Rep. Bennie Thompson warns release of Jan. 6 video could compromise Capitol security
Updated February 23, 2023 at 4:25 PM ET
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the former chair of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, says House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's decision to release security video of that day to Fox News host Tucker Carlson could compromise the security of the U.S. Capitol by exposing the placement of cameras throughout the complex.
"This was an individual decision made by the speaker. Can you imagine the chief of the Capitol Police reading about it in the paper?" Thompson said in an interview with Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep.
Earlier this week, Axios reported that McCarthy granted Carlson access to more than 40,000 hours of the tapes.
NPR has not independently confirmed Carlson's team has access to the footage. Both Fox News and McCarthy's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thompson said any release of video footage that comes without coordinating with U.S. Capitol Police could compromise the security of the U.S. Capitol by exposing the placement of cameras throughout the complex.
"(The) video identified those positions when members were escorted out of the Capitol during the height of the insurrection," Thompson said referring to security footage he reviewed as chair of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6th attack.
It's not clear what footage Carlson's team has access to and if it matches what Thompson saw, which Thompson said showed escape routes used on that day. The House panel investigating the attack chose not to air portions of the security video they received after U.S. Capitol Police told them it could pose a security risk, Thompson said. That panel completed its work last year.
Democrats also expressed concern the release could trigger a new wave of disinformation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the reported release "one of the worst security risks since 9/11" in a letter to fellow senators Wednesday.
"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 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," Schumer said.
Carlson on his Monday night program said his team was reviewing the security footage. He has been a key figure in spreading false claims related to the siege, including incorrect claims that "antifa" groups or the FBI could be to blame for the attack.
In the letter, Schumer said that the footage could reveal the location of security cameras, which could make it harder for U.S. Capitol Police to do their work. He also expressed concern that the video footage would expose "highly-guarded plans for continuity of government."
Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, House Democrats met virtually for a briefing on the matter, led in part by Thompson.
"I'm not comfortable with the knowledge that I have right now that the security interests of the Capitol, the people who work there and the people who visit is protected," Thompson, now the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security panel, said Wednesday. "There are some items ... that should not be made available to the general public."
Thompson went on to detail the painstaking process the select committee followed during its investigation to access the security footage, and his worries the same procedures aren't in place today.
The Jan. 6 panel had a separate, password-protected computer set up for committee staff to review the security footage. Those staff members worked with Capitol Police to coordinate which clips the committee wanted to share as part of its hearings.
"So without any knowledge of how this release [to Carlson] was negotiated, it's a concern," Thompson said.
Some moderate Republicans have argued in favor of more access to the tapes.
"Sunlight is the best medicine," tweeted South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace.
Not sure why both sides of the aisle wouldn’t want every minute of the J6 video footage unfiltered, not redacted, for all to access. Every media outlet, every defense attorney, the public, etc. 🤷🏻♀️— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) February 22, 2023
Sunlight is the best medicine.
U.S. Capitol Police had already shared the security footage with Congress, meaning top congressional leaders and committees can now access and share the tapes.
"When Congressional Leadership or Congressional Oversight Committees ask for things like this, we must give it to them," U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement.
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