DHS briefing issued day before Capitol riots shows how officials failed to warn of impending unrest

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DHS briefing issued day before Capitol riots shows how officials failed to warn of impending unrest

A Department of Homeland Security intelligence briefing has revealed how officials failed to identify and thwart threats of unrest ahead of the Cap

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A Department of Homeland Security intelligence briefing has revealed how officials failed to identify and thwart threats of unrest ahead of the Capitol riots last month, with thousands of troops now still stationed in Washington in the wake of the unrest.

‘Nothing significant to report,’ read a national summary from DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis that was sent to law enforcement agencies across the country on January 5, a day ahead of the riots that would bring five deaths and extensive damage to the Capitol. 

The DHS office was set up in the wake of 9/11 to share intelligence among federal, state and local law enforcement and prevent potential violence or similar attacks. It’s the office that should have warned of a Capitol attack.  

But DHS failed to notify the nationwide network of any specific threats to the Capitol for the day of the riots, January 6, when Congress was due to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported.  

It’s not that the law enforcement community had no idea what could be in store: Snippets of information regarding the rally was already being widely shared among the national intelligence network, with discussion of online forums and chat rooms that were rallying MAGA troops with calls for war and to gather weapons.  

Maps of the Capitol were being shared among would-be rioters, too.  

But the multi-pronged warning system reportedly failed, with threats not sufficiently followed up and others dismissed entirely, citing insufficient evidence.      

The failures culminated in the local and federal law enforcement network that protects DC being ‘disturbingly’ under-prepared and leaving the city vulnerable to attack, officials said, according to the Journal report.   

After failing to notify law enforcement around the country of the threats tied to the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally, Trump supports streamed into the US Capitol on January 6, breezing past police lines in unruly scenes that left five dead, including one Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick. Two other officers who were on duty have also since committed suicide. 

After the riots, 25,000 troops from the National Guard were deployed in DC to shore up security. 

Weeks on, still some 5,000 remain and are set to stay through mid-March as Trump’s second impeachment trial is due to commence on Tuesday, leading to some Republicans saying it’s time for the troops to stand down and leave town.

Still, while law enforcement officials have been reluctant to discuss any specific threats ahead of the trial, the will reportedly be operating at a ‘high level of readiness’ and remain at the Capitol. 

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence briefing has revealed how officials failed to identify and thwart threats of impending unrest ahead of the Capitol riots last month

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence briefing has revealed how officials failed to identify and thwart threats of impending unrest ahead of the Capitol riots last month

After the riots, 25,000 troops from the National Guard were deployed in DC. Weeks on, still some 5,000 remain

After the riots, 25,000 troops from the National Guard were deployed in DC. Weeks on, still some 5,000 remain

While some of the violence that erupted last month was spontaneous, court documents in the prosecution of some of the alleged insurrectionists reference some evidence of coordination and planning to disrupt Congress. 

Some of those cited correspondence, featuring members of far-right extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, also discussed plans to physically harm members of Congress. 

Frank Taylor, a retired Air Force brigadier general who led DHS’s intelligence branch from 2014 to 2017, told WSJ that he has ‘no explanation’ that he can give for the department’s failure to identify the impending riot, and stop it from happening. 

‘The fact that we didn’t means that we failed, along with several other agencies. This was a systemic failure,’ he said.

Congressional committees and other government officials have since come out to decry the DHS’ response as one of the biggest lapses in federal security in the last two decades.

A number of factors combined to permit the MAGA mob to breach the Capitol and cause chaos within its walls. 

One such factor came on January 5, when DC Mayor Muriel  Bowser urged federal agencies to not send additional forces to the nation’s capital without first consulting local police. 

Bowser made the plea after racial injustice protests in the city last summer saw heavily armed security forces descend on DC, stoking tensions that erupted into violent clashes in Lafayette Square, near the White House. 

Ahead of January 6, Capitol police reportedly declined offers of National Guard reinforcements in the days prior, though a small group of DC Guard troops were deployed in other parts of the city.

However, the Journal reports that law enforcement’s failure to properly mobilize highlights how the DHS’ intelligence system – which is primarily designed to protect against terror attacks – struggles to confront and prevent violent domestic extremism – one of the most serious threats the US faces, according to some experts. 

While some of the violence that erupted last month was spontaneous, court documents in the prosecution of some of the alleged insurrectionists reference some evidence of coordination and planning to disrupt Congress

While some of the violence that erupted last month was spontaneous, court documents in the prosecution of some of the alleged insurrectionists reference some evidence of coordination and planning to disrupt Congress

With Donald Trump's Senate trial due to begin tomorrow, DC has become a fortress as officials attempt to prevent last month's scenes from repeating

With Donald Trump’s Senate trial due to begin tomorrow, DC has become a fortress as officials attempt to prevent last month’s scenes from repeating

An eight-foot tall unscalable fence encircles the US government's traditionally open heart topped with barbed wire

An eight-foot tall unscalable fence encircles the US government’s traditionally open heart topped with barbed wire

Combating domestic terrorism has proved difficult for law enforcement long before last month’s riots, with authorities allegedly unable to preemptively intervene without sufficient evidence of an impending crime or violent act.

One of the main challenges, officials say, comes from the torrent of online and social media communications. It’s often difficult to determine whether such messages pose a genuine threat, or are simply just online hyperbole.

A number of current and former officials also disclosed to the WSJ that there was a reluctance among law enforcement to take any pre-emptive action against Trump supporters ahead of the rally.

Both the FBI and DHS confirmed to the outlet that they didn’t issue a joint intelligence briefing to alert law enforcement nationwide about the rally because they had no credible threats about January 6.

Saying it was aware of the potential for trouble, the FBI said it discouraged some they believed to be ‘violent agitators’ from heading to DC for the rally. They also said they set up 24-hour command posts in their Washington headquarters and put tactical teams on standby.

A spokesperson for DHS declined to comment on the department’s January 5 report that cited ‘nothing significant’ for the following day.

They said DHS was unaware of what Trump would say in his speech ahead of the riot and that ‘national figures would be encouraging action against the Capitol and government officials.’

Trump has since been impeached and charged by the House with ‘inciting insurrection’ for his comments to ‘fight like hell’ during his speech, but has denied any wrongdoing. He faces trial in the Senate on February 9. 

Capitol Police officials and the Justice Department have also since said they underestimated the potential for Trump supporters to storm the Capitol. They believed the Stop the Steal Rally would be similar to two other pro-Trump rallies held in the city in the months prior. 

The White House had reportedly previously discouraged the department from using the term ‘domestic terrorism’ in policy planning, a former official told the Journal. They also requested the DHS to focus instead on broader issues, such as immigration, the outlet reported.

Mayor Bowser has also acknowledge the failures of security officials and has since called for Congress to conduct an investigation into the matter.

The insurrection cost taxpayers at least $519 million in repairing damaged property, finding and prosecuting insurrectionists, recounting votes and, of course, increasing security protocols

The insurrection cost taxpayers at least $519 million in repairing damaged property, finding and prosecuting insurrectionists, recounting votes and, of course, increasing security protocols

Around $480 million of that sum can directly be attributed to paying for the National Guard to stay in DC through at least mid-March

Around $480 million of that sum can directly be attributed to paying for the National Guard to stay in DC through at least mid-March 

Workers repair glass on the East Front rotunda doors that was damaged during the January 6

Workers repair glass on the East Front rotunda doors that was damaged during the January 6

After 9/11, one of the improvements made to intelligence sharing between law enforcement and security agencies was the introduction of ‘fusion centers’ in every state.

According to WSJ, two days before the Capitol riots, the heads of the fusion centers held a rare national call to discuss alarming information they’d received regarding January 6.

Among the information were reportedly thousands of online posts about people planning to arm themselves for the event and discussing violence.

On January 5, in an online message board calls were also being made for people to ‘go there ready for war’ and maps of the Capitol complex also shared. 

Following protocol, the information was sent through the DC fusion center to the federal and local agencies handling security for that day.

Then-acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf (above) also declined to declare the Stop the Steal rally a 'national security event', which would have allowed the US Secret Service to oversee security and coordinate responses

Then-acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf (above) also declined to declare the Stop the Steal rally a ‘national security event’, which would have allowed the US Secret Service to oversee security and coordinate responses

The DHS declined to specify whether it took part in the call and whether the department took any action based on the information received within it.

The FBI, meanwhile, said it discussed protesters potentially coming to the protest armed during a separate call with law enforcement the same day of the fusion centers’ call.

Christopher Rodriguez, an official who oversees the DC’s fusion center, said in Congressional testimony Thursday that the ‘issue here is not the lack of intelligence or information’.

‘The issue here was the inability, or the unwillingness, to act on the intelligence,’ he said. 

Steven A. Sund, the former chief of Capitol Police who resigned after the riot, also said the department lacked intelligence – including from the FBI and DHS – that an attack on the Capitol was being planned.

Javed Ali, a former senior counterterrorism official for the FBI called the breakdowns in communications between law enforcement and security agencies ‘so disturbing’.

‘These are mistakes that shouldn’t be happening in 2021,’ he told the WSJ. 

Furthermore, then-acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf also declined to declare the Stop the Steal rally a ‘national security event’ ahead of time, which would have allowed the US Secret Service to oversee security and coordinate responses. 

Wolf never even considered the motion, the Journal reported. 

The Office of Intelligence and Analysis, or I&A, reportedly didn’t warn law enforcement about January 6 because previous election certifications hadn’t seen trouble, senior officials lacked credible intelligence and because it hadn’t been designated a ‘national security event’, officials said in the riot’s wake.

On January 27, DHS published the department’s first national terrorism bulletin about domestic terrorists, which stated extremists are more prone to violence in the months ahead, warning January 6 may be used as inspiration for future attacks. 

Both the FBI and DHS confirmed to the outlet that they didn't issue a joint intelligence briefing to alert law enforcement nationwide about the rally because they had no credible threats about January 6 (FBI's DC HQ shown above)

Both the FBI and DHS confirmed to the outlet that they didn’t issue a joint intelligence briefing to alert law enforcement nationwide about the rally because they had no credible threats about January 6 (FBI’s DC HQ shown above)

A Capitol Police member died of injuries from the attack and a total of 125 officers of its 2,300-strong force were assaulted during the rampage

A Capitol Police member died of injuries from the attack and a total of 125 officers of its 2,300-strong force were assaulted during the rampage

More than 150 of the rioters have also since been arrested, as more suspects are still being sought

More than 150 of the rioters have also since been arrested, as more suspects are still being sought

With Donald Trump’s Senate trial due to begin tomorrow, DC has become a fortress as officials attempt to prevent last months scenes from repeating themselves.

An eight-foot tall unscalable fence encircles the US government’s traditionally open heart topped with barbed wire. 

Thousands of National Guard troops also remain at the Capitol, patrolling the halls and a gilded portion of one staircase is bandaged over. 

Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for US Capitol Police, said the heightened security would remain in place at least through Trump’s trial, expected to last at least a week.

‘The Department’s current security posture continues to demand that we operate at a high-level of readiness for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial and the continued threats directed at the Congress and the Capitol,’ she said.

Officials have been reluctant to discuss specific threats ahead of the trial, but said security and police forces will be operating at ‘a high-level’ of readiness for any unrest. 

‘We must demonstrate an overt security presence in DC, at least for now,’ Christopher Rodriguez, director of the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, told lawmakers during a hearing Thursday.

‘We believe that this posture is essential to ensuring that the Metropolitan Police Department can deploy resources to all parts of the city during an emergency,’ he said, adding, ‘We will not tolerate violence in our city.’

An eight-foot tall unscalable fence encircles the US government's traditionally open heart topped with barbed wire

An eight-foot tall unscalable fence encircles the US government’s traditionally open heart topped with barbed wire

Officials have been reluctant to discuss specific threats ahead of Trump's second impeachment trial, but said security and police forces will be operating at 'a high-level' of readiness

Officials have been reluctant to discuss specific threats ahead of Trump’s second impeachment trial, but said security and police forces will be operating at ‘a high-level’ of readiness

A total of 42 Republican House members authored a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday, urging her to all the security fencing around the Capitol to be taken down.

The letter, led by Ted Budd, sounded the alarm over proposals to implement the fencing permanently after it was erected after it was erected last month.

‘We write with concerns about the security measures and enhanced fencing around the U.S. Capitol even though high profile events like the inauguration are over. In particular, we are concerned with recent reports that the fencing surrounding the Capitol may become permanent’, the lawmakers wrote.

‘We are willing to have an honest debate about providing Capitol Hill Police with the resources they need to be better prepared without turning the Capitol into a permanent fortress. To that end, we urge you to remove the barbed wire fencing surrounding the Capitol and send the National Guard troops home to their families. It’s time. It’s time for healing and it’s time for the removal of the fencing so the nation may move forward.’

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman last month called for fencing to be made permanent around the Capitol to prevent further violence following the riot.  

‘Let us be clear. The events that happened on January 6 were horrific. Understandably, certain increased security measures following that date were implemented. But it is time for Congress and its representatives to stop hiding,’ wrote the 42 lawmakers.

‘The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of freedom both at home and abroad. It is a place where Americans from all walks of life can visit, learn about, and witness U.S. history. Sadly, because of the fortress-like security in place, this is no longer the case,” they continue.’

Workers repair panes of glass on the Rotunda Doors that were damaged during the January 6 insurrection on Monday morning

Workers repair panes of glass on the Rotunda Doors that were damaged during the January 6 insurrection on Monday morning

During the riots, Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of injuries sustained in the attack after he was bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher.  A total of 125 officers of its 2,300-strong force were assaulted during the rampage 

Four protesters also died. More than 150 of the rioters have also since been arrested.

The insurrection cost taxpayers at least $519 million in repairing damaged property, finding and prosecuting insurrectionists, recounting votes and, of course, increasing security protocols.

Around $480 million of that sum can directly be attributed to paying for the National Guard to stay in DC through at least mid-March, according to Bloomberg.

The deployment was the largest in Washington since the Civil War, according to the outlet, with 25,000 troops deployed after the violence at the Capitol.  

Currently, around 5,000 troops remain the city, as request by Capitol Police. 

Additionally, Mayor Bowser has requested that 500 National Guardsmen be on standby to serve as a rapid reaction force should anything go awry during Trump’s impeachment hearing. 

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