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I-Team: Inside The FBI's Digital Forensic Lab In Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The FBI's hunt to identify the suspects in the attack on the Capitol started immediately -- there was plenty of television video and the participants own postings on social media, but agents say building a case takes more than that.

The I-Team got a behind-the-scenes look at the FBI's forensic lab in Boston. Here, agents and members of an elite task force that includes local law enforcement officers worked to track down those allegedly involved in the insurrection and left digital fingerprints behind.

"If someone is going to rob a bank or commit an attack somewhere, there's going to be some sort of traces of that on there. It could be anything from text messages, searches online, pictures they've taken, it could be anything," FBI agent Bruce Hartung tells the I-Team.

Bruce Hartung
FBI agent Bruce Hartung (WBZ-TV)

Agents say during investigations they've found incriminating information on drones, car systems, game consoles, and other devices that record data. In some cases retrieving information that the suspects may have believed was gone.

"We can look at evidence that's still there on the hard drive and we can also look at evidence that has been deleted from the hard drive," said Task Force Member Jim Schwab, of the Middlesex Sheriff's Office.

"When you delete something, even if you do successfully delete it off your device, there may be traces of it in other places," Hartung said. "There's going to be something somewhere."

Jim Schwab
Jim Schwab (WBZ-TV)

This unit also played a role in the indictments involving violent members of the street gang MS-13. The Boston FBI office nabbed more than 70 gang members over the last several years for everything from murder and rape to weapons charges.

Agents from the lab were able to connect self-proclaimed white supremacist Christopher Cantwell to online threats and extortion. Earlier this year, a federal judge in New Hampshire sentenced Cantwell to 41 months in prison.

"We work with the case agents, maybe they will find a piece of evidence and that will give them an idea of another direction to go down or other evidence to look for," said Schwab. "Often times it is critical to the investigation."

The lab has several regional law enforcement partners and is open to helping any agency with forensic evidence.

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