Media Organizations Sue Justice Dept. for Jan. 6 Surveillance Footage

Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount
A crowd outside the Capitol after supporters of President Donald Trump breached the building on Jan. 6, 2021.

A group of nine news organizations filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to compel the Justice Department to release security footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that previously was exclusively shared with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson under an arrangement with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

After Carlson was reportedly provided with 44,000 hours of surveillance video footage in late February, the news organizations filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the FBI, both entities within the Justice Department. According to the plaintiffs, neither entity has honored the requests.

“Even though it is leading the riot investigation and has published excerpts of the Capitol Surveillance Videos on its own website, the FBI has absurdly and improperly claimed that it searched for but was ‘unable to identify’ the requested records,” the lawsuit says.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, it lists the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the FBI as defendants.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the media lawsuit. The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

McCarthy is not named in the lawsuit. Although he pledged earlier this year that other news organizations would eventually be granted access to the videos, that has not happened, the plaintiffs say.

The news organizations filing the suit are Advance Publications, the Associated Press, CNN, CBS, E.W. Scripps, Gannett, Politico, ProPublica and the New York Times.

Carlson selectively used the surveillance video to falsely depict the storming of the Capitol as a largely peaceful gathering, rather than a riot by supporters of President Donald Trump seeking to interrupt Congress as it counted electoral college votes confirming Joe Biden as the nation’s next president.

“The footage does not show an insurrection or a riot in progress,” Carlson told his audience. “Instead it shows police escorting people through the building.”

He said most of the rioters were peaceful, calling them “sightseers,” not “insurrectionists.”

Carlson repeatedly has played down the deadly violence that occurred that day and claimed it was a “false flag” operation. Five people died as a result of the attack, and 140 members of law enforcement were injured as the mob used flagpoles, bear spray, baseball bats and other weapons against police.

The lawsuit by the media organizations seeks “to secure general, not merely selective, access to these government videos of monumental public interest and historical import.”