REPORT: FBI Failed To Act On Proud Boys Intelligence Before Jan. 6 Riot
At least 18 members of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys have been arrested for their roles in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol. Many of them were at the forefront of the assault on the Capitol.
In March, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “absolutely” wished his agency had better intelligence about the Proud Boys’ plans for that day. “I do not consider what happened on January 6th to be an acceptable result,” Wray said. “We are focused very, very hard on how can we get better sources, better information, better analysis.”
But an investigation by the Reuters news agency has found that the FBI did have deeper insights into the group than Wray disclosed. FBI agents maintained connections with key Proud Boys leaders starting as early as 2019 and at least four members of the group, including leaders Enrique Tarrio and Joseph Biggs, have provided information to the FBI.
The connections between the Proud Boys and the FBI don’t mean that the agency had thoroughly penetrated the group. But some law enforcement veterans say the ties show the agency could have done more to prepare for the deadly Jan. 6 uprising, which sought to overturn the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president.
“This was a group committing violence in public and promoting themselves as a violent group,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who investigated domestic terrorism. German previously has criticized the bureau over what he says was a failure to focus on the Proud Boys ahead of Jan. 6. “It’s hard to understand how the FBI could have had a relationship with four individuals in the Proud Boys and didn’t understand the nature of the threat to the Capitol.”
One of the chattiest of the Proud Boys has been Biggs, who has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiring to disrupt the certification. He has been jailed since his arrest. In a court filing last month his attorney argued that he should freed in light of his extensive cooperation with the FBI. The lawyer wrote that Biggs had met with two FBI agents for two hours in July 2020 and “spoke often” with an agent in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Two days before the insurrection, Reuters reached Biggs on the phone. He declined to say what the group had planned for the scheduled Jan. 6 protest.
“If I tell you right now, it will give away my play,” he said in the Jan. 4 interview. But, he said, he was willing to tell his plans to a special agent in the FBI whom he knew, if he were asked. “If the guy that I know called me and had any questions, I would respond.”
There’s no indication a conversation ever took place. The FBI didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the findings of its investigation.