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Congress to grant limited access to Jan. 6 security footage, House GOP says

The House Administration Committee set ground rules for reviewing CCTV footage of the 2021 insurrection months after media outlets demanded access to the tapes.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Members of the media and other approved parties will be able this month to review security footage captured during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Congress’ administrative panel announced Friday.

House Republicans have faced pressure from news outlets in recent months over access to the Jan. 6 tapes, after then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced this past February that he had been given access to roughly 44,000 hours of closed-circuit television footage from the day of the Capitol riot. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who made the decision to give Carlson access, said at the time that he believed the security tapes should eventually be released to the public.

Now, the GOP-controlled House Administration Committee has said that it will soon begin providing limited access to CCTV terminals at the Capitol where certain approved parties can review the Jan. 6 footage.

In a set of guidelines published Friday, the administrative panel said that members of the U.S. media and government-focused nonprofit organizations will be among the groups that can request to see the security tapes. The committee will also make available footage from Jan. 5, 2021, the day before the insurrection.

Access to the footage, which is by appointment only, is also open to defendants facing charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as their counsel or other individuals who were “physically harmed” during the riot.

Defendants in Jan. 6 cases will take priority over the media and nonprofits when it comes to reviewing the security tapes, the guidelines said.

The media or anyone else reviewing the footage can, with congressional approval, use clips from the security tapes. Released clips will be compiled and eventually uploaded to an online “reading room” accessible to the public at request. The administration committee will determine how long such a public archive will remain available, according to the panel’s guidelines.

Georgia Republican Barry Loudermilk, who chairs the administration committee’s oversight subpanel, painted the guidelines as an attempt by House Republicans to shine a light on the events of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“House Republicans are continuing to deliver on our promise to bring transparency and accountability to the People’s House by increasing access to security footage of the U.S. Capitol from January 5th and 6th, 2021,” Loudermilk said in a statement Friday. “This announcement stands in stark contrast to the previous Democrat leadership, who blocked access to the footage and only showed carefully edited clips to the public.”

A spokesperson for Congresswoman Norma Torres of California, the ranking member of the oversight subcommittee, did not immediately return a request for comment.

The public has so far seen little of the security footage gathered on Jan. 6, 2021, during the riot that ultimately killed 5 and injured more than 100. Clips have been limited to those released by the House Democrat-led special committee investigating the insurrection and those published by Carlson — the former Fox host’s interpretation of events, which he sought to paint as largely peaceful, was roundly criticized at the time.

Congressional Democrats have previously blasted the decision to publish security footage from the Capitol riot. In a February letter to his colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Speaker McCarthy of inviting another insurrection by providing the CCTV tapes to Fox News.

“The footage Speaker McCarthy is making available to Fox News is a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected,” Schumer wrote, “and its public release would compromise the safety of the Legislative Branch and allow those who want to commit another attack to learn how Congress is safeguarded.”

As of Friday, the House administration panel had yet to announce an exact start date for review sessions, although members of the media and other qualifying parties can now request an appointment via email.

The impending release of Jan. 6 security footage comes as rioters who stormed the Capitol during the 2021 insurrection are being slapped with decadeslong prison sentences. Proud Boys organizer Joseph Biggs received the second-longest sentence of any riot defendant Thursday, 17 years in prison handed down by a federal judge in D.C. Stewart Rhodes, founder of rightwing group the Oath Keepers, got an 18-year prison sentence in May.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
Categories / Criminal, Government, National, Politics

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