Senate January 6 Security Failure Report Barely Mentions Security-Failure-In-Chief
A bipartisan Senate investigation into the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol found that federal law enforcement, including the "intelligence components" of the Capitol Police, had information on threats of violence at the Capitol but failed to increase security or get that information to the officers actually assigned to defend the Capitol. The 127-page report, the joint work of the the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, details a regular fuck-tussle of security failures. But because the investigation was limited only to security issues surrounding the Capitol attacks, it doesn't discuss many of the questions that could be answered by a larger investigation, like the role of Donald Trump in inciting it. Heck, it doesn't even say Trump's insistence that the 2020 election had been stolen was factually incorrect.
Senate Republicans killed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the insurrection because they figured that would hurt the GOP in next year's midterm elections. We bet that's an item that will probably be significant in the eventual historical assessment of the end of American democracy, which will have to be written elsewhere, after Supreme Leader Donald Trump Jr. bans the writing of unapproved works of history in 2031.
Still, even with its limited scope, the report is, like histories of the attacks on Pearl Harbor or 9/11, a fairly detailed look at how a series of "oh shit" failures led to tragedy. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security never issued a "threat assessment" for January 6, and shrugged off online discussions of plans for violence aimed at preventing Congress from certifying the electoral vote as not credible, and besides, people have a First Amendment right to fantasize about liberating America from tyranny.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan), the chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, put it pretty simply: "The attack was quite frankly planned in plain sight."
The US Capitol Police's own internal intelligence outfit, the "Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division" (IICD), was also aware of, and compiled information on, online threats, but that information never made it up the chain of command to US Capitol Police (USCP) leadership, so it wasn't briefed to the officers on duty January 6 either. The "decentralized nature of [the Capitol Police's] intelligence components" also led to lousy communication and confusion, oops:
On January 5, an employee in a separate USCP intelligence-related component received information from the FBI's Norfolk Field Office regarding online discussions of violence directed at Congress, including that protestors were coming to Congress "prepared for war." This report, similar to other information received by IICD, was never distributed to IICD or USCP leadership before January 6.
The details on what the Capitol Police's intelligence division knew are pretty damned chilling. A December 21 report from IICD noted that users of the far-Right blog "TheDonald.win" were openly discussing getting into the Capitol, and that one post had said, "There are tunnels connected to the Capitol Building! Legislators use them to avoid press, among other things! Take note." In all, the report flagged about 30 screenshots with comments like
• "Exactly, forget the tunnels. Get into Capitol Building, stand outside congress. Be in the room next to them. They wont have time [to] run if they play dumb."
• "Deploy Capitol Police to restrict movement. Anyone going armed needs to be mentally prepared to draw down on LEOs. Let them shoot first, but make sure they know what happens if they do."
• "If they don't show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors."
• "Bring guns. It's now or never."
• "If a million patriots who up bristling with AR's, just how brave do you think they'll be when it comes to enforcing their unconstitutional laws? Don't cuck out. This is do or die. Bring your guns."
• "Surround every building with a tunnel entrance/exit. They better dig a tunnel all the way to China if they want to escape."
While "command staff" in the Capitol Police got that report, the threats of violence never made it into an IICD assessment of security that went out just two days later, on December 23, nor in a January 3 assessment. Instead, those later reports simply anticipated that the January 6 rallies would be similar to previous "Million MAGA marches" in DC, no big deal.
In addition to the botched intelligence, the report also details problems with preparations for the Capitol Police who were supposed to respond in case violence did break out. Many officers hadn't been trained in riot control, but were on squads meant to do it. One group's equipment, including plastic body armor, helmets, shields, and non-lethal munitions, was locked inside a bus where the cops couldn't get to it. Supervisors who should have been coordinating the response were instead outside the Capitol getting swarmed by the mob.
And Capitol Police leaders, including then-chief Steven Sund, were confused about how to call in the DC National Guard, and stymied by the requirement that any call for the Guard would depend on an emergency declaration by the board that oversees the Capitol Police. In fact, the Defense Department "confirmed with USCP on two separate occasions before January 6 that USCP was not requesting assistance" from the DC Guard. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, by contrast, had requested National Guard help — with directing traffic and crowd management — well in advance, at the end of December.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) said the security failures were "obvious," and that
To me, it was all summed up by one of the officers who was heard on the radio that day asking a tragically simple question: "Does anybody have a plan?" Sadly, no one did.
It's really not a pretty picture, and while it's detailed in its timeline of specific security lapses, the report misses a lot of things that an independent commission would presumably not whitewash or downplay. The New York Times is pretty blunt in pointing out some significant shortcomings of the Senate report:
Though the report states flatly that Mr. Trump "continued to assert that the election was stolen from him" and promoted the "Stop the Steal" gathering in Washington before the riot, it does not chart his actions or motivations, state that his election claims were false or explore the implications of a president and leading politicians in his party stoking outrage among millions of supporters.
The inquiry does not describe the events of Jan. 6 as an "insurrection," a term many Republicans had joined Democrats in embracing immediately after the attack. Aides involved in its drafting said they had refrained from trying to summarize or contextualize Mr. Trump's false claims just before the riot took place. They opted instead to include the full text of his speech in an appendix.
Well isn't that bipartisan of them!
We need a real investigation, please.
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