Exclusive: DHS, FBI are tracking online posts promoting a violent Jan. 6 reunion on Capitol Hill

·5 min read

Law enforcement is tracking online posts promoting a violent reunion on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, and other potential threats tied to the upcoming anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, according to intelligence reports obtained by Yahoo News.

The calls for violence in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 6, are detailed in a Jan. 3 Department of Homeland Security open source intelligence report, which describes flyers for the violent reunion posted online. The DHS report was sent to the FBI and other agencies on Monday for further investigation and includes copies of the flyers being circulated calling for a bloody attack on Jan. 6.

The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol Police says it has taken steps to increase security and prevent a repeat of the riot that occurred last Jan. 6. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“This was just the beginning,” says one of the flyers, which features an image of rioters in the Capitol Rotunda during the insurrection last year. The image is covered with what appears to be blood splatter and says: “Reunion on Capitol Hill January 6 2022.”

One flyer shows Jan. 6 rioters breaching the Capitol, with superimposed images of blood, while another shows rioters breaching the Capitol last year, with calls to “TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK.” A number of the flyers call on people to join the “Reunion on Capitol Hill on January 6 2022.”

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This DHS report was sent to, among others, nearly a dozen law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including FBI, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, the NSA and the CIA.

This is just one of a number of potential threats that the DHS has flagged for law enforcement agencies to investigate in the days leading up to the first anniversary of Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Other online posts sent to law enforcement for further review include one by a suspected extremist giving detailed instructions and tactics for conducting a sniper attack another post by a different suspected extremist giving instructions for making homemade explosives, according to intelligence reports obtained by Yahoo News.

A DHS spokesperson declined to comment specifically on its raw intelligence report detailing these calls for a violent reunion.

“Since the violent events one year ago, DHS has enhanced its ability to detect, analyze, and respond to threats,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement to Yahoo News. “The men and women of our Department remain vigilant in their national security mission, and we will continue to review the threat environment and share information with the public and our partners.”

The FBI declined Yahoo News’ requests for comment.

Despite those reports of potential violence, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that DHS isnot aware of any specific credible threats at this point related to Jan. 6, 2022.” However, the report flagging calls for a violent reunion at the Capitol seem to reflect what Mayorkas described as the DHS’s “heightened levels of vigilance” with regard to all signs of potential domestic terrorist activity.

Trump supporters clash with police
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces on Jan. 6, 2021. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

Mayorkas spoke to reporters Tuesday ahead of the first anniversary of Jan. 6, highlighting the role of conspiracy theories in sparking last year’s violence. “That violent assault was borne of a false narrative, of a false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen,” Mayorkas said, referring to the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

While various investigations and audits conducted both before Jan. 6 and after have failed to produce evidence of widespread fraud, the belief that the election was stolen remains potent among many Trump supporters.

“We are seeing, indeed, a greater connectivity between misinformation and false narratives propagated on social media and the threat landscape,” Mayorkas said, citing the example of bogus election fraud claims in particular.

The recent calls for violence on the anniversary Jan. 6 include claims about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, with flyers circulating on social media with bloody images of the Capitol attack with messages like ""TRUMP WON BIG," and "FREE FAIR PEACEFUL ELECTION,” according to images included in the DHS Open Source Intelligence Report.

Trump supporters clash with police
Rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)

Mayorkas spoke about the steps the DHS has taken over the past year in order to better prevent and respond to threats related to domestic violent extremism. He listed several measures, including increases to federal funding for grant programs dedicated to violence prevention, as well as the creation in May of a domestic terrorism branch within the DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, as part of the department’s efforts to improve information sharing about potential threats.

These efforts are in line with the U.S. government’s first national strategy for combating domestic terrorism, which the Biden administration released back in June. Over the past year, Mayorkas said that the DHS has hosted more than 50 calls with state and local law enforcement as well as a variety of other stakeholders at the national level, to discuss emerging threats.

“We have also issued an unprecedented number of threat bulletins and advisories,” he said, citing a total of 80 intelligence products focused on the threat of domestic violent extremism, including four National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletins.

While law enforcement assesses the credibility of potential threats like the calls for a violent reunion on Capitol Hill, the DHS is sharing raw intelligence with state, local and federal partners as it comes in.

Former FBI agent Mike German told Yahoo News that the barrage of information may end up overwhelming local law enforcement and dull their response to credible threats.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a shortage of intelligence advisories,” said German, now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

German said telling law enforcement that “millions of bad things that could happen” just renders the warnings meaningless.

“Information untethered from evidence of actual crime or threat isn’t helpful,” he said, “and clogs the system in a way that creates white noise that makes it harder to see what is an actual threat.”