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The DC Pipe Bomb Suspect
What is the FBI hiding from the public?
It has been over five months and the FBI still has not apprehended the hooded suspect who placed pipe bombs near the RNC and DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C. on the evening of January 5, 2021.
The FBI’s latest wanted poster provides photographs and few identifying characteristics of the suspect:
There are, however, some curious omissions in the FBI’s description. By now, we assume the FBI (if it has done a thorough investigation) has the suspect’s height, approximate weight, and shoe size.
Why not disclose that information to the public?
Calculating height from video footage is a simple matter of geometry. I won’t get into the details of the calculations. But in general, this graphic from the FBI’s Best Practices for Forensic Image Analysis shows the analysis done to determine the height of a bank robbery suspect.
In the DC pipe bomb case, the suspect was seen on video standing on a DC street on South Capitol Street on the night of January 5. From this camera angle, the suspect’s height is roughly even with the height of a nearby handrail. Not a complicated problem for the FBI’s experts to solve.
Once the suspect’s height is measured against the fixed object, it could be compared against and confirmed by use of the measurements from the resident seen on video walking his dog. (We assume that the FBI has located and interviewed this resident.)
By now the FBI also likely has a shoe size. Again, based on video footage this would be a simple measurement. Photograph for reference.
Currently, the FBI has a $100,000 reward for information leading to the identification of this suspect.
The FBI has pleaded with the public, saying “We need your help to identify the individual responsible for placing these pipe bombs to ensure that they will not harm themselves or anyone else.”
We reached out to the FBI, asking if they would release the suspect’s height and weight and shoe size. This information is essential to help the public identify the suspect.
The FBI’s response: “The FBI has no further information to supply on this matter other than what has already been released.”
Why keep the suspect’s identifying information under wraps?
A couple possibilities. First, the FBI’s investigation is probably further along than any of us know. They’re collecting data on purchases of the suspect’s Nike Air Max Speed Turf and the timers, etc. used to make the pipe bombs. From that data they cross-reference travel, locations on 1/5/2021, height, shoe size, etc.
Second, maybe there’s something else to this story. The FBI has always been sensitive to its public perception and controls information to serve that purpose. For example, the FBI has never been forthcoming about its agents’ involvement with terror suspects. Or, consider whether the pipe bomb investigation would cut against the politics of January 6. I take no pleasure in skepticism of the FBI, but this is a reputation the FBI has earned.
Either way, this outside observer can’t help but notice that one group of targets – those who entered the Capitol Building on January 6 – are pursued in the public sphere more aggressively than the person who set out pipe bombs the night before.