As inauguration nears, law enforcement scrutiny drives U.S. extremists into internet’s dark corners

January 15, 2021, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Shortly after rampaging Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a fan of the president posted a message on the pro-Donald Trump website Inspired by the mob’s attempt to stop lawmakers from confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, user CONN_WYNN said in an all-caps message, replete with an expletive, that it was “TIME TO LEAVE THE KEYBOARD” and “FIGHT FOR MY…COUNTRY.”

Two days later, agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Francisco field office came calling, according to another post by CONN_WYNN on the same website.

“PRO TIP: Think before you post. They are watching. I learned the hard way,” wrote the user on Sunday alongside a photograph of a business card from the agents.

A spokesman for the FBI’s San Francisco office said he could not provide any details about the reported interaction or confirm whether agents actually paid a visit to the person who posted that message. But “if he has our business card and said he was visited, I’m pretty sure we visited him,” the spokesman said.

Before the Capitol attack, such a post may not have elicited a follow-up visit. But in the aftermath of the riot, which left five people dead, federal law enforcement agencies have intensified their scrutiny of extremist chatter online, activity that officials warn could be early warning signals of planned attacks around Biden’s inauguration in Washington on Jan. 20.

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