The FBI had so many paid informants at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that they lost track of the number and had to perform a later audit to determine exactly how many “Confidential Human Sources” run by different FBI field offices were present that day, a former assistant director of the bureau has told lawmakers.
At least one informant was communicating with his FBI handler as he entered the Capitol, according to Steven D’Antuono, formerly in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office.
D’Antuono has testified behind closed doors to the House Judiciary Committee that his office was aware before the riot that some of their informants would attend a “Stop the Steal” rally thrown by former President Donald Trump but he only learned after the fact that informants run by other field offices also were present, along with others who had participated of their own accord.
The Washington field office had to ask FBI headquarters “to do a poll or put out something to people saying w[ere] any CHSs involved,” he said, so they could get a handle on the scale of the FBI’s spying operations at the Capitol that day.
“We started getting responses back” from FBI headquarters, added D’Antuono, which helped identify which field offices had planted confidential informants in the crowd.
One paid informant from the Kansas City field office was at the Capitol as the crowd surged inside and allegedly was in communication with his FBI handler, “while they were in the crowd, I think, saying that they were going in,” according to the former bureau brass.
“They were trying to stop some of the action happening and they left or whatnot.”
Asked how many informants the audit discovered were in the crowd that day, D’Antuono would only say “a handful”.
The FBI spends an average of $42 million each year in payments to its Confidential Human Sources, according to the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, which has raised concerns about the vetting process for these paid informants.
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), described D’Antuono’s testimony as “extremely concerning”.
It suggests that “the FBI cannot adequately track the activities and operations of its informants, and that it lost control of its CHSs present at the Capitol on January 6,” he wrote.
“These revelations reinforce existing concerns, identified by Special Counsel [John] Durham, about the FBI’s use of, and payment to, CHSs who have fabricated evidence and misrepresented information.
“The Justice Department Inspector General also identified critical problems in the FBI’s CHS program,” Jordan added, “including the FBI’s failure to fully vet CHSs and the FBI’s willingness to ignore red flags that would call into question an informant’s reliability.”
Jordan has asked Wray to provide a “substantive briefing” on how the FBI used paid informants on Jan. 6, 2021, and “any specific guidelines or admonishments that were provided to FBI CHSs prior to deploying”.
Wray has also been asked to provide all debriefing documents received from Capitol riot informants.
Jordan also wants source reporting documentation relating to former British spy Christopher Steele, who was responsible for a now-notorious “dossier of false allegations about the Trump-Russia hoax.”
The number of FBI informants present during the Capitol riot has long been a controversial topic at trials of the hundreds of defendants apprehended since that day.
Defense lawyers at the trial of five “Proud Boys” recently asserted that the FBI had as many as eight informants spying on the organization and that at least one was with them at the Capitol that day.
Former Capitol Hill Police Chief Steven Sund has said that, in addition to the paid informants, the FBI had at least 18 undercover agents in the crowd plus an estimated 20 from the Department of Homeland Security.