Judge orders release of Capitol riot surveillance footage prosecutors wanted to keep under seal

US District Chief Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the prosecutors' arguments were too speculative, writing in a Sept. 15 opinion that their national security concerns were too broad.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A judge has ruled in favor of a media coalition that has requested footage of the Capitol riots used in cases, with the judge ordering prosecutors on Tuesday to release footage relating to a recent Jan. 6 case.

According to Buzzfeed News, the prosecutors initially refused to release the footage, stating that the release to the public could threaten the security of the Capitol Building by revealing the locations of camera that could help "bad actors" in future plots against the building.

US District Chief Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the prosecutors' arguments were too speculative, writing in a Sept. 15 opinion that their national security concerns were too broad. She wrote that anyone taking a public tour of the building could see the areas shown in the videos in question.

"Hundreds of cases have arisen from the events of January 6, with new cases being brought and pending cases being resolved by plea agreement every week," Howell wrote. "The public has an interest in understanding the conduct underlying the charges in these cases, as well as the government's prosecutorial decision-making both in bringing criminal charges and resolving these charges by entering into plea agreements with defendants."

Howell ordered the videos to be released in response to a request from a media coalition, including Buzzfeed News, "that is petitioning judges on a rolling basis for videos that prosecutors have relied on in Jan. 6 cases," wrote Buzzfeed News.

Prosecutors argued that the release of the footage would "compromise the security of the United States Capitol and those who work there."

"This footage, when combined with other footage from nearby cameras, could be used to track individual rioters moving through the building thereby creating a visual pathway which other bad actors could use in planning their breach point and pathway for future attacks," prosecutors wrote.

The videos released cover around 15 minutes on Jan. 6, between roughly 2:25 pm and 2:40 pm. The locations covered by the footage include the Crypt, an entrance on the Senate side where people had entered unlawfully, and a Senate entrance point from which police pushed protestors out.

These videos are part of a vast collection of surveillance footage collected by the US Capitol Building's CCV system on Jan. 6, capturing more than 14,000 hours of footage between noon and 8 pm, "creating the most complete video archive of events inside the building that day," wrote Buzzfeed News.

The footage has been strictly controlled in its release, with the United States Capitol Police controlling who can access the footage, and how much can be released.

The videos released were used in the recent case of Eric Torrens. Torrens is a Tennessee man who took a plea deal with the prosecutors and "pleaded guilty on Aug. 19 to one misdemeanor count of illegally parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol," according to Buzzfeed News.

Torrens admitted that he entered the building through a broken door, and walked around parts of the building. The government had noted in court documents that the surveillance cameras recorded his entry and his movements within the building.

"Prosecutors cited four other videos they obtained related to Torrens, including one that showed him exclaiming, 'We goin' in!' Those were also released on Tuesday," wrote Buzzfeed News.

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