The FBI is paying visits to Washington, D.C., residents believed to have been near the Capitol Building during the riot earlier this month after obtaining data on cell phones that pinged towers in the area.
Bree Stevens, a legal investigator who lives near the Capitol, told WUSA this week that an agent went to see her neighbor who then called her to tell Stevens that the FBI was tracking everyone whose cell phones either pinged a tower in the area or connected to wi-fi.
“They don’t call first, they just come to your house,” Stevens told the CBS affiliate.
Stevens said that she and a friend were out walking on Jan. 6, the day of the riot, with his two daughters when they were diverted off their route by a bomb scare, ending up in the midst of it. They and others were then cordoned off for about four hours and were unable to go back to their homes.
“You don’t want to be anywhere where they’re going to go,” Stevens said in a video she took while police officers in riot gear hastily made their way toward the Capitol Building.
Stevens said that an investigator with the FBI came to her friend’s apartment on Monday as he was “in house clothes.”
“His little girl had just painted his toenails, that was a little bit embarrassing,” she told WUSA.
Stevens was not in town at the time, however, but the agent who visited her friend called on the phone number the bureau had tracked.
“Extremely creepy, because he explained that they have everyone’s phone number from pinging off the cell phone towers, and they know basically exactly where you were, within the vicinity of the Capitol,” Stevens said.
“And they can actually pinpoint on Google Maps exactly where you were standing. Like, he knew where I was standing on the sidewalk, like specifically, based on my cell phone ping,” she added.
She said the agent told her she was not a suspect but that he was seeking photos of anything she might have seen.
Interestingly, in late May — as riots broke out around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) posted a graphic to her Instagram page instructing people “what to wear” to protests, “what to bring” and what not to bring. Included were instructions on how to prevent cell phones from being tracked.
The graphic advises people not to bring their cell phones “without first turning off Face/Touch ID, going on airplane mode, and disabling data” — so they cannot be tracked via wi-fi networks and phone towers.
Also, according to HuffPost senior justice reporter Ryan J. Reilly, social media platforms are also contributing to the FBI’s investigation.
“The same social media platforms that helped spread the lies and conspiracies that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol are now providing the government with the evidence they need to find and convict the Trump fanatics who took part in that attack,” he noted on Twitter.
In a subsequent story for the outlet, Reilly reported that federal authorities are “sorting through an astonishing amount of digital evidence” of the Capitol riot.
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