The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been able to track down Donald Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol thanks to the selfies and videos they took inside the Capitol – with some 140,000 images and videos posted online.
According to court documents seen by Bloomberg, many rioters went on to share videos and pictures on social media after the 6 January attack on the Capitol, and in the process document their own complicity.
Those pictures and videos have come alongside written messages on far-right message boards, as well as photographs captured by journalists who were also at the Capitol on the day of the riot.
Of 275 suspects identified thanks to those images, at least 98 have since been arrested and charged, according to court documents seen by Bloomberg.
Some are thought to have been arrested with their own social media posts providing evidence, and others with the digital media submitted to investigators.
The extent to which the rioters documented their own complicity in the Capitol attack has allowed FBI investigators to shun legal and technical tools typically relied-upon by the agency.
Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director at the FBI’s Washington Field Office, recently told reporters that the agency “continue[s] to ask for more” submissions and tips to a portal where members of the public can submit digital media.
Mr D’Antuono added that the FBI was “scouring every one for investigative and intelligence leads”.
Among those arrested are Adam Johnson, who was pictured carrying away House speaker Nancy Peolsi’s lectern by a photojournalist on 6 January. The photo went viral on social media, allowing users to name him to the FBI, who charged Johnson with the theft of government property.
Johnson also uploaded a picture to Facebook that showed him holding a sign that said the Capitol was “closed to all tours”, to which he wrote in a caption to the photo: “No”.
Another rioter, the far-right video blogger known as “Baked Alaska”, was said to have live-streamed from inside the Capitol building during the siege. As did Republican Derrick Evans, who has since resigned from West Virginia’s legislature.
Both men were charged after their videos widely circulated online.
Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, told Bloomberg there were “thousands of potential witnesses” that could lead to “hundreds of criminal cases”.
As images and videos continue to be submitted and analysed by the FBI, it is believed investigations could take months to conclude.