A bipartisan group of senators released Congress’ first report addressing security failures on Jan. 6, faulting the Capitol Police and multiple federal agencies.
Capitol security officials tracking threats of violence on Jan. 6 saw social media posts as early as late December 2020 about a plot to breach the complex — complete with maps of the building’s tunnels and explicit threats of violence against members of Congress.
“Surround every building with a tunnel entrance/exit. They better dig a tunnel all the way to China if they want to escape,” wrote one user on a pro-Trump blog.
“Bring guns. It’s now or never,” another user wrote.
Those posts were spotted and written up by the Capitol Police’s intelligence division. But as revealed in a new bipartisan report cataloging failures ahead of the insurrection, now-acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman told congressional investigators that data on the social media posts was sent only to “command staff” and never reached the department’s highest level. Even as the pro-riot chatter continued and tips came into the intelligence division, the full body of knowledge about what would become a deadly threat was not conveyed to the rest of Capitol Police leadership, rank-and-file officers or other law enforcement partners.
The intelligence failures are only one facet of the first official congressional accounting of the Jan. 6 insurrection, a nearly 100-page report released Tuesday morning by a bipartisan duo of Senate committee leaders. The report raps the Capitol Police and federal agencies for security lapses leading up to and during the attack.
The report faults Pittman, among other officials, for the “discrepancy” between her division’s reports on Trump supporters’ public, online threats of violence and a more widely-circulated security assessment issued in late December. That assessment concluded there was “no information” on specific disruptions or civil disobedience and declared that actions by individuals or small groups weren’t “generally broadcast publicly” and were “impossible to detect.”
In a statement, the Capitol Police said they welcomed the assessment by the Senate committees and agreed improvements were needed, but reiterated its position that the information they had available did not indicate an attack on the Capitol.
There was “no specific, credible intelligence about such an attack,” the department said. “The USCP consumes intelligence from every federal agency. At no point prior to the 6th did it receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack.”
But despite the immense effort put into the report — including newly unearthed documents and interviews with top officials and more than 50 Capitol Police officers — its circumscribed scope limited its investigation. Senators and staffers focused on security, preparation and response to the attack rather than addressing bigger themes that might have fallen to the since-failed 9/11-style outside commission on the assault, such as the White House’s role or groups that participated.
The report concludes that “reforms to [the Capitol Police] and the Capitol Police Board are necessary to ensure events like January 6 are never repeated” without passing any judgment on the causes of the attack.
The Senate report cited Donald Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 to a massive crowd of supporters that then marched to the Capitol, in an apparent attempt at balance, but did not conduct any thorough analysis of the former president’s involvement.
The report showed that top Pentagon officials raised concerns in the days before the insurrection as well, which went ignored.
As late as Jan. 4, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller asked in a conference call with the Cabinet if there was a way to revoke permits for the protesters who would later assemble on Capitol grounds, Miller told the committees. They also suggested locking down D.C. on Jan. 6. The Department of the Interior and D.C. officials assured them that the protests were constitutionally protected, and law enforcement told them there was no need to shut down the city, according to Miller, who said he then “felt comfortable” about their planning.
Although most agencies complied with the committees’ requests, they met some obstacles, according to the report. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and the House Sergeant at Arms did not comply with the committees’ requests for information, and a USCP Deputy Chief of Police declined to sit for an interview with the committee.
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