.

In the just-the-facts style of FBI documents, investigators alleged the evidence erased any doubts: “The data confirms that HATLEY’s cellular telephone was at the U.S. Capitol Building during the events described above on January 6, 2021.” Hatley’s attorney and Life360 declined to comment.

In another case, an FBI agent wrote in a criminal affidavit that a “self-professed white supremacist” from Maryland, Bryan Betancur, had asked his probation officer for permission to leave the state on Jan. 6 to hand out Bibles in D.C. with an evangelical group. But Betancur’s court-ordered ankle monitor gave him away, the affidavit claimed, by posting his minute-by-minute location — from Trump’s rally at the White House Ellipse to the Capitol’s steps — to a website investigators could track in real time. He was arrested on Jan. 17, nine days after he told his probation officer he believed the FBI was watching him.

Attorneys for Bissey and William Vogel declined to comment. Attorneys for Betancur and Bonet did not respond to requests for comment.

1 phone, 12,000 pages of evidence
The documents highlight just how much digital evidence an ordinary person sheds in everyday life: In one case, prosecutors said they gathered more than 12,000 pages of data from a suspect’s phone using Cellebrite, a tool popular with law enforcement for its ability to penetrate locked phones and copy their contents. The search also recovered 2,600 pages of Facebook records and 800 cellphone photos and videos..

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