Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., addressed delays Tuesday of the release of thousands of hours of Capitol security footage from Jan. 6, 2021, saying "we have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in events of that day because we don't want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ." File photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Nearly three weeks after Republicans cleared the release of all security footage from the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, House Speaker Mike Johnson blamed delays Tuesday on the time it takes to blur faces to protect participants from the Justice Department.
"We're going through a methodical process of releasing them as quickly as we can," Johnson told reporters Tuesday. "As you know, we have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in events of that day because we don't want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ and have other, you know, concerns and problems."
Johnson's spokesman later clarified that the reason for the blurred faces is to "prevent all forms of retaliation against private citizens from any non-governmental actors. The Department of Justice already has access to raw footage from Jan. 6, 2021," Raj Shah wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Johnson and House Republicans cleared the release of approximately 44,000 hours of Capitol footage last month to allow "the American people to draw their own conclusions" and to appease members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which has been calling for the footage to be made public.
"This decision will provide millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials," Johnson said.
More than 1,100 people have been charged, and more than 700 have pleaded guilty for their roles in the riot as President Joe Biden's 2020 election win over former President Donald Trump was certified. The Justice Department has asked for the public's help to identify hundreds of people at the Capitol that day.
While some footage was uploaded quickly to the Committee on House Administration website, the rest has been delayed.
"When I ran for speaker, I promised to make accessible to the American people the 44,000 hours of video from Capitol Hill security taken on Jan. 6, 2021," Johnson said last month in a statement, which also promised to blur the faces of private citizens and redact about 5% of the footage for security concerns.
"We want the American people to draw their own conclusions," Johnson said. "I don't think partisan elected officials in Washington should present a narrative and expect that it should be seen as the ultimate truth."