The warnings were there, at least two weeks in advance. But they never made it to the officers on ground at the US Capitol on Jan. 6. That's one of the takeaways from a bipartisan Senate investigation of the intelligence and security failures surrounding the riots. The report, conducted by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules Committee, catalogs the missteps and suggests some fixes. It can be read in full here. Some highlights:
- “The attack was, quite frankly, planned in plain sight," Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, head of the homeland security panel, told reporters. “There were significant, widespread and unacceptable breakdowns in the intelligence gathering," he said, per the Washington Post. "The failure to adequately assess the threat of violence on that day contributed significantly to the breach of the Capitol."
- In late December 2020, intelligence officers with the Capitol Police picked up messages from pro-Trump supporters saying things like, "Surround every building with a tunnel entrance/exit. They better dig a tunnel all the way to China if they want to escape,” per Politico. Another wrote, "Bring guns. It's now or never."
- The FBI and Homeland Security similarly picked up such threats, but no one agency seemed to coordinate the warnings. On Jan. 3, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of the possibility of violence, but it wasn't repeated in subsequent reports. The FBI warned the Capitol Police of potential "war" the night before the rally in what the Post describes as a "casually worded" email. But that didn't translate into proper precautions.
- One remedy suggested by the report is to make it easier for the head of the Capitol Police to summon the National Guard quickly, reports the Wall Street Journal. Another is to house the different intelligence-gathering units of the Capitol Police in a centralized location.
- The AP notes this account from an anonymous Capitol Police officer: “I was horrified that NO deputy chief or above was on the radio or helping us,” the officer said. “For hours the screams on the radio were horrific(,) the sights were unimaginable and there was a complete loss of control. ... For hours NO Chief or above took command and control. Officers were begging and pleading for help for medical triage.”
- This report does not dig into the causes of the riot, only the related security failures. It comes a few weeks after Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to conduct a broad overview of what led to the attack.
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