- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2023

House Speaker Mike Johnson praised the decision of the House Administration Committee to release most of the security footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The first tranche of footage, roughly 90 hours, was posted Friday, and the rest of the more than 40,000 hours of footage will be posted over the next several months.

“When I ran for Speaker, I promised to make accessible to the American people the 44,000 hours of video from Capitol Hill security taken on January 6, 2021. Truth and transparency are critical,” Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said in a statement.

He said a public viewing room at the Capitol will “ensure that every citizen can view every minute of the videos uncensored.”

The House panel decided to make the footage available to all Americans and publicly post all footage online that does not contain sensitive security information or information that would lead to retaliation against private citizens.

On Friday, all video footage previously released to media outlets was uploaded to an online viewing room for public access. That included all videos released to former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and other media. 

Following the initial tranche of footage, the committee will continue to populate the viewing room with additional video for public view.

Mr. Johnson said the decision of the panel to release the footage “will provide millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations, and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials.”

According to Mr. Johnson, the committee will upload thousands of hours of videos to its website. Processing the footage includes blurring the faces of people “to avoid any persons from being targeted for retaliation of any kind.”

Roughly 5% of the videos may involve sensitive security information related to the building architecture and will not be made available, according to the committee.

“The goal of our investigation has been to provide the American people with transparency on what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and this includes all official video from that day,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, chairman of the Administration Commttee’s oversight subcommittee. 

“We will continue loading video footage as we conduct our investigation and continue to review footage. As I’ve said all along — the American people deserve transparency, accountability, and real answers supported by facts instead of a predetermined political narrative.”

Ranking Member Joe Morelle, New York Democrat, condemned the decision of the panel’s GOP members and Mr. Johnson to give the public “unfettered access” to all footage from January 6th.

“While the name on the door to the Speaker’s suite has changed, the office’s mission to undermine the Capitol Police and politicize Capitol security continues unabated. It is unconscionable that one of Speaker Johnson’s first official acts as steward of the institution is to endanger his colleagues, staff, visitors, and our country by allowing virtually unfettered access to sensitive Capitol security footage. That he is doing so over the strenuous objections of the security professionals within the Capitol Police is outrageous,” Mr. Morelle said.

“I will continue to trust the judgment of the security professionals who risk their lives to keep us all safe. They have our backs, it’s disappointing that the new Speaker and our Republican colleagues do not have theirs.”

Making the footage available to the public has been a longtime goal of House Republicans and their supporters who were blamed for the attack on the Capitol. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, made it a condition when he stepped aside to allow former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, to win his short-lived speakership in January.

The Justice Department has hunted down those involved in the Capitol riot and charged almost 1,200 with federal crimes related to their participation.

More than 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial, and about 700 people involved in the riot have been sentenced, with about two-thirds receiving prison terms ranging from three days to 22 years.

Since Mr. McCarthy told reporters in January that he decided to release the footage, defendants in the Jan. 6 cases, their attorneys, news media and nonprofit groups have had limited access to the footage through congressional closed-circuit TV terminals.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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