Posted on September 4, 2021

Congress Asks Tech Firms to Keep Communications Records for Capitol Riot Probe

Mary Clare Jalonick, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2021

A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection has requested that telecommunications and social media companies preserve the personal communications of hundreds of people who may have been connected to the attack. It’s a sweeping public demand from Congress that is rare, if not unprecedented, in its breadth and could put the companies in a tricky position as they balance political and privacy interests.

The committee, which is just beginning its probe, did not ask the 35 companies to turn over the records — yet. In letters Monday, the panel asked them to save the records as part of the investigation into the violent mob of former President Trump’s supporters who stormed the building that day and interrupted the certification of President Biden’s victory.

Republicans immediately criticized the request, including Trump, members of his family and several GOP lawmakers, according to a person familiar with the confidential request and who requested anonymity to discuss it.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who is hoping to become speaker of the House if his party wins the majority in the 2022 midterm election, directly threatened the companies, tweeting that “a Republican majority will not forget” if they turn over information.


The committee sent letters to the 35 companies Monday, part of its larger probe into what happened Jan. 6 as Trump supporters beat police, broke through windows and doors and sent lawmakers running for their lives. The letters request that the companies “preserve metadata, subscriber information, technical usage information, and content of communications for the listed individuals” from April 2020 to Jan. 31.

The request includes the “content of communications, including all emails, voice messages, text or SMS/MMS messages, videos, photographs, direct messages, address books, contact lists, and other files or other data communications.”

The panel released the letters publicly but withheld the names on the list, which Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said last week numbered in the “hundreds.”

The companies that received the letters include social media giants Facebook, Twitter and TikTok; telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon; and the conservative and far-right platforms Parler, 4chan and

The panel has also requested that 15 social media companies provide records about misinformation, foreign influence and domestic extremism on their platforms related to the 2020 election. But the requests to preserve personal communications raise unique questions about the relationship between the technology companies and Congress.


McCarthy issued a blistering statement Tuesday evening on Twitter, saying the Democrats’ efforts “would put every American with a phone or computer in the crosshairs of a surveillance state run by Democrat politicians.”

He also said that, if the companies turned over private information, they would be “in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States.”