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GOP witnesses undermined Jan. 6 cases with conspiracy theories, FBI says

The security clearances of two men who testified at a House hearing were revoked over their actions in Jan. 6 cases, as was that of another agent who was on Capitol grounds that day.
Suspended FBI special agent Garret O’Boyle, former FBI agent Steve Friend, suspended FBI agent Marcus Allen, and Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt are sworn in during a hearing before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government of the House Judiciary Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on May 18, 2023 on Capitol Hill.
Suspended FBI Special Agent Garret O’Boyle, former FBI Agent Steve Friend, suspended FBI Agent Marcus Allen and Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt are sworn in at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Two of the three self-proclaimed FBI whistleblowers who testified before a House subcommittee Thursday lost their security clearances because their conduct in Jan. 6 cases brought into question their allegiance to the U.S., a bureau official wrote in a letter to members of Congress this week.

A third FBI employee, a special agent who did not testify before the committee, lost his security clearance because he was on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but lied about his conduct, FBI Acting Assistant Director Christopher Dunham wrote in a letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, which was obtained by NBC News.

The letter preceded Thursday's hearing of the Jordan-led House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a new Republican panel that has focused on allegations that the government, and in particular the Justice Department, has unfairly targeted conservatives. The hearing featured testimony about the FBI, including from Steve Friend, a former FBI special agent, and Marcus Allen, an FBI analyst working out of the FBI’s Charlotte, North Carolina, field office who said in a lawsuit against the bureau that he had been suspended without pay.

The New York Times first reported on the revocations Wednesday night.

Friend told his bureau management in Florida he would not work Jan. 6 cases and "refused to participate in the execution of a court authorized, search and arrest," the letter said. Friend "espoused an alternative narrative about the events at the U.S. Capitol" before he downloaded documents from the FBI system to an unauthorized flash drive, Dunham wrote.

Friend also "participated in multiple, unapproved media interviews, including an interview with a Russian government news agency," and made a "surreptitious recording of a meeting with FBI management" that "may have violated Florida state law," the letter said. (Friend said at the hearing he believed Florida's two-party consent law had an exception for law enforcement.)

Allen, Dunham wrote, "espoused alternative theories" about Jan. 6 to co-workers "verbally and in emails and instant messages sent on the FBI systems, in apparent attempts to hinder investigative activity." Allen was admonished about sending the materials but "violated those instructions and continued to make such statements to his coworkers," according to the letter, including when he sent an email to multiple colleagues that "urged recipients to ‘exercise extreme caution and discretion in pursuit of any investigative inquiries or leads pertaining to the events of January 6.”

Allen also "failed to provide relevant information" to an FBI special agent about a Jan. 6 suspect who was later discovered to have physically assaulted U.S. Capitol Police officers, according to the letter. The case against the Jan. 6 suspect had been closed based on Allen's representation that he "did not find any information that the subject engaged in criminal activity nor did he find a nexus to terrorism," the letter said.

Friend and Allen testified Thursday alongside a third FBI employee, Garret O’Boyle, who is not mentioned in Dunham's letter but testified that he has also been suspended.

Dunham’s letter also revealed that the FBI revoked the security clearance of another special agent, Brett Gloss, who was present on the grounds of the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack in his personal capacity. The FBI was still adjudicating the status of a fourth unnamed FBI employee, according to the letter.

Gloss did not respond to requests for comment.

Tristan Leavitt, the president of Empower Oversight, which describes itself as a nonpartisan watchdog group, is providing legal representation for Friend and Allen. Leavitt said at the hearing that the FBI has a habit of "suspending security clearances to retaliate against whistleblowers" and that it is holding the families of FBI employees hostage by not allowing them to obtain new employment while they are suspended.

According to Dunham, an FBI investigation found that Gloss "knowingly entered a restricted zone around the U.S. Capitol" and "was present in an area close to protestors clashing with Capitol Police." The FBI also reviewed communications in which he "expressed support for the protestors’ unauthorized entry into the Capitol building and support for their criminal acts against the U.S.," the letter said. Gloss also "provided false and/or misleading information during his security interview about what he observed on January 6 and whether he was in the restricted area that day" that was disproven by evidence, including his own personal photos, according to the letter.

"The FBI’s investigation showed that Mr. Gloss remained in the restricted area even after what he believed was a deployment of tear gas and/or pepper spray, after witnessing protestors struggling with law enforcement trying to maintain barriers and eventually retreating due to protestor activity, and then immediately thereafter witnessing protestors climbing onto scaffolding. These actions showed a serious lack of judgment," the letter said. "Mr. Gloss also failed to report his presence near the Capitol on January 6 to the Security Division, even after being warned by his supervisor to do so."

The letter noted that FBI employees "who attended events on January 6, 2021—but who did not commit criminal conduct, such as trespass into a restricted zone—did not receive security clearance suspensions or revocations."

As NBC News first reported in the fall, the misdemeanor defendant whom Friend refused to assist in arresting was a member of a militia who is accused of using pepper spray at the Capitol on Jan. 6, had been dressed up in military gear and was present in the lower west tunnel, where some of the most brutal violence of the day took place.

In his lawsuit against the FBI, Allen said that he was informed last year that the bureau's security office had received information that he had "espoused conspiratorial views both orally and in writing and promoted unreliable information which indicates support for the events of January 6th" that raised "sufficient concerns" about his "allegiance to the United States."

Jordan said Thursday that it “doesn’t, frankly, surprise me that the FBI puts out this letter that night before we’re going to have a hearing," but he said he was "surprised it took them that long." Jordan called the witnesses "brave Americans who are willing to come forward.”

Not long after the Capitol attack, a top FBI official was warned that there was, "at best, a sizable percentage of the employee population that felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol." Jared Wise, a former FBI supervisory special agent who worked for the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, was arrested this month in connection with the Capitol attack. Court documents alleged that Wise urged fellow rioters to "kill" the law enforcement officials who were protecting the Capitol that day.

The FBI has arrested over 1,000 of the more than 3,000 people who could be charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and hundreds of additional rioters have been identified but not yet arrested, NBC News has reported.