|Ali (Akbar) Alexander|
Stop the Steal organizer Ali (Akbar) Alexander, he of the Alabama ties via Montgomery lawyer and talk-show host Baron Coleman, has gone into hiding, according to a report at the Daily Beast. Is Alexander's disappearing act driven, in part, by reports that security researchers have cracked all the files at Parler, the site reportedly used by right wingers to plan last week's protest-turned-riot at the U.S. Capitol? Does Alexander know the security pros plan to provide Parler files to law enforcement, perhaps posing serious legal implications for planners from the Trump fringe who launched the rally that turned into a deadly assault on Congress?
It's too early to have definitive answers to those question, but it appears likely Alexander knows he's gone too far and might need to lawyer up shortly. Under the headline, "Stop the Steal’ Organizer in Hiding After Denying Blame for Riot," the DailyBeast's Will Sommer writes:
Two weeks before thousands of Trump rioters breached Congress, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander said his group wasn’t violent—“yet.”
“One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks,’” Alexander told a crowd at a Dec. 19 rally at Arizona’s state capitol. “I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!”
Alexander, who has described himself as one of the “official originators” of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, went on to use “yet” as a code word for violence. Then Alexander told the Phoenix crowd about his plans for Washington.
“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on January 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said. “And if we have to explore options after that…‘yet.’ Yet!”
Alexander apparently is not quite so glib these days. Writes Sommer:
Alexander led a host of activists in ratcheting up the rhetoric ahead of Congress’ certification of the electoral votes, threatening to “1776” opponents of Trump’s re-election. Now that five people, including a Capitol Police officer, are dead, however, Alexander has gone into hiding, and the website promoting his Jan. 6 rally has been wiped from the internet.
Alexander is defiant, saying he won’t “take an iota of blame that does not belong to me.”
“I didn’t incite anything,” Alexander said in a video posted Friday to Twitter. “I didn’t do anything.”
That last statement suggests Alexander already is thinking of a defense to federal incitement charges that could be coming. Does Alexander's claim that he "didn't incite anything" mesh with reality? Not exactly. Writes Sommer:
Alexander’s voice grew more menacing in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally. He tweeted that he would “give my life for this fight,” a call that was promoted by the Arizona Republican Party.
Alexander also began tweeting frequently about “1776,” a reference to the start of the American Revolution. Alexander wrote in one post that the choice was “45”—Trump’s re-election—“or 1776.” In another message, he wrote that “1776 is always an option for free men and women.”
Most pointedly, Alexander responded to a tweet from QAnon-supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming that top congressional leaders were working to block objections to the electoral vote. If that happened, Alexander said, he and hundreds of thousands of other protesters would “1776” the Capitol.
“If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. “1776 is *always* an option”
The night before the Jan. 6 rally, Alexander riled up Trump supporters in Washington with a “victory or death” chant and once again brought up “1776.”
“1776 is always an option,” Alexander told the crowd. “These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want, or we are going to shut this country down.”
For now, Alexander is out of sight and begging his followers for money:
Alexander claims to be in hiding, alleging in a video posted Friday that he needs $2,000 a day to fund his security detail and other expenses and hitting his fans up for donations. In a bizarre moment in his fundraising pitch, Alexander claimed that he was being targeted by the supernatural: “Witches and wiccans are putting hexes and curses on us.”
It’s not clear how, however, if Alexander’s supporters can send him money at all. On Saturday, he posted on Parler that he had been banned from Venmo and PayPal.
In his Friday video, Alexander claimed that his “rally never turned violent.” But Alexander also read a quote from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that positively compared the rioters to the heroes of the American Revolution, and said rioters who entered the Capitol should suffer light consequences, if any.
“I think people should be rowdy, I think people should be messy,” Alexander said. “I do believe that we own that U.S. Capitol. So I’m not apologizing for nothing.”
As for Parler, the story of its downfall -- and the resulting data leak -- broke early yesterday, and that could prove to be a gift from heaven for federal investigators. Writes Dell Cameron at Gizmodo:
In the wake of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by scores of President Trump’s supporters, a lone researcher [from Austria] began an effort to catalogue the posts of social media users across Parler, a platform founded to provide conservative users a safe haven for uninhibited “free speech” — but which ultimately devolved into a hotbed of far-right conspiracy theories, unchecked racism, and death threats aimed at prominent politicians.
The researcher, who asked to be referred to by her Twitter handle, @donk_enby, began with the goal of archiving every post from January 6, the day of the Capitol riot; what she called a bevy of “very incriminating” evidence. According to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, among other sources, Parler is one of a several apps used by the insurrections to coordinate their breach of the Capitol, in a plan to overturn the 2020 election results and keep Donald Trump in power.
Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this data tranche, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed that the raw video files include GPS metadata pointing to exact locations of where the videos were taken.
@donk_enby later shared a screenshot showing the GPS position of a particular video, with coordinates in latitude and longitude.
The privacy implications are obvious, but the copious data may also serve as a fertile hunting ground for law enforcement. Federal and local authorities have arrested dozens of suspects in recent days accused of taking part in the Capitol riot, where a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, was fatally wounded after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.
@donk_enby describes herself as hacker, in the sense that she’s “someone with a creative, but skeptical attitude toward technology,” to paraphrase a definition offered by the Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest hacker association. “I want this to be a big middle finger to those who say hacking shouldn’t be political,” she said. @donk_enby work has aided other researchers, including one at New York University’s Center for Cybersecurity.