When new House Speaker Mike Johnson announced that he would be “keeping [his] promise” to release all 44,000 hours of Capitol security camera footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection, it wasn’t just far-right conspiracy crackpots who rejoiced at the news. Citizen sleuths also salivated over the likelihood that they’d now be able to identify rioters who attacked police officers but who remain unknown.
However, Republicans have announced they’ll blur the faces of private citizens who appear on the tapes, necessitating a laborious and error-prone comb-through of every tape before it can be released. That’s why only 90 hours out of 44,000 made it into Johnson’s original release and why Republicans don’t have a timetable for when this new boondoggle will finally be completed.
If you’re wondering why they’re blurring out faces, don’t bother. In a press conference, Johnson said it bluntly: blurring the faces of riot participants is being done in order to block the Department of Justice from charging them with crimes. Via Acyn:
We’re going through a methodical process of releasing them as quickly as we can. As you know, we have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ and to have other concerns and problems.
Got it: House Republicans will methodically remove evidence that could be used to identify more of those who attacked police officers and attempted to overthrow democracy on Republicans’ behalf. Republicans quite literally intend to obstruct justice. The man said so himself.
Will this help block new prosecutions? Probably. The Justice Department has long had access to these tapes, uncensored, but the process of identifying individual rioters in a sea of faces can be between difficult and impossible. From the Jan. 6 footage already released, however, an army of citizen sleuths has successfully identified numerous criminals the FBI wasn’t able to.
Johnson and his fellow House Republicans can’t directly stop the Justice Department from identifying more rioters. But they can stymie private citizens from pinning names to faces and informing prosecutors. After all, we still don’t know the identities of everyone who committed a crime at the Capitol that day, so Johnson isn’t protecting just petty thieves and the feces-smearing vandals. He’s also protecting the people who committed some of the worst of the violence.
Johnson was already a conspirator in the plan to erase an American election. He was already a seditionist who betrayed his country and his office. Now that he’s taking an active step to protect the identities of those who committed crimes inside the Capitol, it’s safe to call him a co-conspirator in the violence as well.
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