DC website about Capitol's underground tunnel maps exploded with traffic days before Jan 6 attack: report
Tunnel and train under the U.S. Capitol (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

NBC News reporter Scott MacFarlane reported Tuesday that a website maintained by a former Capitol intern about the underground tunnels beneath the U.S. Capitol exploded with web traffic the day prior to the attack on the building.

Speaking to NBC Washington, MacFarlane explained that Elliot Carter, who runs the website WashingtonTunnels.com, was worried that people were trying to find escape routes or entry points to the building during the attack or for the attack. His concern made its way to leadership in the U.S. Capitol Police.

"These people were suddenly obsessed with the Capitol building," Carter said.

Carter's website goes through the history and updated information on the underground tunnels and pipe systems as part of the city planning for Washington, D.C. For local D.C. history buffs and infrastructure nerds, Carter's website is a well-researched collection of information that includes maps and details about the D.C. metro system, the underground shops of Dupont Circle and the water and sewer delivery for the nation's capitol.

Those maps turned out to be a key piece of information that saw a lot of clicks ahead of the attack.

Capitol Hill has underground tunnels that connect the main building to the House and Senate office buildings, the visitor's center and the Library of Congress. It was originally built by the Studebaker Company in 1909, the Architect of the Capitol's website says. It's mostly used as a quick back-and-forth for members who need to get to cast votes on the floor and back to their offices for meetings.

"Traffic on the website is usually limited to visitors and referrals from people in D.C. and in nearby communities in Virginia and Maryland," the report said, citing Mr. Carter. "But starting on New Year's Day, a spike in traffic included visitors nationwide. He said a deeper review of analytics from his site revealed many of the clicks were coming from hyperlinks shared on anonymous message boards, sites and forums named after militias or firearms, or using Donald Trump's name."

"These were names I really didn't recognize," he said.

He then emailed the local Washington FBI field office about it, but never got a response. The website and information was mentioned in the June 2021 report from the U.S. Senate Rules Committee on the Capitol insurrection.

The Committee said an "online tip" was "received by the FBI National Threat Operations Center of a 'significant uptick' in new visitors to the website WashingtonTunnels.com."

"A law enforcement source alerted U.S. Capitol Police leadership to the spike in website traffic regarding the maps. Ahead of January 6, the USCP knew Congress and the Capitol grounds were to be the focus of a large demonstration attracting various groups, including some encouraging violence," a Capitol Police spokesperson told MacFarlane. "Based on this information, the Department enhanced its security posture. What the intelligence didn't reveal was the large-scale demonstration would become a large-scale attack on the Capitol Building, as there was no specific, credible intelligence about such an attack. The USCP consumes intelligence from every federal agency. At no point prior to January 6 did it receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack."

Watch the full report from MacFarlane below:

Insurrectionists tunnels capitol www.youtube.com

Read the full report at NBC Washington.