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Plan to release Jan. 6 surveillance footage changes again. Here's what we may really see

House speaker Mike Johnson says the faces of some Jan. 6 rioters will be blurred as security footage from inside the US Capitol is released. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit against a local neo-Nazi group. And an internal Pentagon report says dozens of service members were investigated for extremist activity in the last year.

It’s the week in extremism.

Blurring faces in new Jan. 6 Capitol footage

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson announced he will be blurring at least some of the faces of rioters who appear on security footage inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 before the tapes are released to the public.

U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC.

The announcement was a bit of an about-face: When Johnson announced late last month that he would be releasing the long-awaited footage, he said it would give all Americans “an ability to see for themselves what happened that day.”

But this week Johnson said the faces need to be blurred first. “We don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ,” Johnson said.

  • As NBC’s Ryan J. Reilly noted in a story this week, Johnson’s remarks appeared aimed at the collective of volunteer online sleuths known as “Sedition Hunters,” who have spent years cataloging and combing through footage from Jan. 6 identifying suspects and sending dossiers on them to the FBI.

  • But whether the faces are blurred or not, the sedition hunters already have footage of the faces of most, if not all, of the rioters who went into the building — either from external footage or security footage that has already been released.

  • And, as Johnson’s office later acknowledged, blurring the faces in the footage won’t impact prosecutions, since the Department of Justice already has the raw footage.

Bottom line: We’re still waiting to see what the public will really learn. While a small fraction of the video has so far been made public, tens of thousands of hours of tape have not.

Massachusetts AG sues neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell filed a lawsuit against the Nationalist Social Club, a New England-based neo-Nazi group that has been increasingly visible in recent months.

  • The civil lawsuit, filed against the NSC and two of its principals, claims members of the group “have recently carried out a series of violent and otherwise unlawful Club actions targeting those they have designated ‘enemies of our people.’”

  • The lawsuit claims the group repeatedly attempted to disrupt LGBTQ+ events and sought to interfere with the provision of emergency housing for recent migrants to Massachusetts.

Andrea Campbell, Attorney General of Massachusetts, in November 2023.
Andrea Campbell, Attorney General of Massachusetts, in November 2023.

Two members of NSC-131, as the group is known, were also hit by a civil rights petition earlier this year, filed by the New Hampshire Attorney General, for hanging a racist banner over a highway overpass. That case was dismissed, but the AG plans to appeal it to the state supreme court.

Pentagon report: Dozens investigated for extremist activity

A report released late last week by the Department of Defense Inspector General concludes that, across the U.S. military, 183 members of the armed forces were investigated for engaging in extremist “prohibited activities” from Oct. 1, 2022 to  Sept. 30, 2023.

  • 43 were investigated for advocating for, engaging in, or supporting domestic terrorism.

  • 56 were investigated for engaging in anti-government activity.

  • Dozens of the allegations are still being investigated, according to the report.

The Pentagon in Washington, in a file photograph. The U.S. military embarked on a major new initiative to safeguard its ranks from the influence of extremist groups in 2021.
The Pentagon in Washington, in a file photograph. The U.S. military embarked on a major new initiative to safeguard its ranks from the influence of extremist groups in 2021.

As USA TODAY reported earlier this year, despite Secretary of Defense Austin calling for extensive reforms to stamp out extremism, the military could show almost no progress in the two years since.  The new IG report also notes the department’s failure to publicly produce a report on extremism across the armed forces, which USA TODAY first reported had been completed in June 2022.

Statistics of the week: Two

That’s how many members of the military were court-martialed for participating in “prohibited activities,” which includes extremist activity and gang activity, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general  report.

That’s out of a total of 69 people whose allegations military investigators found were substantiated and subject to action.

As USA TODAY reported in 2021, court martials are exceedingly rare in the military for extremist misconduct.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Capitol riot video release changes again; DOD investigates extremists