During the evening of January 5, 2021, an unknown person planted two pipe bombs at or near the Democrat National Headquarters and the Republican National Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
An FBI “tip line” was established and a $100,000 reward was offered for information leading to the identification of the would-be bomber. Thousands of “tips” were received from persons wanting to help identify the suspect. As you can imagine, useless tips were undoubtedly received such as, “Photo #— is probably (John Doe). He’s a jerk who I went to high school with and he always liked Reagan. He probably voted for Trump. I haven’t seen him in over 20 years and I don’t know where he lives now but I’m almost positive that’s him.” In spite of a major investigative effort by the FBI and the ATF, the unknown subject still has not been identified, at least publicly, or charged.
However, within days of that incident, hundreds of American citizens from all across the United States from as far away as Alaska who had traveled to Washington DC to attend President Trump’s January 6th rally were identified and contacted at their homes by FBI agents who showed them surveillance photos of the suspect and questioned them as to whether they knew the identity of the alleged bomber.
Full disclosure: I am a retired FBI agent who attended the Trump rally with members of my extended family. Three family members, two of whom attended the rally with me, were contacted in person by the FBI at their residences (the 3rd one wasn’t even in WDC on January 6th). Of course, they were anxious and concerned as to why the FBI would be contacting them. My advice to them was to answer the agent’s questions fully and honestly, and then I suggested they give the inquiring agent my number and have them contact me. Surprisingly, one young agent did contact me by phone but he was only interested in talking about my career with the FBI. He did say the leads were coming out of the Washington DC field office and he didn’t know how they were identifying persons to be interviewed. He further claimed they were only trying to identify the person who planted the pipe bombs and denied they were trying to intimidate citizens. I suggested he set out a lead for me to be interviewed, in person at my residence, but that never materialized.
I definitely do not condone the rioting or vandalism at the Capitol, but neither do I believe persons who were arrested for relatively minor offenses should be held without bond for over a year in deplorable conditions, many in solitary confinement. Such actions may constitute Civil Rights violations…if we still had an honest and apolitical FBI and Department of Justice. And, I certainly hope the FBI does identify the suspect. We don’t need “wannabe” pipe bombers running around the country.
With nearly one million Trump supporters in DC for the rally, how is it the FBI was able to identify individual attendees and pay them a personal visit at their homes all over the country? One might wonder has the FBI visited the homes of anybody other then Trump supporters? How many Biden supporters or members of Antifa, or BLM were contacted by the FBI? The FBI has concluded the would be bomber was from outside the DC area. What causes them to believe that? Depending on how far away from DC this person lives, how did he or she travel to DC? Did they drive to DC? Did they bring their pipe bombs with them – certainly not by commercial air carrier – or did they purchase the materials and assemble them locally?
The bombs themselves raise some interesting questions. They have been described as consisting of an 8-inch length of galvanized pipe with wires connected to a mechanical timing device, similar to a kitchen timer, acting as a switch. According to the person who first spotted the device near the RNC Headquarters at about 12:45 pm on January 6th, the timer was not ticking and was set at 20 minutes. The timers depicted in photographs of the bombs have a maximum 60 minute time set. A device with a 60-minute timer, placed more than 16-hours earlier, the previous evening, and having not yet detonated suggests the device was not a functional bomb. Nevertheless, it has been described by an FBI official as a “functional” bomb. However, an anonymous Counter IED (Improvised Explosive Device) expert has opined he did not believe the bombs were functional devices. Who really knows for certain what to believe? I guess it all depends on what the meaning of “functional” is. If they were intentionally not functional, it suggests the suspect did not wish to put any lives in danger and if that’s the case, why were the bombs placed there in the first place?
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Some have speculated the bombs were placed to serve as a diversion from the protest that was expected at the Capitol shortly after noon on the 6th. Having not been discovered until about 12:45 pm lends some credence to that theory. Others have opined that the placing of bombs was intended to further denigrate protesting Trump supporters. It certainly has accomplished that purpose via the mainstream media. But, there may be a third reason for planting these devices.
The FBI has posted on their website a montage of surveillance videos of the would-be bomber and has even created a virtual map of this person’s circuitous path from between 7:34 pm and 8:18 pm on the evening of January 5th while walking in the vicinity of the DNC and RNC Headquarters. They’ve even identified the exact style of shoes he or she was wearing – Nike Air Max Speed Turf shoes, black and gray with yellow logo. Anyone who has visited DC knows there are surveillance cameras at nearly every intersection in the District. So, why hasn’t the FBI backtracked the would be bomber’s travels prior to 7:34 pm or after 8:18 pm to determine where this suspect originally departed from or returned to? Perhaps they have and they just don’t want anyone else to know the results.
One video snippet is of particular interest. It is from a surveillance camera purportedly located at the front of the DNC Headquarters and shows the suspect approaching and sitting on a park bench, supposedly where one of the bombs was found. Just as he or she sits down, they reach back and pull from their right rear pocket what appears to be a smartphone that they appear to use to either send a text, receive a text, or check for messages. After about 51 seconds, the suspect gets up, puts the device back in their hip pocket, and departs on foot with their backpack in tow. Nothing was left behind.
There are cellphone towers all over the District and cellphones constantly “ping” off of these towers. The FBI has available to them the technology and access to cellphone tower logs that enable them to identify cellphone numbers that were in the near vicinity of those towers at very specific dates and times. This most likely was one method used in tracing the suspect’s route while walking through the neighborhood that evening. Furthermore, it may have been used to identify persons who were in the vicinity of the Trump rally and or the Capitol Building on January 6th. Which begs the question, knowing the suspect’s exact location, time, and possession of a cellphone, why haven’t they been able to identify from cellphone tower logs the cellphone number and subscriber of the device used by the suspect? I believe they could if they really wanted to except, of course, if the phone was a “burner” it may complicate the tracing. Perhaps they have and they don’t want to make their findings known to the public. Regardless, it certainly has provided them a reason for contacting Trump supporters all across the nation letting them know, that the FBI knows they were in Washington DC on January 5th and 6th, 2021. Whether the FBI was actually attempting to identify the suspect bomber or endeavoring to intimidate supporters of the former President is yet to be determined.
On the other hand, perhaps they don’t want to publicly identify the suspect. Perhaps they already know his or her identity. Perhaps the suspect is actually an FBI “plant” – an undercover agent or informant – used to further denigrate Trump supporters as insurrectionists or terrorists, not unlike what Attorney General Merrick Garland proposes for the FBI to do with respect to parents who object at school board meetings. There already is reason to believe FBI agents and informants had infiltrated the crowd of Trump supporters at the rally and the Capitol – just consider the case of Ray Epps among others.
During testimony, under oath, before a Senate subcommittee, FBI Executive Assistant Director of the National Security Branch, Jill Sanborn, declined to answer questions by Sen. Ted Cruz as to how many FBI Agents and informants were present at the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill. She claimed that she could not disclose “specifics or sources and methods” – the Bureau always declines to comment concerning on-going investigations, that is until they want to. Personally, I take the EAD’s answer as a tacit admission that FBI agents and informants were there not to observe and report but to encourage and direct, just as it appears they did in the Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy plot.
We know, from the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping conspiracy, the FBI used undercover agents and informants to “solve” that case before any danger befell the governor. In fact, it now appears the FBI undercover agents and informants may have been actively involved in promoting the conspiracy. The case agent in that case was fired after being charged with spousal abuse and two other agents had to be removed from the case to avoid having to testify.
So successful was the Detroit FBI in the Whitmer case that the Special Agent in Charge was promoted to Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office (WFO) in October 2020, just weeks before the election and only 3 months before the Capitol Hill protest. He has dutifully requested the public’s help in identifying the would-be bomber. No doubt, he brought with him from Detroit to the WFO his expertise and prior knowledge of how to deal with persons who protest their government’s actions. But apparently, that expertise and knowledge doesn’t stretch quite far enough to identify an unknown would be bomber.
By Quentin Smith
Quentin Smith is a military veteran and retired FBI Special Agent who served in the Bureau for nearly 29 years and now lives in Idaho. He is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative,
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Featured photo by Alex Smith from Fort Collins, CO, United States, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons