The first waves of arrests in the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol focused on the easy targets. Dozens in the pro-Trump mob openly bragged about their actions on Jan. 6 on social media and were captured in shocking footage broadcast live by national news outlets.
But six months after the insurrection, the Justice Department is still hunting for scores of rioters, even as the first of more than 500 people already arrested have pleaded guilty. The struggle reflects the massive scale of the investigation and the grueling work still ahead for authorities in the face of an increasing effort by some Republican lawmakers to rewrite what happened that day.
Among those who still haven’t been caught: the person who planted two pipe bombs outside the offices of the Republican and Democratic national committees the night before the melee, as well as many people accused of attacks on law enforcement officers or violence and threats against journalists. The FBI website seeking information about those involved in the Capitol violence includes more than 900 pictures of roughly 300 people labeled “unidentified.”
They call themselves sedition hunters, and they have receipts. They’re members of a loosely affiliated network of motivated individuals and pop-up volunteer organizations with names like Deep State Dogs and Capitol Terrorists Exposers that developed after the Jan. 6 attack to identify the Trump supporters who organized the Capitol riot and brutalized the law enforcement officers protecting the building.
The sedition hunters scour the web for any and all photographs, videos and posts from people at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack across well-known websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter along with lesser-used sites and apps like Rumble, Gab and Telegram. They’ve got spreadsheets, Google Docs, links, bookmarks, unlisted YouTube backups, group chats and screenshots, as Joan puts it, “coming out the rear end.” They can uncover new evidence of conduct that’ll elevate a misdemeanor trespassing case into something much more serious; find the highest-quality image of a suspect that could generate new leads through facial recognition; and compile multimedia databases that turn the Jan. 6 attack into an interactive, high-stakes and soul-crushing edition of Where’s Waldo.