In the aftermath of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of angry Trump supporters, Parler — the online hub for bigots and far-right extremists — was quickly painted as an instigating force, one that zealots had used to mount their offensive. But during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday probing the security failures that led to the insurrection, it was revealed that on more than 50 occasions, Parler had attempted to warn the FBI of the growing potential for violence.
According to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Parler had uncovered “specific threats of violence being planned at the Capitol” on its platform and was apparently ready to sing like a canary in the weeks leading up to January 6, outing its own members and providing transcripts of the concerning communication to the feds.
When asked outright by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) during testimony whether or not his agency had received any intelligence from social media companies, FBI Director Christopher Wray was evasive and seemed to downplay the existence of direct evidence that would have pointed to a mounting insurrectionist threat.
“We’ve had so much information, I’m reluctant to answer any questions about the word ‘any,’” Wray said. “Certainly we were aware of online chatter about the potential for violence, but I’m not aware that we had any intelligence indicating that hundreds of individuals were going to storm the Capitol itself, to my knowledge.”
When pressed on whether or not the FBI had received intelligence from Parler specifically prior to the Jan. 6 attack, Wray conceded that it had, but declined to give specifics on what kind of intelligence had been relayed.
“My understanding is that they sent emails to a particular Field Office and that some of those contained possible threat information and some of them were referred to domestic terrorism squads,” he said.
For what it’s worth, Wray’s testimony is seemingly in direct conflict with a letter Parler sent to lawmakers last March, in which it claimed in no uncertain terms that it had been trying desperately to relay the very real threat of violence to federal authorities for weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attack. In that letter, addressed to Maloney, Parler wrote that it had attempted to establish “formal lines of communication” with the FBI in light of record growth on the platform in the latter half of 2020, and wrote that it had sought to facilitate cooperation and forward instances of “unlawful incitement and violent threats.”
“Far from being the far-right instigator and rogue company that Big Tech has portrayed Parler to be, the facts conclusively demonstrate that Parler has been a responsible and law-abiding company focused on ensuring that only free and lawful speech exists on its platform,” Parler’s lawyers wrote in the letter.
One post Parler said it forwarded to the FBI called for an armed mob of 150,000 to march on D.C. on order to “react to the congressional events of January 6th.” Another sought recruits for “lighting up Antifa in Wa[shington, D.C.] on the 6th” because the user wanted to “start eliminating people.
Five people were ultimately killed as a result of the pro-Trump rampage, including one police officer who was beaten and one rioter who was shot at close range.