Did US Intelligence Know The Rioters Intended to Storm Congress?

Published June 9th, 2021 - 07:56 GMT
US police knew about MAGA fans' plan for capitol riots but preferred to stay silent.
Supporters of US president Donald Trump protest outside the US Capitol. They later entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election electoral vote certification. Photograph: ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images
Highlights
Police's leadership 'broke down' during the attack, leaving cops without orders

Capitol Police and intelligence agencies including the FBI knew Trump supporters were threatening to storm the Capitol and wanted to target Democrat lawmakers weeks before January 6, but didn't act, a bipartisan Senate Report has revealed.

Law enforcement was aware of a plot to breach the Capitol, that maps of the building's tunnel system had been shared online, and that supporters were planning to bring guns to D.C., but failed to act or share information with uniformed cops.

The report noted that Trump encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol to protest and a copy of his speech was added to the report, but it did not mention if he had a direct role in the attack. It also did not refer to the riot as an insurrection. 

The investigation also stated that seven people - including three police officers - 'ultimately lost their lives'. Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes from a stroke and Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood killed themselves. The Senators also state that Sicknick was hit with 'bear spray', an allegation prosecutors have already dismissed and said it was pepper spray. 

One comment seen on a pro-Trump website by intelligence agencies before January 6 read 'this is do or die. Bring your guns'.

'If they [cops] don't show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,' another comment on the site read. 

The 127-page report, released on Tuesday morning, also said Capitol Police were heavily compromised by multiple failures - poor planning, faulty equipment and a lack of leadership - during the attack.  

The force's leadership 'broke down' once protesters had breached the Capitol, it said. Senior police were fighting instead of giving orders and left officers on the front lines without direction. 

One officer said police felt 'betrayed' by their leadership. 'We were ill prepared. We were NOT informed with intelligence', they said.  

The report also revealed:

  • Capitol Police failed to share intelligence that maps of the Capitol's tunnel system had been posted online
  • FBI and Department of Homeland Security dismissed evidence they were given as not credible enough to be deemed intelligence
  • Capitol Police board members did not fully understand the procedures to request assistance from other agencies or declare an emergency
  • Police officers were not fully informed of the threat level on January 6 and some were left to fend off protesters without riot gear or helmets as the equipment was locked in a bus nearby  
  • The Department of Defense's response to the riot was informed by criticism that police were too heavy handed during civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd  
  • National Guardsmen did not arrive on site until nearly three hours after they were requested     

More than 130 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employee. Forty of those have been using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer. 

'Three officers lost their lives following the attack,' the new Senate report added. 

'USCP Officer Brian Sicknick, a 13-year veteran and member of the First Responder Unit, was stationed on the West Front of the Capitol, where rioters attacked him with bear spray. Officer Sicknick passed away at 9:30 p.m. on January 7. 

'Officer Howard Liebengood, a 16-year veteran of USCP, died on January 9. Officer Jeffrey Smith, a 12-year veteran of MPD, died on January 15.' 

THREATS IGNORED ON PRO-TRUMP WEBSITES IN THE WEEKS BEFORE JANUARY 6 

A pro-Trump website, which is not named in the report, featured posts calling for protesters to surround the Capitol and be prepared to drag down police. 

Maps of the tunnel system around the Capitol and calls to bring guns on January 6 were also shared online, but weren't acted on. 

'A key contributing factor to the tragic events of January 6 was the failure of the Intelligence Community to properly analyze, assess, and disseminate information to law enforcement regarding the potential for violence and the known threats to the Capitol and the Members present that day,' the report said. 

Responding to the report, the United States Capitol Police said it 'agrees improvements are needed specific to intelligence analysis and dissemination'.

But the force defended its failure to act on intelligence because 'at no point prior to the 6th did [police] receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack.' 

'Neither the USCP, nor the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Metropolitan Police or our other law enforcement partners knew thousands of rioters were planning to attack the U.S. Capitol. The known intelligence simply didn't support that conclusion', it said. 

Chad Thomas, a Capitol Police official who oversaw most of the force's uniformed officers resigned on Monday ahead of the report's release. 

Both the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, heavily criticized in the report, have defended their actions.  

The Senate report was a bipartisan review of the riots which interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden's victory on January 6. 

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN THAT LEFT COPS TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES - AND THEIR PLEAS FOR HELP 

The report includes new details about the police officers on the front lines who suffered chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones and who told senators that they were left with no direction when command systems broke down. 

'USCP leadership never took control of the radio system to communicate orders to front-line officers,' the investigation found.

'I was horrified that NO deputy chief or above was on the radio or helping us,' one officer told the committee in an anonymous statement.  

'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.' 

Acting Chief of Police Yogananda Pittman, who replaced Sund after his resignation, told the committees that the lack of communication resulted from 'incident commanders being overwhelmed and engaging with rioters, rather than issuing orders over the radio.'

The committee's interviews with police officers detail what one officer told them was 'absolutely brutal' abuse from Trump's supporters as they ran over them and broke into the building. 

They described hearing racial slurs and seeing Nazi salutes. 

One officer trying to evacuate the Senate said he had stopped several men in full tactical gear who said 'You better get out of our way, boy, or we'll go through you to get [the Senators].'

The insurrectionists told police officers they would kill them, and then the members of Congress. One officer said he had a 'tangible fear' that he might not make it home alive.

Another officer told the Senate police had 'frozen cans and bottles, rebar from the construction, bricks, liquids, pepper spray, bear spray, sticks of various widths, pipes, bats' thrown at them during the riot.  


At the same time, the senators acknowledged the officers' bravery, noting that one officer told them, 'The officers inside all behaved admirably and heroically and, even outnumbered, went on the offensive and took the Capitol back.'  

It recommends immediate changes to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, to provide better planning and equipment for law enforcement and to streamline intelligence gathering among federal agencies.

The United States Capitol Police (USCP) responded to the report saying it 'welcomes the analysis' and that it 'acknowledges it must improve how it collects and shares intelligence with its own officers and stakeholders'.

'Law enforcement agencies across the country rely on intelligence, and the quality of that intelligence can mean the difference between life and death.'  

The USCP said it had made 'major changes' to the department since the attack including bringing in a National Special Event planning and coordination expert from the United States Secret Service. 

The report, a product of three months of investigation, includes 20 recommendations including changes to intelligence handling and allowing the Capitol Police chief to unilaterally call for emergency back up.   

As a bipartisan effort, the report does not delve into the root causes of the attack, including Trump's role as he called for his supporters to 'fight like hell' to overturn his election defeat that day. It notably does not call the attack an insurrection. 

HOW THE NATIONAL GUARD WAS DELAYED FOR HOURS BY BUREAUCRACY

The Senate report recounts how the Guard was delayed for hours on January 6 as officials in multiple agencies took bureaucratic steps to release the troops. 

It details hours of calls between officials in the Capitol and the Pentagon and as the then-chief of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund, desperately begged for help.

It finds that the Pentagon spent hours 'mission planning' and seeking multiple layers of approvals as Capitol Police were being overwhelmed and brutally beaten by the rioters. 

It also states that the Defense Department's response was 'informed by criticism' of its heavy-handed response to protests in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

The senators are heavily critical of the Capitol Police Board, a three-member panel that includes the heads of security for the House and Senate and the Architect of the Capitol.

The board is now required to approve requests by the police chief, even in urgent situations. 

SENATE ON THE CHANGES THAT NEED TO BE MADE BY CAPITOL POLICE 

The report recommends that its members 'regularly review the policies and procedures' after senators found that none of the board members on January 6 understood their own authority or could detail the statutory requirements for requesting National Guard assistance.

Two of the three members of the board, the House and Senate sergeants at arms, were pushed out in the days after the attack. Sund also resigned under pressure.

The screams on the radio were horrific, the sights were unimaginable, and there was a complete loss of control 
Congress needs to change the law and give the police chief more authority 'immediately,' Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said.

The report recommends a consolidated intelligence unit within the Capitol Police after widespread failures from multiple agencies that did not predict the attack even though insurrectionists were planning it openly on the internet.  

In a response to the report, the Capitol Police acknowledged the need for improvements, some of which they said they are already making. 

'Law enforcement agencies across the country rely on intelligence, and the quality of that intelligence can mean the difference between life and death,' the statement said.

The force's incident command system 'broke down during the attack,' leaving officers on the front lines without orders.   

The report comes two weeks after Republicans blocked a bipartisan, independent commission that would investigate the insurrection more broadly.

'This report is important in the fact that it allows us to make some immediate improvements to the security situation here in the Capitol,' said Michigan Senator Gary Peters.

He is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which conducted the probe along with the Senate Rules Committee. 

Peters added: 'But it does not answer some of the bigger questions that we need to face, quite frankly, as a country and as a democracy'.

The House in May passed legislation to create a commission that would be modelled after a panel that investigated the September 11 terrorist attack two decades ago.    

But, the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance.

And many Republicans said the Senate report would be sufficient.

The top Republican on the Rules panel, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, has opposed the commission, arguing that investigation would take too long. 

He said the recommendations made in the Senate can be implemented faster.

He added legislation that he and Senator Klobuchar, the rules committee chair, intend to introduce soon that would give the chief of Capitol Police more authority to request assistance from the National Guard, as recommended in the Senate's report. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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