Plainclothes members of a special Electronic Surveillance Unit (ESU) were embedded among Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol protesters, The Epoch Times reported.
A First Amendment Demonstrations report obtained by The Epoch Times revealed that an undisclosed number of "plainclothes" Metropolitan Police Department ESU "members" were embedded into the crowd to "document the actions of the demonstrators and MPD's response to any civil disobedience or criminal activity."
The report was issued Jan. 3, 2021, by MPD Chief of Police Robert Contee, Homeland Security Bureau, Special Operations Division.
J. Michael Waller, senior analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy, said he believed that Contee, who became police chief Jan. 2, 2021, inherited rather than set up the ESU.
Still, Waller says the First Amendment Demonstrations report "raises a lot of questions."
"While it is admittedly an important type of unit to have in the nation's capital, electronic surveillance requires warrants," Waller told The Epoch Times. "The word surveillance itself implies intrusive rather than passive monitoring of people, in which case it would be required for the police to get warrants to conduct electronic surveillance on people.
"What kind of warrants were asked for and under which jurisdiction? Were they issued? If not, why? Are such warrants necessary for the type of surveillance this unit was doing and how does it work? This raises a huge amount of questions about an entirely new kind of surveillance unit by the police chief of the nation's capital."
The Epoch Times reported it was unclear who the MPD ESU "members" were, though the report never refers to them to as "officers" or "police."
ESU is not listed among the 37 "Specialized Units" of the MPD.
Waller told The Epoch Times that referring to "members" of the unit, as opposed to "officers" or "agents," also was disturbing.
"Are they using private contractors? Are they using political volunteers?" Waller said to the outlet. "Are they using paid agents of different types? We don't know. This is something the public has a right to know, and we need to get to the bottom of it. If the D.C. Police is running electronic surveillance on American citizens without warrants, this could be a very serious breach of our civil liberties."
ESU members wore a specific "bracelet on their left wrist identifying them as MPD personnel" so that other security personnel could recognize them while embedded among the protesters, the report said.
Some people have speculated that federal agents and Capitol Police instigated acts of violence during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol protests and recorded responses for the purposes of entrapment.
The New York Times reported in October that confidential records showed the FBI had an informant in the Jan. 6 crowd.
During a hearing in January, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, grilled Jill Sanborn, the FBI's executive assistant director for the national security branch, on whether bureau informants were at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.
Sanborn refused to answer key questions from Cruz, saying she couldn't disclose "sources and methods."
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