Prosecutors believe some of the protesters planned to kidnap US lawmakers.
US prosecutors specializing in counterterrorism are investigating the case of two suspects who were captured in photos with plastic ties – tools often used during kidnappings.
The Counterterrorism division of the Department of Justice’s Office of Homeland Security took part in the investigation, which involves Larry Brock of Texas and Eric Munchel of Tennessee. They face charges of trespassing, forced entry, and disorderly conduct after being photographed in the Capitol wearing tactical suits. This is stated in court documents published on Sunday and Monday. Who represents the interests of the suspects is still unknown.
Counterterrorism officials have joined the investigation as there is growing evidence that some of the rioters openly plotted to kidnap or harm lawmakers to prevent them from certifying the electoral college vote results confirming Joe Biden’s victory.
The charges include trespassing, firearm offenses, assaulting police, and others. Federal prosecutors said they consider bringing other charges, ranging from conspiracy to sedition to murder after Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died.
Based on intelligence reports from independent groups that monitored social media, it is assumed that some of the protesters conspired in advance to commit violent acts in the Capitol.
As stated on Sunday, Democratic Congressman Jason Crow, citing information from US Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, at least 25 investigations into domestic terrorism have been initiated into the incident.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to questions about how many of the investigations are counterterrorism-related.
In recent years, there has been considerable debate about whether the Ministry of Justice has sufficient legal tools to combat domestic terrorism, which is defined by law as “acts that endanger human life,” threaten the civilian population, influence government policies through intimidation, or influence government decisions through mass murder or kidnapping.
Tom O’Connor, a retired FBI agent who worked for the Joint Counterterrorism Task Force, told Reuters that a separate law should be passed with more severe penalties for those found guilty of committing terrorist acts on U.S. soil.
“Congress needs to change the penalties for domestic terrorism,” he said.
Michael Herman, a former FBI agent who now works at the Brennan Center for Justice, disagreed, saying there are already 51 crimes that count as domestic terrorism, in addition to a host of other laws that can be used to prosecute violent acts by right-wing extremists.
He believes that the FBI has not previously put enough effort into fighting right-wing extremists. Some of the rioters were probably repeated offenders who felt encouraged because they got away with it.
“I am sure that when they investigate, they will find that this is not the first time these people have committed acts of violence, and some of the accused have criminal records,” he said.