The federal investigation into the January 6 attack on the foundation of our democracy via the military-like assault on the Capitol building, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) filing on Attorney General Merrick Garland’s first day in office, as Marcy Wheeler sharply noted, “will likely be one of the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence,” (pdf) according to the DOJ’s filing on March 12, 2021 (via EmptyWheel).
The DOJ reported that it had, up to 75 days ago, served “over 900 search warrants” and collected “more than 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage…approximately 1,600 electronic devices…the results of hundreds of searches of electronic communication providers…over 210,000 tips, of which a substantial portion include video, photo and social media…and over 80,000 reports and 93,000 attachments.” The investigation includes 14 law enforcement agencies.
Consider just a single discovery release from federal prosecutors to Ethan Nordean’s defense lawyer. Nordean is the Proud Boys’ leader, the first among equals, on January 6 as a stand-in for Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys who was arrested in Washington, D.C. on January 4.
On April 29, 2021, the government released “eleven (11) strings of text messages, totaling over 5,000 pages, that contained the terms ‘Ministry of Self-Defense’ or ‘MOSD’…” The following day, the government released the full extraction of Telegram messages from Nordean’s cell phone. This release totaled “approximately 1,172 Telegram message strings (totaling over 1.3 million messages). The extracted text of the Telegram messages in Nordean’s phone runs over 204,000 pages (pdf) when printed in .pdf format, which does not include any of the images, audio, or video files that are associated with the message strings” (via EmptyWheel).
Of the “over 204,000 pages” of Telegram messages, publicly available pages found in court filings specifically related to those Telegram messages is about 2 pages.
Repeatedly in court filings DOJ prosecutors have stated that they have provided the bare minimum amount of evidence to show probable cause that a defendant or defendants have violated a specific federal law or continue to pose a danger to the community and should not be released from pre-trial detention.
In other words, all legal analyses and, in this case, an intelligence analysis of the January 6 attack, are based upon a minimum amount of evidence available to the public. Our analyses and assessments can be corroborated by future disclosures, require modifications, or undermine our findings completely. I accept that.
Conversely, federal prosecutors and FBI special agents are dealing with the proverbial “mountain of evidence.” Federal prosecutors and the FBI have, as of May 13, 2021, according to a Washington Post analysis, charged “at least 411 suspects,” including “75 people [charged] with assaulting police” and members of two groups, Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, charged with conspiracy. A total of 31 people are charged with conspiracy, according to the Post’s analysis.
The other consideration to keep in mind is that the FBI and DOJ prosecutors are preparing criminal cases that will either be tried before a jury or the defendants will plead guilty before trial. In other words, DOJ lawyers are not analyzing the January 6 attack as a military attack and they appear not to be trying to understand the tactical assault as a military attack.
CONSPIRACY CHARGES CAUSE DOJ PROBLEMS
This lack of analysis or understanding of the January 6 insurrection as a military attack has seemingly caused some difficulties for federal prosecutors in court, particularly when pressured by the Court or defense lawyers to produce “a plan.”
The Washington Post on May 13, noted that “prosecutors will have to spell out how much of their evidence points to planning by some of the attackers, how much was spontaneous and what remains uncertain about the origins of the riot.”
This has been a running problem for federal prosecutors and at times federal prosecutors who in court have apparently lost the plot, so to speak, on the planning for the military attack by the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
Within one week of the January 6 attack, the FBI and DOJ were looking at conspiracy charges, according to the Washington Post and CNN. By January 19, the DOJ had filed its first conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers.
Marcy Wheeler called this the “First Node of the Insurrection Conspiracy.” By early February, Wheeler noted that the indictment of several Proud Boys suggested the apparent outline of “two parallel conspiracy prosecutions, each sharing the same object—to halt the vote certification — and each also sharing several of the same overt acts.”
By the middle of March, following the “First Superseding Indictment” (pdf) of four Proud Boys leaders—Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Charles Donohoe—and some additional evidence, Wheeler observed that this “brings two parallel conspiracies laid out over a month ago closer together, arguably intersecting.”
But in Wheeler’s analysis, the intersecting appeared to be limited to the proximity of Joseph Biggs and two other Proud Boys with the Oath Keepers’ “stack” formation on the east side of the Capitol at the Columbus Doors. In other words, the “intersecting” was limited to a time-space correlation between the two groups at one instance. Wheeler did note that “these conspiracy indictments will remain separate only for prosecutorial ease.”
Wheeler, in my opinion, points out a probable problem the DOJ prosecutors have—namely that they are not looking at January 6 insurrection as a military attack with one operational plan—and she reveals her own inability to understand the January 6 as a military attack. If you keep the prosecution of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys separate for “prosecutorial ease,” which may be a very sound legal strategy, it may also have the unintended effect of not allowing prosecutors to see how these two attacks were jointly planned and jointly executed.
In her March 19 article, twice linked above, Wheeler describes “The State of the Five Now-Intersecting January 6 Militia Conspiracies.” In April, Wheeler added a fifth Proud Boys conspiracy: the Proud Boy North Door. Here are her six “intersecting conspiracies”: Oath Keepers, Proud Boy Media, Proud Boy Leadership, Proud Boy Kansas, Proud Boy North Door, and Proud Boy Front Door.”
First, by her own criteria of intersecting, a strong time-space correlation, there is no intersecting between the Oath Keepers and Proud Boy Media and Proud Boy Kansas. Oath Keepers and Proud Boy Leadership and Proud Boy Front Door are correlated only through Joseph Biggs’ proximity to the Oath Keepers at the Columbus Doors. In other words, Wheeler’s own criteria undermines the presumed prosecutorial ambition to tie the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys into one conspiracy, even if they keep those conspiracies separate for “prosecutorial ease.”
Second, what ties all the Proud Boys’ conspiracies together—Media, Leadership, Kansas, and Front Door—is the fact that they were operating from one operational plan (pdf) as Proud Boys (via EmptyWheel). There are not four Proud Boys conspiracies. There is one.
But it is the stumbling of federal prosecutors to articulate in court what the “plan” was that is most troubling.
On March 3, the Washington Post reported that Judge Beryl A. Howell released Ethan Nordean from pre-trial detention because “the government had not supplied evidence to date that he directly ordered individuals to break into the Capitol.” The Post quoted Judge Howell as stating, “‘Evidence that he directed other defendants to break into or enter the Capitol is weak, to say the least.’” The Post also quoted Judge Howell stating, “‘The government has backed down from saying that he directly told them to split into groups and that they had this strategic plan.’” And the Post noted that Nordean’s defense attorney had “argued that the government failed to allege any evidence of plans or conspiracy to commit any specific crime involving the ‘depredation’ of government property.”
Nine days later March 12, a pre-trial detention hearing resulted in Judge Amit Mehta releasing Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell. Caldwell’s defense attorney asked in his filing claiming five government inaccuracies: “‘Doesn’t the Court find it odd that the Government hasn’t outlined the specifics of the premeditated plan? What time was the ‘invasion’ scheduled to begin? Who would lead the attack? What was the goal once the planners entered the Capitol? Who was the leader in the attack? What was the exit strategy of the planners?’” (pdf) (via EmptyWheel).
But it is the response of Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy which is stunningly dangerous.
Wheeler analyzed Rakoczy’s response to Caldwell’s questions. First, Wheeler quoted part of Rakoczy’s response: “‘They were waiting to see what leadership did. When leadership did what they referred to as ‘nothing,’ they did take matters into their own hands. They were waiting and watching to see what was happening.’” Wheeler then wrote:
“AUSA Kathryn Rakoczy conceded that the alleged co-conspirators didn’t have hard and fast plans as to what would happen before the event. This was a plan made of ‘possibilities,’ which included the possibility (the facetious excuse offered by Caldwell) that other groups would resort to violence if Vice President Pence threw out the vote and the Oath Keepers would have to respond with force, or that President Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act and the Oath Keepers would come in to institute martial law. As Rakoczy described, they were ‘watching and waiting to see what leadership did’ to achieve the goal of preventing the vote count, which goal the ‘government submits was unlawful and corrupt.’”
Wheeler also pointed out that only after Judge Mehta released Caldwell “did Rakoczy point out the problem with this argument: Caldwell is not charged with conspiring to storm the Capitol [emphasis in original].
Wheeler’s analysis also pointed to a larger potential problem for prosecutors and perhaps for the public to understand: The goal of the conspiracy was much larger than assaulting the Capitol and stopping the certification of the Electoral College vote. Wheeler argued:
“The real goal, after all, was to overthrow the democratic system, and impeding the vote count was just one means to achieve that conspiracy. The conspiring that started even before the election was about overthrowing democracy, not just January 6…. But one reason it worked is because the real goal of the conspiracy—the one that Caldwell’s lawyer all but conceded to today—was to do whatever it took to prevent the lawfully elected President from taking power.”
The government on March 23 filed another motion regarding Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs (pdf) (via EmptyWheel) and his activities related to operational planning and on May 13 made another filing related to additional Proud Boys Telegram messages (pdf) (via EmptyWheel). All the planning and coordinating related to these additional DOJ releases are analyzed in detail and in the larger context of operational planning in Part 5.
On April 19, Judge Timothy Kelly ordered that Proud Boys leaders Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs to remain in pre-trial detention. The Washington Post reported that Judge “Kelly said that whatever gaps in prosecutors’ case so far, there was abundant evidence that Army veteran Biggs and Nordean with others planned in advance for violence and to cause chaos, coordinated confrontations with police, and conspired to conceal or ‘nuke’ their encrypted messages.” Just to note, in this ruling Judge Kelly is relying upon evidence contained in the “First Superseding Indictment” of the Proud Boys and not later filings by federal prosecutors.
Defense lawyers argued, according to the Post, that Nordean and Biggs “were prepared only to protect Trump supporters from far-left violence. Their attorneys also argued that Proud Boys members expressed as much surprise as anyone that they were able to breach the Capitol, and prosecutors had not presented any clear evidence of what their plan was.”
The Post also reported Judge Kelly’s rebuttal to the defense claims: “‘In the end, the evidence is overwhelming that Nordean and Biggs had a plan for that day. The question is, what is the strength of the government’s case that the plan is what the grand jury charged?’ Kelly said. ‘In my view, the evidence is strong enough,’ the judge said, ‘even if as in most conspiracy cases, we don’t have a document or information that lays out the conspiracy plainly.’”
And some judges have distinguished between defendants in terms of how serious their crimes were or how dangerous they are in the future. The Washington Post reported that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. ruled: “‘In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way.’”
Thus, some federal judges have ruled that there is not enough evidence of a conspiracy. Some federal judges have ruled there is enough evidence, but they would like to see more. And at least one federal prosecutor almost sounded like a defense attorney.
THREE MODELS OF THE JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION ATTACK
What follows next is a presentation of three models for understanding the January 6 insurrection attack as a military attack. These models are the Immaculate Insurrection, the Five Parallel and Intersecting Conspiracies, and the Single Envelopment Three Transient Attack.
The Immaculate Insurrection model is the favorite of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers defense lawyers. In this model there is no prior operational planning; there is no intent to “storm” the Capitol building; the defendants’ intent was to defend Trump or the election results from Antifa; there is no coordination with other groups; and the defendants were simply caught up “in a moment” or “swept away” by the crowd’s emotions. When the insurrectionists found themselves inside the Capitol, inside the Senate Chamber, or attempting to breach the door at the Speaker’s Lobby, their reaction was Gomer Pyle’s “surprise, surprise, surprise, golly, shazam.”
The Five Parallel and Intersecting Conspiracies model, discussed above, is the model favored by Marcy Wheeler at EmptyWheel. The weakness of this model is that it does not attempt to understand the attack as a military attack that has a clear military design and follows some important principles of war (if you will). Wheeler also breaks apart the one operational plan of the Proud Boys into four conspiracies and, like the DOJ prosecutors and FBI special agents, misinterprets or misunderstands a crucial piece of evidence that they have disclosed in a court filing.
However, the strength or virtue of Wheeler’s model or her analysis based upon her model is that she argued strongly that the conspiracy to overthrow the government began long before January 6, 2021 and was driven by Donald Trump. As Wheeler argued, “The real goal…was to overthrow the democratic system…. [and] do whatever it took to prevent the lawfully elected President from taking power.” Whatever disagreement I have with a part of her analysis of the attack, we share a common view of the larger conspiracy.
The third model, the model I propose here in this intelligence analysis is the Single Envelopment Three Transient Attack model. This model makes the strongest claims and goes beyond Wheeler’s model and the presentations by federal prosecutors because it is based on an intelligence analysis of the evidence presented by federal prosecutors as well as other photographic and video evidence found on such websites as Insurgent Hunter (Jan6Evidence) and DeTrumpify.
Future federal disclosures of evidence could corroborate this model, modify this model, or undermine it. The weakest part of the model is the finding that the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys shared a Tactical Operations Center. But if they did not, the core of the model remains intact.
KEY FINDINGS OF THE INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS
The following are the key findings of this intelligence analysis. The findings are backed by evidence and analysis.
The Single Envelopment Three Transient Attack model:
Transient 1 was a deception (see Part 2). Even though the bulk of the MAGA rioters were congregating and attacking along the West Capitol Plaza the main purpose of this transient was to focus the manpower and perceptions of the defending police forces on this location.
Transient 2 was the main attack (see Part 3). The Proud Boys shifted their focus and manpower from Transient 1 to the Northwest Stairs. They broke through the thin police line on the stairs, dashed across the Northwest Courtyard, and bashed open the windows and doors on the Senate side.
Transient 3 was also a main attack (see Part 4). The Oath Keepers “stack” formation and VIP Security detail both staged to the east side of the Capitol where they waited, inert and lacking initiative, until the Proud Boys or the MAGA rioters opened the Columbus Doors.
The Oath Keepers arrived on the east side of the Capitol building at around 1335H (see Part 4).
The Proud Boys maneuver from the Transient 2 breach to the Senate Chamber up one flight of stairs was both a tactical failure and a catastrophic strategic failure (see Part 3).
The Proud Boys transition from Transient 2 to Transient 3 was also both a tactical failure and a catastrophic strategic failure (see Part 3).
The attack was jointly planned by the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys (see Part 5).
The attack was jointly executed by the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys (see Part 4).
The inert behavior of the Oath Keepers on Transient 3 makes sense only if the Oath Keepers had pre-planned the attack (see Part 4).
There are indications, based on an analysis of Proud Boys actions linked to Oath Keepers’ communications, suggesting that the Oath Keepers were receiving near-real time Proud Boys operational updates and reacting to those updates (see Part 4).
The Oath Keepers were apparently reacting to Proud Boys communications in near-real time because Person Ten, the Oath Keepers ground commander on January 6, was either co-located inside the Proud Boys’ Tactical Operations Center, or was monitoring their “New MOSD” Telegram channel (see Part 4).
THE PURPOSE OF AN INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS
Federal prosecutors are limited in their court appearances to the actions of a single defendant or a small group of defendants. Defendants appearing at the same time-space coordinates inside the Capitol building are treated separately by the DOJ because they are different court cases. In the intelligence analysis, those time-space coordinates are brought together.
Neither the DOJ prosecutors nor Marcy Wheeler analyze the January 6 attack as a military attack. Neither write about maneuvers. Neither write about transients. Neither write about focus of effort. Neither write about maskirova or deception.
Let me offer two examples of how the intelligence analysis differs from the DOJ/FBI filings and Marcy Wheeler’s analysis.
The Oath Keepers Timeline
In Part 4, for example, I analyze Jessica Watkins’ Zello communications to develop a reality-based timeline of the Oath Keepers movements on January 6. I argue that part of her communications was clearly not true and were deceptive to hide the location of the Oath Keepers’ stack. This runs counter to the conclusion of the New York Times and Christiian Triebert of the New York Times who take the Zello communications at face value and apparently believe a video that is clearly mistaken as to the time and location of the Oath Keepers formation as it walked to the Capitol.
The New York Times’s analysis of the Zello communication and a video shot by an independent journalist, requires you to believe it took the Oath Keepers 101 minutes to transit from the Ellipse to the east side of the Capitol building and arrived 1434H. That is one minute before, at 1435H, that the federal government states that the “stack” formed and began its trek up the stairs and through the Columbus Doors. An average person can complete the 1.8 mile distance in 37 minutes.
I reject the New York Times assertions because they are wrong.
Based on my analysis of calculations involving speed, time, and distance; the time of departure from the Ellipse based on photographic evidence provided by the New York Times; and a court filing by Watkins’ lawyer claiming that federal prosecutors stipulated that Watkins arrived at the Capitol 40 minutes after the initial breach, I calculated the accurate arrival time of the Oath Keepers on the east side of the Capitol is roughly 1335H. Google Maps estimates that the transit time from the Ellipse to the east side of the Capitol is 37 minutes (see Part 4).
In short, my intelligence analysis is not stenography. It does not accept conclusions at face value. The data must be tested. The data also must fit what we know from DOJ court filings and video evidence. Above all, the data must make sense. The acceptance of the New York Times analysis is based upon uncritically taking their word for it. A 73-minute transit time would be absurd. But a 101-minute transit time is preposterous.
“Alliance” and “Orchestrated” Versus “Coordination”
The second example of where this intelligence analysis challenges the interpretations of both the DOJ and Marcy Wheeler concerns the joint planning of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. In my view, both the DOJ and Wheeler misconstrue the evidence collected by the FBI from Kelly Meggs. All the data and quotes come from the DOJ filing “Government’s Opposition to Defendant’s Renewed Request for Pretrial Release” (pdf) (via EmptyWheel) and Wheeler’s comments in the link just provided.
In the government filing, DOJ prosecutors use the word “coordination” three times as it pertains exclusively to Kelly Meggs.
First instance (DOJ): “On December 19, Defendant Meggs discussed his coordination with other groups who were also planning to be in Washington, D.C., on January 6.”
Here is the evidence from Meggs they consider “coordination”: “[T]his week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together and shut this shit down” [emphasis added].
Does “organized an alliance” and “work together” for the common purpose of shutting something down sound like mere coordination? Did foreign ministers Ribbentrop and Molotov coordinate or did they negotiate a non-aggression pact?
Second instance (DOJ): “On December 22, Defendant Meggs discussed coordination with the Proud Boys and the number of Oath Keepers who will be in Washington, D.C., on January 6.”
As I analyze in Part 4, what Meggs described was a single-envelopment attack using two attacking forces on two transients. He did not use those words but that is what he is describing.
Here is Meggs’ description of a single envelopment attack using two attacking forces on two transients: “I figure we could splinter off the main group of PB and come up behind them. Fucking crush them for good[.]… We can hang for a while they’ll see one group then we all fall to the back of the pack and peel off. We catch them in the middle...game over[.]”
Bear in mind that Meggs has zero military experience. It is probable that he is describing a sanitized version of the joint Proud Boys and Oath Keeper maneuvers based on a battle plan already devised. What he does do, probably thinking that he is maintaining operational security, is state that the target of the attack is Antifa. But that is ludicrous. How does fighting Antifa forces in Washington, D.C. keep Trump president and Biden out of the White House? The Oath Keepers talk about Antifa is probably just a thin cover story.
I have followed the Oath Keepers since they formed in 2009. In 12 years they have engaged in precisely zero street fights. Meggs’ description of Oath Keepers attacking Antifa forces on the street and “crushing” them is a fantasy, a delusion. But, if you look at the apparent battle plan as it unfolded on January 6—single envelopment, three transients, two attacking forces—his sanitized description is closer to that model.
Third instance (DOJ): “On December 25, Defendant Meggs provided a provisions list—mace, gas mask, baton, plate carrier—and discussed coordination with the Proud Boys.”
Here is the evidence of “coordination” with the Proud Boys: “[W]e have orchestrated a plan with the proud boys. I’ve been communicating with REDACTED the leader” [emphasis added].
What does it mean to “orchestrate” something? In music it means to “arrange or write a piece of music so that it can be played by an orchestra.” It is a final product that is ready to be used. Does the DOJ think Beethoven coordinated all the instruments used in his Symphony Number 9?
To orchestrate can also mean “to plan and organize something carefully and sometimes secretly in order to achieve a desired result.” Again, there is a final product that is ready to be executed.
In both instances, the DOJ misconstrues an “alliance” and “orchestrated” as coordination. That is not correct. It probably leads the DOJ prosecutors astray.
Wheeler does use the Meggs quote regarding “organized an alliance” in her article. She then wrote, “On Christmas, Meggs specifically tied protection, almost certainly of Stone, and coordination with a Proud Boy, almost certainly Tarrio, in the same text” [emphasis added].
Wheeler adopts the DOJ framing of “orchestrated” as “coordination” and then adds that communications with Tarrio, which Meggs stated created an “alliance” and a decision to “work together” as “coordination with a Proud Boy.” Wheeler’s formulation is weak.
Wheeler then gave an even weaker formulation of coordination. Now Meggs is contemplating coordination.
Wheeler quoted former acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin unhelpful comments on 60 Minutes. Sherwin suggested that “‘Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Proud Boys, did have a plan. We don’t know what the full plan is, to come to D.C., organize, and breach the Capitol in some manner.’” Wheeler then commented, “By the end of the day (having had their secret blown), DOJ showed that not only had the guy in charge of the Stack been thinking in terms of ‘insurrection’ for over a week, but was also thinking about coordinated action among the different militia.”
In Wheeler’s formulation, Meggs has gone from “orchestrated a plan with the proud boys” to “thinking about coordinated action among the different militia.”
Is it any wonder that the DOJ’s fixation on “coordination” and Wheeler’s even weaker formulations has left lawyers wondering what the plan was? They cannot conceive of the January 6 insurrection attack as a military attack. Even when one of the participants in the process of formulating a joint plan tells the DOJ what the Oath Keepers did, the DOJ prosecutors misinterpret his messages given to a presumably very trusted person or persons on Facebook. And I argue in Part 5, when you put Meggs’ Facebook disclosures in the context and timeline of the entire month of December, in other words not taking Meggs’ disclosures out of context, what Meggs accomplished with the Proud Boys becomes clearer.
And in the third message that the DOJ used the word “coordination” they missed the description of the attack Meggs gave because they themselves have not conceptualized the battle plan. The DOJ has teams of lawyers prosecuting individuals in the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys but have no concept of what the attack even looked like. Wheeler’s analysis of the attack—the five interlocking conspiracies discussed above—is only slightly more helpful than the DOJ’s complete lack of a model.
In the third message Meggs described a single-envelopment attack using two attacking forces and two transients: “We are gonna March with them for a while then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the proud boys get in front of them the cops will between antifa and proud boys. We will come in behind antifa and beat the hell out of them.”
The next section reveals what the actual January 6 attack looked from a military intelligence perspective. The plan looks simple. The plan could fit on the back of a napkin, a single sheet of paper, or in one or two Power Point slides. It is complex to pull off. And it unlikely to have developed spontaneously, on the spot, or intuitively from a crowd mind.
THE SINGLE ENVELOPMENT THREE TRANSIENT ATTACK
There was no better teacher than John Boyd (pdf via Frans Osinga) when it comes to strategy and tactics. While Boyd is most famous for his Observation-Orientation-Decision-Act Loop (pdf) (OODA Loop), he also produced several briefings for military audiences, including his 193-slides “Patterns of Conflict.” Ian Brown has provided a tremendously helpful 179-page transcript of Boyd’s “Discourse on Winning and Losing,” which Boyd introduces as his “Patterns of Conflict” briefing. The slides and the transcript are synched. My copy of Brown’s transcript and Boyd’s briefing were kindly provided by the U.S. Marine Corps University’s History Division via email. However, both the “Abstract” (aka “A Discourse on Winning and Losing”) and “Patterns of Conflict” (typed version) are available at Project White Horse created by Boyd’s acolyte Dr. Chet Richards.
Early in his “Discourse on Winning and Losing” briefing John Boyd introduces the Sun Tzu concepts of cheng and chi. And what these concepts tell you from an intelligence perspective is that what you may be seeing initially is a deception and you must look for the surprise or what Boyd called more properly a “hard shock.”
As Boyd summarized, “Cheng is the ordinary…the direct…the obvious…the deception” while “Chi is the extraordinary…. the indirect…. the hidden…. the surprise.” One of the purposes of cheng and chi is to play the game of concentration and dispersion which leads to the ability, among other things, to place strength against weakness in the attack.
For the single envelopment, Boyd presented the Battle of Leuctra (see Figure 1). Outnumbered two to one, Epamonidas, the Theban commander, “thinned out his center and right wing…put the stronger troops in here [left flank], so at the point of attack he had strength against weakness…. And…it’s a single envelopment scheme.”
The cheng is the troops in the center and right, while the chi is troops on the left. The Thebans put strength against weakness and then pivoted behind the Spartans to give them a “hard shock.” It is a maneuver designed to “pull apart” an adversary with a rapid, violent transient that overloads their ability to react.
The key to this attack is the unequal distribution of forces. This is exactly the maneuver the Proud Boys do shifting from Transient 1 to Transient 2 after they shed their orange colors and become ambiguous and formless.
Figure 2 shows on a Power Point slide what the entire attack looked like. If the FBI special agents and DOJ prosecutors are looking at what the battle plan probably looked like, it is probably Figure 2 or something similar. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers would probably not need a 10-page operation order to pull this off. There are two main attacking forces: Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. There is also a third attacking force: the Make America Great Again (MAGA) rioters and spectators. The MAGA rioters serve two purposes: to provide cover and concealment for the Proud Boys and to be incited to attack and maintain the attack on the police on the western side of Capitol building.
There are three transients in Figure 2: (1) the brute force attack led and incited by the Proud Boys from the Peace Monument to the Lower West Terrace to the Upper West Terrace and then into the West Door; however only one known Proud Boy stays on this transient after the Proud Boys have departed up the Northwest Stairs; (2) the flanking maneuver led by the Proud Boys and the MAGA mob from the Lower West Terrace up the Northwest Stairs to the Northwest Courtyard and then breaching the Northwest Doors and Windows; and, (3) the apparently intended joint Proud Boys—Oath Keepers breach of the East Capitol Center door.
There is a red transient arrow (MAGA mob) from the Northwest Door (Transient 2) that was breached by the Proud Boys through the Rotunda to the East Capitol Columbus Doors (Transient 3). The latter door was opened from the inside (pdf) (via DOJ) by an apparent MAGA mob that included Philip Grillo, according to the FBI’s “Statement of Facts” accompanying the criminal complaint. That MAGA mob was “a large crowd” of unspecified size that may or may not have included or been incited by the Proud Boys. It is difficult to say one way or the other because the Proud Boys were dressed “incognito.” On the other side of the Columbus Doors were Proud Boys led by Joseph Biggs, who was entering for the second time, and the now infamous Oath Keeper “stack.”
The Washington Post estimated that within 78 minutes of the initial breach of the Capitol grounds at 1253H there were “at least 9,400 people” on the west side of the Capitol and “at least 2,000 people” on the west side of the Capitol. On the western side of the Capitol the police forces were outnumbered at least 58 to 1. But of the minimum number of 11,400 people on the Capitol grounds, the Washington Post reported that “about 800 people were part of the human wave that stormed the Capitol complex.”
If you make a very conservative estimate of 100 combined Oath Keepers and Proud Boys inside the Capitol building, they represent about 12% of the attackers inside the building (100/800). The greater the number of combined Oath Keepers and Proud Boys inside the building, the higher the percentage of attackers who came to the Capitol to execute a violent plan on behalf of Donald Trump. However, the Washington Post does not provide an estimate how many MAGA rioters remained on Transient 1 and engaged the Metropolitan Police Department in hand-to-hand combat for 155 minutes inside the narrow tunnel on the Lower West Terrace.
DOJ filings on the Proud Boys mention the Proud Boys’ reconnaissance march from the Washington Monument at 1000H until 1252H only in passing. They give it no weight. They pay virtually no attention to it. They fail to see the significance of the march. They fail to do all those things because they have not analyzed the riot as a military attack.
All the times in Figure 3 are taken from the time segments of Eddie Block’s videos. What is interesting of course is that there is a gap of about 73 minutes between when the Proud Boys had scheduled their all-hands meeting at 1000H and when they arrived at Union Square at around 1113H. Some of the time is transit time. But some of the time is briefing time.
What did the Proud Boys learn on this reconnaissance march?
They were able to survey the physical barricades and the number of USCP officers between the Peace Monument and the West Plaza terraces. They would have also been able to gauge the reaction of the few USCP officers at the second barricade not far from Peace Monument. The Proud Boys leaders would have been able to orient the rank-and-file as to where Transient 1 starts and where Transient 1 will meet the phalanx of USCP officers at the Lower West Plaza. The leaders would also have been able to point out where Transient 2 was located relative to Transit 1. When they moved east along Constitution Avenue and then turned parallel to First Street NE, they would have been able to survey the defenses at Transient 3 on the east side of the Capitol. They would have understood that the MAGA mob on Transient 3 would legally be much closer to the Capitol building than where the MAGA mob started at Transient 1. The Proud Boys then enjoyed some nourishment at the food trucks, returned to the Peace Monument, and induced the MAGA mob to make the initial breach of the Capitol grounds at 1253H—the exact time that the Oath Keepers started to depart Trump’s speech at the Ellipse.
Most importantly, the Proud Boys would have been able to deposit the core of Transient 3—those Proud Boys who were “incognito” and blending into the MAGA mob.
What would the Proud Boys have been able to see on this reconnaissance march?
Figure 4 shows the west side of the Capitol building with labels for the various locations. The Proud Boys leadership could have oriented the rank-and-file Proud Boys as to where Transient 1 and Transient 2 were. But the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys planners, if they had found various photos of the Capitol building, would have noticed that the western side of the Capitol favors the defense, not the offense. All the attackers would be channelized into a narrow front at the Lower West Plaza. A phalanx of police, even if outnumbered and retreating, would always occupy the high ground, except for scaffolding to the northwest and southwest, and a media scaffold in the center. The defending police forces could be outflanked only at the northwest and southwest steps.
Figure 5 is the same view without the labels.
Figure 6 shows what the Proud Boys would have seen on Transient 3. The avenue of approach is quite broad. But what the Proud Boys leaders would have seen is that the first police barricade of bicycle racks was quite close to the East Central Plaza steps and Columbus Doors.
That is not an optical illusion. The MAGA crowd would have been able to snuggle in-between the two small lampposts that were blocked only by bicycle racks. The Proud Boys leaders would have also seen that the stairs were narrower than the stairs on the west side. That could limit how many attackers could be on the stairs battling a small number of police.
There are three models for understanding the January 6 insurrection attack. The Immaculate Insurrection model is advocated by defense lawyers for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. If they can bamboozle a jury with their rhetorical questions about the non-existence of a plan, lack of a timeline, and lack of an exit strategy, and whatever other buzzwords they yank out of the air, they might be able to pull off a stunning acquittal.
The Five Parallel and Interlocking Conspiracies model is a vast improvement over the Immaculate Insurrection model. It recognizes that the Proud Boys planned, and the Oath Keepers planned. But the five conspiracies are too fragmented. The five conspiracies are also contradicted by DOJ’s Proud Boys data analyzed in Part 5. According to the secret Ministry of Self Defense (MOSD) cell within the upper leadership of the Proud Boys on January 6, the Proud Boys had “one operational plan” with “a lot of contingencies” and “teams…are going to be put together” (pdf) (via EmptyWheel).
The Five Parallel and Interlocking Conspiracies model does not analyze and does not understand the January 6 riot as a military attack. DOJ prosecutors, based on the small glimpses we have been given, have a difficult time explaining what the battle plan for either the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys looks like, let alone for a joint plan.
The Single Envelopment Three Transient Attack model analyzes the January 6 riot or insurrectionist attack as a military attack. Based on data from a wide variety of sources it lays out the battle plan. The design of the attack is simple. Pulling it off is complex. Maneuvers perceived to be coordinated by two attacking forces would require some means of shared communications for at least near-real time coordination. If you reject that finding, then you accept a serendipity assumption that it happens by random chance—a variant of the Immaculate Insurrection model. The Single Envelopment Three Transient Attack model argues that the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers developed a joint plan and jointly executed the plan and had near-real time communications sharing.
For two attacking forces to act in a coordinated fashion on the ground in real-time requires prior joint planning and a way to react quickly to on-the-ground developments. Thus the model suggests there are indications that the Oath Keepers may have had a contingent embedded inside the Proud Boys’ Tactical Operations Center—an external location the FBI stated existed. Or the Oath Keepers had some method of passively monitoring the Proud Boys’ “New MOSD” Telegram channel.
The design of the battle plan, as laid out in Figure 2, also argues that the behavior of the Oath Keepers on Transient 3 makes no tactical sense unless they had planned this attack with the Proud Boys. The Oath Keepers on Transient 3 are inert and demonstrate no initiative. They are certainly not formless or ambiguous. They do not blend in. For a paramilitary unit that brags and boasts about the quality of its members and its military training and experience, it is remarkably passive. They only break their half-baked cover story of providing VIP security at the Ellipse at the precise minute that the Proud Boys initiate the breach of the Capitol grounds at the Peace Monument at 1253H. They have not apparently performed a pre-attack reconnaissance of their area of operations. It is their very passivity that strongly suggests prior joint planning with the Proud Boys.